Saskatchewan. optometrist works to improve the accessibility of eye care

ByMartha R. Camara

May 25, 2022

A Saskatchewan optometrist is helping to improve accessibility to optical care in rural areas by offering remote clinics.

Dr. Shannon Gatrell travels the province visiting rural First Nations communities to perform eye exams in schools.

“In any rural community it’s sometimes difficult to get into town and do this work, so anything we can do to do this work and improve access in schools is good,” Gatrell said. .

Dr. Gatrell is thrilled to be back at remote clinics after the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted them for the past two years. She said greater accessibility is needed in rural communities.

“When I started going out, it was probably almost half the kids who had never had their eyes checked, so there’s definitely a need,” she said.

“A lot of what children learn is visual, it happens through the visual system. Sometimes eye conditions almost mimic learning disabilities when in reality they just need glasses, so it’s important to catch them when they are young.

Those who work in the communities visited by Gatrell also recognize the importance of its role.

“She is Ochapowace’s first Aboriginal optometrist. So not only is she great at what she does, but she’s also a very positive role model for our students,” said Sandy Pinay-Schindler, Director of Education for Cowessess First Nation.

Gatrell plans to continue taking his practice on the road, hoping to add more communities to his roster of stops in the future.