Bringing eye care to underserved communities in Baton Rouge

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) – Imagine the bright, beautiful and vibrant colors of a Baton Rouge spring now blurred. This is an all too common reality for many people in the region, especially children.

“If they go to school, don’t see the picture, they start acting in different ways,” said eye doctor Dr. Daniel Smith. “So they stop paying attention to what the teacher is telling them, and that leads to other things that aren’t good for what they’re trying to do in their life.”

Unless kids get eye exams, Dr Smith said kids just don’t realize their world isn’t in focus.

“Kids think everyone sees like them,” Smith said. “So, you know, you don’t know what 20/20 is until you show it to a kid. Just like teaching someone what hot is, you don’t know what it is. It’s hot until you experience it for yourself.

The problem is compounded in areas like Old South Baton Rouge, an area where more residents live in poverty than in most East Baton Rouge parishes. Doctors say the neighborhood suffers from a lack of health care resources, especially eye care.

“In the first month of opening here, we had so many patients who came to this clinic because they had no access to it before,” said Dr Khahn Trinh, an ophthalmologist who works with the Dr Smith.

To help bridge the gap, Smith and Trinh opened an eye care center at the Leo S. Butler Community Center. It’s the only eye care center in the neighborhood.

“Some people haven’t had an eye exam for 3, 4, 10-15 years, and they come and say thank you for being here because we haven’t had an eye exam for a long time. “, said Trinh. . “And, when they arrive, a lot of them have so many vision problems that they didn’t even know it because if you don’t have your eyes checked, how do you know?”

By making care easily accessible, doctors said they are helping to close the healthcare gap for an underserved community and improve the quality of life for an entire neighborhood.

“Whether they’re four or 94, their reaction to being able to see better than they actually are just tugs at the strings in my heart,” Trinh said.

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