News - Leis Fellowship 2012
Laura Leis, Class of 2015 - Schweitzer Fellow
Berkeley Optometry is thrilled to announce that Laura Leis, Class of 2015, has been selected as a Schweitzer Fellow for the 2012-2013 academic year.
In 1940, the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship was founded in the United States to support Dr. Schweitzer's medical work in Africa during World War II. Since Dr. Schweitzer's death in 1965, the Fellowship has continued to provide direct assistance to the Schweitzer Hospital in Lambaréné, Gabon.
Begun in 1991, the U.S. Albert Schweitzer Fellows Program (ASFP) has provided support for graduate students in the health care field to turn idealism into action in the United States. Each year 200 Fellows across the country (and 12 in the San Francisco Bay Area: US-ASFP) are chosen to design and implement individual service projects aimed at addressing health needs in their local communities.
Why did you decide to apply for the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship?
I began volunteering two years ago, when I moved to Bay Area, on field trips for the American Indian Public Charter School (AIPCS) in Oakland, California. The students are predominantly from low income, minority families, growing up in the urban neighborhoods of one of the toughest cities in the United States. Despite this, the students excel. It is a strict program, enforcing school uniforms and intensive teaching, but the students earn some of the highest test scores in the state of California. They work hard to prove that they can be successful. After I began at Berkeley Optometry, I began to wonder about vision care for the students. I learned that with limited means and many needs, AIPCS isn't able to provide screenings. There are vouchers available for glasses if a student is suspected as needing care, but there is no routine screening system in place for the students. Vision screenings serve to identify problems that can be easily overlooked in a busy school that has many pressing needs. They also have the potential to have a huge impact on the lives of the students. It struck me that it would be wonderful to establish a screening program that could provide screenings for every student enrolled, and could be continued annually for the incoming student classes. The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship Program offers a support network for such a project, and I am very thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this program.
What is your proposed service project?
I will establish a vision screening program for students of the American Indian Public Charter Schools (AIPCS & AIPCSII) and American Indian Public High School (AIPHS) in Oakland, California. The collected student bodies are comprised of 400 inner city students in fifth through eighth grade, and 220 inner-city students in ninth through twelfth grade, 88% socioeconomically disadvantaged, and 99% minority. The project will aim to provide screenings for every student enrolled, and establish a program that will be continued annually for the incoming student classes. The major objectives of the screening program will be to identify students with vision problems through selective vision screening procedures, to connect the identified students with appropriate care, and to create an education plan to teach students about vision screenings and eye health.
A school vision testing program plays a vital role in the early identification of serious vision problems that might negatively affect the health and learning of a child. Vision problems affect nearly 13.5 million children, and rates for problems increase as the children age (www.healthinschools.org). Poor vision in childhood affects performance at school, and it is critical to identify students with vision problems so that the students can receive appropriate care. Since 1947, it has been mandatory for California Public schools to provide vision testing for students enrolled in each district, beginning upon school entry and continuing every third year thereafter. But as charter schools with limited resources, AIPCS, AIPCS II, and AIPHS have no systems in place for vision screenings.
For the screenings, I will create a partnership between the schools and Berkeley Optometry. I will seek to recruit a screening team consisting of fellow optometry students and local or faculty optometrists to help conduct the screenings. I will utilize the existing relationship AIPCS, AIPCS II and AIPHS has with the California Vision Foundation (CVF), a group that provides vouchers for comprehensive exams and glasses for those who cannot afford appropriate care. If CVF cannot be a sustainable relationship, I will seek to create a network of local doctors and laboratories willing to donate their services or provide basic single vision lenses for the students. I will educate teachers with students identified as having potential vision problems about ways they can adjust their classroom environment to facilitate learning for the students.
My goal is to spend time with each class to discuss with students what to expect during the testing, as well as present vision health concepts. I would also like to create material with information on eye health and local resources that can be sent home for the families. Interacting face to face with the students, and not just conducting screening, is an important component of my proposed project. Middle and high school years can be difficult, with students facing many challenges and life decisions, and I believe as Berkeley Optometry students, we can be positive role models for them while providing access to proper care.
Through the guidance of the fellowship, I will seek to create a sustainable model for the screening program that could provide screenings for every student enrolled, and could be continued annually for the incoming student classes. I am looking forward to beginning work on this project, and am thankful to have the support of Berkeley Optometry and the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship Program.
Read about a previous Berkeley Optometry Schweitzer Fellow: Menchavez Fellowship 2010.Back to News Spotlight