Salus University, Community College of Philadelphia and Montgomery County Community College collaborated again this year to ensure student veterans received vision, hearing and balance screenings. This is the second year
the Veterans Readiness Initiative (VRI) program has provided screenings for veterans, which has also served as clinical practice for both optometry and audiology students. There is hope that eventually the program will expand to other schools and become nationwide.
Representatives from each community college assisted in the registration of student veterans, who then proceeded to have their eyes, hearing and balance checked by teams of Salus optometry
students under the supervision of faculty preceptors. Following the multidisciplinary screenings, two faculty consultants (one each for optometry and audiology) discussed individual findings with the veterans. Follow up appointments with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs were made if deemed appropriate.
The whole process is designed as a single stop, on-campus visit for student veterans, many of whom have jobs and families in addition to a full course load. Judging from the veterans’ affirmative responses this year, the program is a welcome source of convenience with a great purpose. Kathleen McCartney, former US Air Force computer technician on AWACS, takes classes at Montco’s Pottstown campus. Her husband, Ronald Holtz, a former US Air Force staff sergeant who medically retired after 13 years of service, heard about the event from one of his teachers.
The couple came to the Blue Bell campus just to attend the screenings. Ms. McCartney was happy to have the screening and consultation, as a recent vision test turned up “indications of glaucoma.” While this was not an in-depth exam, as a student she felt it was worthwhile to “see how professional the students were and to see them interact with their professors.” She also said the VRI screening was more in-depth than her previous one and is an advocate for more screenings because “maybe a great screening can turn up a more serious issue.”
Her husband, while also appreciative of the students’ professionalism, felt minimal screenings might not be effective overall. He had another perspective, noting that VRI was a “better approach for vets “who might be apprehensive about going to the VA” (Veterans Administration), because the VA is “combat-related” in some veterans’ experience.
Montco has about 11,000 students and approximately 350 of them are veterans. Bill Keller, the treasurer of the campus veterans group and a participant, thought this program was a good idea because “people have the option to get the screening and then have the option to talk to doctors and seek further treatment.”
Perhaps the best remarks about the program came from Wendell B., a student veteran at Community College of Philadelphia (CCP), who said, “This is the second year …having my vision and hearing screened by Salus University students and faculty…The balance component of the hearing screening added another dynamic, and the vision screening was very extensive.” Wendell also said that veterans can benefit from this service, adding, “the plus is that the screenings come to you!”
Another veteran from CCP, Jared Jones, who recently completed an assignment in the Navy and is new to the area, was very appreciative of the program and the services provided especially as he settles in to Philadelphia. “The screenings provided today were so convenient and helpful and the students and doctors were really attentive,” he said. After receiving a hearing test during his separation exam, he wanted a second opinion. “It was concluded that my test results were fine, which was something I didn’t know before.”
Dr. Karen Hanson, special consultant for program development at Salus, has shepherded this program from its inception and made several presentations in Washington, DC about its progress. She was grateful for the support and efforts of President Mittelman; Provost Scharre; Dean Victor Bray, Assistant Dean Jonette Owen and Ms. Rena Pacheco of the University’s Osborne College of Audiology; Dean Lori Grover and Ms. Naomi Crespo of the University’s Pennsylvania College of Optometry, and Dr. Linda Casser, Salus interprofessional education coordinator, all of whom helped facilitate pre-event planning efforts and schedules.
Faculty preceptors this year were Lynn D. Greenspan, OD; Bre L. Myers, AuD; Jenny Rajan, AuD; Elizabeth Sedunov, AuD; Elizabeth Tonkery, OD, MPH, and Melissa E. Trego, OD, PhD.
Student participants, all members of the Class of 2018 (optometry and audiology) were Saad Ahmed; Katherine Anderson; Kylie Auman; Alexandria Chandler; Tyler Dean; Greta Ghaner; Brittany Hazelon; Allegra Inciardi; Tara LaRose; Candace Miller; Mark Nelson; Roshni Patel; Vishal Patel; Chet Ritter; Jamie Roden; Bella Sudit; Trevor Simones; Alexandra Taylor and Dominic Villanti.