VSP Eye on Diabetes campaign helps veterans in need access care on Memorial Day

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In honor of Memorial Day, military veterans in need will be receiving free health services, including comprehensive eye exams, glasses and health risk assessments for diabetes and high blood pressure during the third VSP Eye on Diabetes campaign event of the year.

Partnering with the Sacramento Community Veterans Alliance (S.C.V.A.) and the California Optometric Association (COA), VSP is bringing SeeLia, a 45-foot-long VSP mobile eye clinic outfitted with state-of-the-art exam rooms and a dispensary to the California State Military Museum in Sacramento. Local VSP optometrists Helen Kwong, OD, and Thomas Wing, OD, are teaming with pre-medical and medical student volunteers from University of California, Davis to provide the services to veterans. The VSP Eye on Diabetes campaign focus is to increase awareness and understanding of the connection between eyecare and a person’s general health.

This VSP Eye on Diabetes campaign outreach event is being held in conjunction with the S.C.V.A.’s Second Annual Memorial Day Health Fair. For a closer look at the event and the partnership between S.C.V.A. and VSP, we caught up with S.C.V.A. founder and veteran Dr. Darryl Hunter.

What is the Second Annual Memorial Day Health Fair about?

Dr. Hunter: “Memorial Day weekend in the Sacramento area has traditionally featured activities either festive in nature such as barbecues and the Jazz Festival in Old Sacramento or ceremonies in solemn remembrances of those who have fallen in battle defending the honor of this country. The Second Annual Memorial Day Health Fair carries on the newest tradition of remembering those who have served but have since fallen on hard times through giving. Our health fair is staged in the heart of Old Sacramento at the California State Military Museum and provides food, care packages, health exams and vision exams with prescription eyewear for the homeless who have served this nation.”

Why is it important to partner with the VSP Eye on Diabetes campaign this year?

Dr. Hunter: “Our event specifically markets to the homeless veteran community that reside in the Old Sacramento area as well as those taking up temporary shelter at the Salvation Army on 1200 N. B St. Last year’s event demonstrated that the largest segment of the homeless veteran population seen were those who served in the Vietnam era and who consequently face the risk of delayed illnesses and cancers connected with Agent Orange exposure.  Diabetes mellitus is one of the 17 listed conditions that the Veterans Administration has identified as a service-connected condition connected to Agent Orange exposure. Our partnership with VSP will help us identify those veterans who are at risk and may connect them to benefits that they otherwise would never have known about.”

In your eyes, what is the connection between a person’s eye health and their overall health?

Dr. Hunter: “The eyes can be a window to other illnesses that may not display symptoms at early onset such as diabetes and hypertension.  Further, many people will not seek care for silent chronic conditions that can ultimately shorten life but most will seek attention if their vision is impaired.  The VSP mobile clinic has played an indispensable role at our events not only by providing an immediate service for those experiencing vision problems but also for screening for conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and various cancers that may not present with symptoms during early stages.”

What is your favorite part about providing services to help Veterans and those in need?

Dr. Hunter: “All of our events are staffed by pre-medical and medical student volunteers of the UC Davis affiliated student-run Willow Clinic. These dedicated students not only volunteer every Saturday to serve the homeless at the Salvation Army’s shelter on B Street but also volunteer on a University holiday to further serve the homeless veteran population. It is gratifying and inspiring see the energy and excitement that our next generation of physicians brings to serving those who risked their lives in service of our country but continue to fight physical and psychological trauma from that service.”

Check out pictures and video from today’s event on Twitter (@VSPVisionCare)!

Read about previous VSP Eye on Diabetes campaign events held in 2012:

VSP Eye on Diabetes visits Ohio

VSP Eye on Diabetes visits Mississippi 

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