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New Partnership Expands Mobile Eye Van’s Reach

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Brother’s Brother Foundation donated the Mobile Eye Van to the Eye and Ear Foundation of Pittsburgh in a ceremony held March 2. The van will be used by the Foundation’s Guerrilla Eye Service (GES), a program led by UPMC Eye Director Dr. Evan Waxman and carried out by students from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, to address the needs of underserved community members.

Similar to an ophthalmologist’s office, the van has all of the equipment necessary for performing eye exams and diabetes screenings. Providing this care on-site allows patients to receive the same quality of care as they would in office while eliminating physical and financial barriers.

GES held two clinics in Pittsburgh’s Downtown and South Side communities on March 22 to provide care to the homeless and others in need. Staff and health care workers from Allegheny Health Network’s Center for Inclusion Health and Pittsburgh Mercy’s Operation Safety Net program were on site to connect GES with the patients.

“When you’re trying to overcome food security and housing security issues, trying to get back on your feet, get a job – you need to be able to see,” Dr. Waxman said at the Eye Van handing over ceremony at Mercy Hospital. 

Prior to having a van, GES clinics were limited to buildings where they could set up their ophthalmology equipment. Waxman has thought about getting a van for several years and worked with Dr. José Alain-Sahel, the director of UPMC’s Vision Institute and a world-leading expert in vision restoration research, to try to make the project to come to fruition.

“During the pandemic, I wrote to UPMC management saying that we have to do something because we have a lot of people that need repeated treatments and they are not going to be able to come to us, and we have to put something together,” Sahel said. “I suggested we buy a van and we go to neighborhoods and we provide care, injections and all of that.”

The eye van donation from BBF enables Waxman and other UPMC ophthalmologists to provide the community outreach without any complications.

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