Refugee Eye Care Clinic to Provide Exams, Eyeglasses, and Referrals for Surgery

Apr 04, 2018 10:10 AM

For refugees resettled in Utah, access to health care is a pressing need—and meeting it can have an immediate impact on their quality of life.

“So many refugees come to Utah with previously unmet needs from their country of origin, and one of those needs is eye care,” said Andy Tran, chief operating officer and Director of Community Wellness for the Refugee and Immigrant Center - Asian Association of Utah (RIC-AAU). “Many in refugee camps and less developed countries don’t understand that there are resources that can help them address visual impairments that may have been life-long barriers to this point. Providing that resource changes lives: parents can regain their independence and once again support their families, and grandparents can see and interact with their grandchildren for the first time.”

Physicians from the John A. Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah will provide free, comprehensive eye exams to more than 150 adult refugees on Saturday, April 7. The clinic, made possible by sponsor Grandeur Peak Global Advisors of Salt Lake City, is the result of a cooperative partnership between Moran’s Global Outreach Division, RIC-AAU, the International Rescue Committee, and the Utah Refugee Services Office.

Moran ophthalmologists will supply patients with free eyeglasses, restoring vision to support employment and independence. Physicians will also identify candidates for Moran’s twice-yearly Operation Sight Day, which provides charity cataract surgery to uninsured Utahns in need.

“Access to eye care is almost non-existent in the developing world and war-torn nations,” said Michael Yei, director of Moran’s Global Outreach Division, which works to expand access to sustainable eye care locally and in developing nations. “Refugees, in particular, are in situations where their nutrition is poor, and where they have high levels of exposure to the sun. These factors can contribute to the rapid development of cataracts, a clouding of the eye’s natural lens that causes blindness.”

Eye exams are critically important since they can also identify other systemic health issues, explained Moran’s Craig Chaya, MD, Global Outreach Division co-medical director.

“The eyes are truly a window into the whole health of a patient,” said Chaya. “We can identify many systemic diseases through a comprehensive eye exam. Diabetes, liver disease, high blood pressure, sickle cell anemia—even some types of cancer can be spotted in the eyes. Just getting an exam might be part of life-changing care for some of these patients.”

Refugees attending the free clinic have resettled from countries including Iraq, Myanmar, South Sudan, Somalia, and Bosnia.

Moran providers donating their time for the clinic are:

  • Craig Chaya, MD
  • Alan Crandall, MD
  • Elizabeth Martin, MD
  • Nikko Ronquillo, MD, PhD
  • Akbar Shakoor, MD
  • David Meyer, OD
  • Dix Pettey, OD
  • Mark McKay, OD

vision outreach refugee