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December 5, 2013

SUNY Optometry’s Low Vision Center Making a Growing Impact in China

The Optometric Center of New York, the philanthropic wing of the SUNY College of Optometry, has received the second installment of a nearly half-a-million dollar grant from the Lavelle Fund for the Blind to expand its low vision and vision rehabilitation clinic in Wenzhou, China.

In 2008 the College established the Center for Low Vision and Vision Rehabilitation at Wenzhou Medical University  (WMU) and four years later, in 2012, it received a three-year grant totaling more than $420,000 from Lavelle to expand on the work that it is doing and serve more low vision patients in China.

Over the past year the grant has enabled the Center to establish a satellite clinic at an eye hospital, affiliated with WMU, in the city of Hangzhou. In addition, a close association with several schools that serve visually impaired students in Zhejiang province was developed. The Center is helping these schools screen children and, in some cases, it has established special classrooms designed to assist low vision students studying there.

Over the past year, doctors and other staff members from the Center have traveled to the College and elsewhere in the United States in order to receive more advanced training in the use of field expansion devices, bioptic telescopes and other assistive technologies. The grant has also enabled the Center to begin the process of improving data collection and patient tracking systems which will ultimately allow the clinic to better serve a greater number of patients.

A large and increasing number of individuals suffer from low vision in China, particularly in rural areas of the country.  The low vision population in China also includes a larger proportion of children than in the United States. The Center for Low Vision and Vision Rehabilitation was established to help address this major public health issue and improve the lives of many of those living with low vision in China.

“In just a few short years, the Center has established its reputation in China as a resource for the training of low vision and vision rehabilitation personnel from hospitals throughout China,” said SUNY Optometry’s Dr. Michael H. Heiberger.  “Having demonstrated a model to serve the needs of the visually handicapped, the Center, under the current grant from the Lavelle Fund for the Blind, is developing a database to demonstrate the sustainability of its efforts.”

The Lavelle Fund for the Blind, which supports programs that help people who are blind and visually impaired lead independent and productive lives, will provide the final installment of the grant next year.

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