On April 7 and 9, faculty and students from the University’s optometry and audiology programs collaborated on a pilot program with the Veterans Administration (VA) and two area community colleges that was designed to identify and remove potential barriers to the educational success of student veterans due to undetected problems of vision, hearing and balance.

Student Veterans Screening InitiativeThe project’s purpose was to make vision, hearing and balance screenings convenient for student veterans in order to eliminate any potential barriers to learning. The Community College of Philadelphia and Montgomery County Community College solicited their student veterans in advance of the screening dates. On the two days of screening, teams of Salus students and faculty performed vision, hearing and balance screenings. Faculty members Bre Myers, AuD; Gregory Genna, AuD; Lynn Greenspan, OD; Elizabeth Sedunov, AuD; Elizabeth Tonkery, OD, and Melissa Trego, OD oversaw student screenings and held consultations with the veterans to review the screening results, directing them to a team of Veterans Administration (VA) staff members who were ready to make the appropriate appointments to ensure that the veteran received the care he/she required.

Student Veterans Screening InitiativeParticipating Salus students were Katelin Archer ‘17AUD; Arezou Azizaldin ’17OD; Kim Cather ’17AUD; Nicolette Constanza ’17OD; Alexis Conte ’17AUD; Sweta Das ’17OD; Carly Grondin ’17OD; Shawn Horsman ’17OD; Lauren Chan Kai Kong ’18OD; Greg Lawrence ’17OD; Yu Lin ’17OD; Amy McGrath ’17AUD; Brett Radosti ’17AUD ; Marisa Ragonesi ’17AUD; Jordan Sgroi ’17AUD; Ethan Shore ’17OD; Rob Stauble ’17OD; Jamie Yusupov ’17AUD.

For the more than forty veterans who participated, this was an opportunity for them to connect with the VA at a time and place that met their needs and schedules, and they expressed their appreciation of that fact to the students, doctors, VA and community college staff who participated.

The pilot was led by Dr. Karen Hanson, special consultant for program development at Salus, and involved close collaboration of the University with the Philadelphia Veterans Administration Medical Center (VAMC) - both rehabilitation and eye care, Montgomery County Community College (MCCC), Community College of Philadelphia (CCP), and the VA Vision Center of Excellence and the Hearing Center of Excellence.

Salus president, Dr. Michael H. Mittelman, visited the CCP screenings and had an opportunity to speak with CCP organizers and veterans, as well as Salus faculty and students. Provost Janice Scharre and Dr. Victor H. Bray, dean of the University's Osborne College of Audiology, visited the MCCC project site.

Present at both campus screenings and an integral part of the pilot team, Dr. Felix Barker, associate director for research at the Vision Center for Excellence and Salus professor emeritus, said, “I think this pilot was a huge success because it identified veterans needing service for neurosensory problems that can impede reintegration and it did so in a uniquely multidisciplinary proactive way.” He applauded the collaboration with the “educational arena afforded by the community college campus’ environments” as “an ideal opportunity to ‘connect’ with veterans who may benefit from key services and support.”

Keiran Quinn, a former US Navy petty officer, offered the following opinion, “This is a great program because you really feel like you’re being taken care of.  It was sometimes difficult to be cared for on the ship because the time frames the medical center was open rarely synced up with my schedule," he said. "Sometimes we, as veterans, feel like healthcare is too complicated to get. The fact that you’re bringing care directly to us streamlines the process and is very convenient.”