Healio: Well-trained pediatric optometrists can help fill access gaps
By Robert Linnehan
Incorporating well-trained pediatric optometrists into pediatric ophthalmology practices has helped expand primary pediatric eye care services to children, often closing gaps in access to this often routine but nonetheless important service.
Children’s Hospital Colorado, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, are the only three medical facilities that have had pediatric optometry residency programs.
There is a definite need for primary pediatric eye care, and well-trained pediatric optometrists can provide much of the primary, non-surgical eye care that pediatric patients need.
Erin D. Stahl, MD, section chief of ophthalmology at Children’s Mercy Hospital, takes great pride in the pediatric optometry residency program there. The program was created 12 years ago due to a lack of ophthalmology residents choosing pediatric ophthalmology as their specialty and to help “provide excellent primary and tertiary care for all children with vision needs,” Stahl said.
The pediatric ophthalmology practice at Children’s Mercy Hospital currently has eight pediatric ophthalmologists and six pediatric optometrists on staff. No optometrist ever performs any type of procedure in the integrated practice, Stahl said.
"We created a great model here that we want to share,” Stahl, an OSN Pediatrics/Strabismus Board Member, said.
In the Children’s Mercy training program, ophthalmologists and optometrists work together to train one pediatric optometrist per year. The resident trains alongside the ophthalmology fellow but has a greater focus on primary care and specialty services such as contact lenses and myopia control, she said.
“We’re trying to make sure these new programs are high quality and that our members know how to best utilize these highly trained individuals,” she said.
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Learn more about Ophthalmology and Optometry at Children's Mercy