UCSF and SFGHMC roll out new mobile eye service

By Kimberly Wong

A new mobile eye service operated by UCSF Medical Center and San Francisco General Hospital Medical Center will soon be winding its way through San Francisco to provide a full spectrum of eye services for eight community health centers of the San Francisco Department of Public Health. The Eye Van plans to reach out to underserved patients—particularly the elderly—who often do not get checked for preventable eye diseases.

The van is a gift from the Friends of the Congressional Glaucoma Caucus Foundation, the San Francisco Health Plan, and That Man May See, an eye research foundation. Media are invited to a dedication ceremony where the van will also be on display for those who want to take a closer look inside the vehicle.

* WHO: UCSF Department of Ophthalmology and SFGHMC

* WHAT: Dedication ceremony for the mobile Eye Van

* WHERE: SFGHMC, in front of the hospital (1001 Potrero Avenue)

* WHEN: Friday, August 27, 2004, 11:00 AM

The Eye Van will provide eye care to patients whose access to these services may be limited because of a lack of transportation or possible cultural and language barriers. Most community health centers serve low-income families, the elderly, and the homeless. To make an appointment with the Eye Van, patients need to register with their neighborhood health center and request an eye exam.

“Our main goal is to get out and screen patients,” said medical director Stuart Seiff, MD, professor of ophthalmology at UCSF and the chief of ophthalmology at SFGHMC. “We’re going to supplement what we do at SFGHMC by sending the van out to the community health centers where they normally don’t have eye services. The van will essentially become an extension of our eye clinic here at SFGHMC.”

By providing vision saving screenings, Seiff hopes to prevent the progression of devastating eye diseases like those related to diabetes or glaucoma, the latter of which is the leading cause of preventable blindness. “There are few areas where you can intervene and prevent a disabling disease,” said Seiff. “Diabetes and glaucoma are two diseases that we can make interventions to prevent vision loss.”

On weekdays, the Eye Van is scheduled to make stops at eight DPH community health centers on a revolving basis. Every two weeks, each health center will have one full day of eye services. The Eye Van will stop at the following community health centers: Castro Mission, Maxine Hall, Silver Avenue, Chinatown, Ocean Park, Potrero Hill, Southeast, and Tom Waddell. On weekends, the van will make stops at various northern California health fairs.

The Eye Van’s goal is to screen 7,500 patients in its first year. In addition to screenings, it will also be used to collect data for department research. The first project slated for the eye van is the Asian Eye Study aimed at uncovering the causes of visual loss in the Asian American population.

The van itself is a little bigger than an ambulance with enough space for two exam rooms. It’s equipped with the latest eye examination tools so doctors and technicians can screen patients quickly and efficiently.

Note to media: For media interested in visiting the Eye Van in action at one of the eight community health centers or to find out more details about the van’s schedule, contact Kim Wong in UCSF News Services at 415-476-2557.