The Eye & Ear Foundation and UPMC Mercy received a $150,000 mobile “eyeVan” from Brother’s Brother Foundation for the Department of Ophthalmology to use for free community vision clinics in the Pittsburgh Region.
The key exchange was Wednesday, March 1 on the Mercy Hospital campus.
The van is like a doctor’s office on wheels, equipped with medical technology to provide eye exams, screenings, and treatments for people in underserved communities. It will be used as part of the Guerilla Eye Service, a program that started in 2006 to provide free vision screenings, glasses, and referrals at various locations around the Pittsburgh region.
“We’re like a commando mobile eye squad,” said Dr. Evan “Jake” Waxman, Director, UPMC Mercy Eye Center, who oversees the Guerilla Eye Service. “We take medical students and residents and mobile equipment to places where people are getting their primary care for free – and we provide their eye care for free.”
Waxman’s team takes a thoughtful and targeted approach to helping people by coordinating with community health clinics and schools to determine where the van goes.
The partnership between BBF and UPMC Mercy is a testament to the shared vision of promoting health and well-being to those in need. This mission inspires Dr. José-Alain Sahel, Chair, Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and Director of the UPMC Eye Center.
“While we are developing many cutting-edge programs to restore vision, at the same time, we are aware of the many people who live in this city and surrounding neighborhoods who do not have access to the care they need,” Dr. Sahel said.
Ozzy Samad, BBF president, was onsite to commemorate the donation and highlight the importance of helping people in Pittsburgh. Samad noted that BBF helps people all around the world but is also focused on what BBF can do to help people within its own footprint.
“When the idea for the mobile clinic came up, we understood that the key is to have implementation partners – the people who are actually doing the work – and the UPMC Eye and Ear Foundation and UPMC Guerilla Eye Service are the perfect partners,” Samad said.
With the van keys in hand, Waxman said he and his team were scheduled for their first outing to help the unhoused later in March.