Jennifer Mauney Smith, OD: Raising Awareness in Rural North Carolina
By Essilor USA
Jennifer Mauney Smith, OD, Aldridge Eye Institute/Blue Ridge Partnership for Children
“Children’s vision is my passion, and education is the biggest obstacle in a rural area. Parents and caregivers don’t know about the importance of early detection and intervention regarding pediatric vision concerns. Kids can do amazing things when they can use their eyes and vision efficiently, but I know there are a lot of children out there who are not receiving the care they need,” says Jennifer Mauney Smith, OD, Project Director of Seeing to Learn. Seeing to Learn received a $5,000 Healthy Eyes Healthy Children community grant through Optometry Cares, the American Optometric Association Foundation. The grant program offers funds to optometrists who focus on collaborative efforts to spread awareness and increase vision services within their community.
The goals of Seeing to Learn are to ensure more children receive comprehensive eye exams and treatment for eye diseases; to educate the community about the importance of early identification of eye diseases and impairments; and to increase the success of mandated screenings for young children by eliminating barriers to follow-up exams and treatment.
As a way to educate the community, Seeing to Learn held community lunch and learns where Dr. Smith spoke about children’s vision, and developed and distributed literacy materials at an event for Healthy Yancey, a coalition of citizens and health and human services professionals dedicated to identifying health needs of Yancey County (North Carolina) residents. “There was a family practice doctor on the board of Healthy Yancey and when I spoke, it was the first time she’d heard some of the guidelines for healthy vision care as far as how frequently kids should get their eyes checked and at what ages. This shows how necessary it is to increase awareness even in the medical community and among those who provide services to young children,” Dr. Smith says.
Dr. Smith continues, “I have a vested interest in my community, and being able to improve the standard of living and quality of life of the next generation is vital to me. I believe these efforts are great for the eyecare profession and for the public, and it is my honor to be a part of something that can truly make a difference in the community.”