The University of Utah: Improving the Vision of the Navajo Nation

With no ophthalmologists in the remote nation, doctors and medical staff in Moran volunteer their time to provide care, making the several-hour trip from Salt Lake City on an almost monthly basis. By setting up testing clinics at local schools and UNHS community health centers, the team often serves hundreds of patients in a single weekend.

Now, a $ 4,000 grant to residents of Moran, Mike Murri, MD, Sean Collon, MD, Tony Mai, MD, and University of Utah Medical School student James Ellis will help further. people to receive care all year round. The grant will allow Moran to train existing health workers in the Navajo Nation provider network to become Certified Ophthalmic Assistants (COA).

COAs based in the Navajo Nation will eventually have the skills to take patient histories, perform tedious vision screens, check eye alignment, and measure patients for glasses ahead of Moran’s outreach visits to the area. by Four Corners. Their frontline work will give Moran’s doctors more time to sort out urgent problems and perform surgeries.

“Moran has trained ophthalmic assistants around the world, but this is the first time we’ve been training local community partners,” says Murri, a third-year resident.

“Once the COAs get their certifications, we have existing funding to bring them to Moran for further training,” says Chaya. “We are building a bridge to more local, sustainable practical training. “

Building a basis for continuing education

Interns need the technology to go through the Moran program and the one-year certification process. It also gives them access to remote monthly tournaments and other educational events. The clinics will permanently house iPads to provide ongoing educational material.

“We aim to transfer skills and provide practice and testing for each trainee,” says Murri. “Each person trained represents a step forward in making our work on the Navajo Nation more effective.”

Further, adds Murri, “Some patients live in extremely remote areas and may have difficulty getting to a specific outreach clinic on a certain date. Having full-time technicians on site will give them more flexibility. and access. They will also be able to interact with someone familiar and from their own culture. “

Global need for technology, training and education

Moran’s doctors, nurses and medical staff have volunteered their time in more than 25 countries. In each location, they train local ophthalmologists and health workers to improve access to eye care. In Utah, they provide the same volunteer and charitable eye care to several underserved populations, including the Navajo Nation.

The work of the division is funded solely by charitable donations.

In a typical year, Moran’s outreach team provides approximately 1,000 eye restoration surgeries, 5,000 eye exams, and 2,000 free pairs of glasses while training 30 international doctors and nurses; some 120 volunteers provide 12,500 hours of service.

“Communities around the world share the challenges faced by the Navajo,” says Chaya. “As recently stated in the Lancet Global Health Commission On global eye health, the vision community must join forces to strengthen health care systems and increase the capacity to make universal eye care more equitable and sustainable. Investing in technology and improving training and education are essential. “


This press release was produced by the University of Utah. The opinions expressed here are those of the author.


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