"All in the Family:" $100,000 Vision Van Donation
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Vision Van

"All in the Family:" $100,000 Vision Van Donation

Longtime Optometry Family Donates $100,000 for New Vision Van

In honor of her family’s more than 100 years of combined service to the optometric profession, to patient care and professional education, and after seeing first-hand the benefit of providing early vision care to students at their schools, Cathie Muhr has donated $100,000 toward a new vision van, so the “Looking Out for Kids” program may continue in a more suitable environment. 

Cathie Muhr is the third generation of her family to work in optometry. Her grandmother was an optometric assistant and her father was an administrator at the colleges of optometry in Los Angeles and Fullerton, California. She joined the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) family more than 40 years ago and quickly combined those backgrounds.

Cathie MuhrAfter graduating from the Optometric Technician program at the Southern California College of Optometry (SCCO) in 1975, Muhr worked in private practices in southern and northern California. She was then asked by the American Optometric Association to participate in the development of the Paraoptometric Section, was elected as its first secretary, and later served as Section Chair. She enjoyed promoting the education of paraoptometrics, allied health professionals who assist optometrists in providing their highest level of vision care to patients, while she lectured throughout the country, and wrote articles and instructional programs. 

When Muhr secured a technician position at The Eye Institute (TEI) in 1981, she was delighted to have the opportunity to serve her profession in academia. Her original responsibility was supervising interns performing vision screenings at TEI.  During the first year, she became involved in establishing an optometric technician program at PCO, and she was acting director and an instructor during the five-year duration of the program. When more technicians were hired at TEI, she moved from patient care to administration as educational coordinator. Initially, she scheduled optometric interns in TEI, which then segued into the scheduling of residents, faculty, and courses. Over the next 27 years, TEI continued to expand and change. “The job was always challenging and rewarding,” Muhr said. “It was always about the people and making sure their needs, as well as those of the program, were met.” 

For several months after Muhr retired in 2010, she played a lot of golf and was glad to be home with her new dog. Shortly after, she was asked to proctor exams for PCO students at Salus University, which she did for the next two years. 

Cathie showing a student their glasses in a mirror“In April 2013, the opportunity of a lifetime landed in my lap,” she said.  “The School Vision Program was expanding to a new model, doing eye exams inside schools in the Norristown Area School District (NASD).” She was asked to teach someone how to conduct pre-exams. “After the first week, I was intrigued. After the second week, I knew this was what I wanted to do,” she said.   

Under the “Looking Out for Kids” program, school nurses refer students who fail the state-mandated annual vision screening, meet certain criteria, and secure parental consent. In the NASD, exam equipment is set up in a designated space in the school, and once the school’s students are seen, the equipment is moved to another school.

For the first two years, Luis Trujillo, OD ‘09, Pediatric Resident ‘12, and Muhr were the Norristown team, working together to conduct screenings, eye exams, and frame selection for eight to 10 students a day. By the third year, every school in the district was being served, and optometric interns were assigned to participate in this patient care experience. Throughout this time, Muhr continued to dispense glasses to the students in their schools, making sure they fit properly, and the students were educated in how to wear and care for them. On a few occasions, the vision van was and still is deployed to Norristown when the situation warrants.

Student being fitted for glassesMuhr has also provided patient care services on the Mobile Vision Care Unit, affectionately nicknamed the “Big Red Bus,” and dispensed glasses in other school districts. “This has been an extremely enjoyable and rewarding experience for me,” she said. “I get to work with great people - the optometrists, school nurses, interns, and kids - and to see the difference we make in these kids’ lives is invaluable.”

Through this year's "Looking Out for Kids" charity event being held this Saturday, May 1, the hope is to raise enough funds to specifically replace the "Big Red Bus" and provide more care on the road in the years to come. Text ‘LOFK’ to 76278 or Text 'give120' to 76278 to make a $120 donation for this cause.