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Mobile Health Clinic Update

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Volunteer doctors and medical students visited Ambridge in the “eyeVan” and prescribed nearly 50 pairs of glasses.

The Guerilla Eye Service traveled to Ambridge, PA, this summer to provide free eye exams in the new “eyeVan” at two mobile health clinics. The events prescribed and ordered nearly 50 pairs of glasses for adults and children who would otherwise have difficulty accessing or affording them.

Led by Dr. Evan Waxman, director of UPMC Mercy Hospital’s Eye Center, the Guerilla Eye Service (GES) is a group of volunteer eye doctors and University of Pittsburgh medical students who provide free eye exams and vision screenings in underserved Pittsburgh communities. The program began expanding its reach earlier this year after the Eye and Ear Foundation of Pittsburgh received a mobile health van from Brother’s Brother Foundation. Stocked with the same equipment in a typical ophthalmology office, the mobile clinic allows doctors to provide patients with high-quality care on-site.

GES held the Ambridge clinics in collaboration with UPMC’s Care Mobile, a van that offers pediatric immunizations, well visits, dental care, and asthma care; and Center for Hope, a nonprofit organization that provides food, clothing, and youth programs to under-resourced families in the area.

Ambridge occupies 1.7 square miles along the Ohio River and is just 18 miles northwest of Downtown Pittsburgh. For years, Ambridge thrived, but when the American steel industry collapsed in the early 1980s, it struggled to regain its footing under the weight of unemployment and has yet to recover.

The community’s 7,700 residents are currently working to rebuild the borough’s identity by taking on projects to reface storefronts and beautify the streets, while plans to replace old factories with new residential buildings are also underway. But as of now, Ambridge continues to fight its decades-long battle against low wages and stunted academic achievement.

Providing free eye exams and glasses to residents on-site is a start to addressing the physical and financial barriers preventing many economically disadvantaged people from receiving the medical care they need. For children, access to eye care is fundamental to healthy development and educational growth. Research has shown that for children with poor eyesight, wearing eyeglasses can lead to academic improvements comparable to receiving up to six months of additional education.

One child arrived at a clinic displaying signs of congenital ptosis, a condition characterized by a drooping upper eyelid, which can interfere with visual development when left untreated.

“We now have the opportunity to potentially save this child’s vision,” Dr. Evan Waxman, who leads the Guerilla Eye Service, said. “Moments like these remind us why we do what we do.”