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West Hartford Ophthalmologist Donates Time for Eye Clinic at MxCC

Pictured here, Duane Austin, M.D., an ophthalmologist from CT Eye Center in West Hartford, performs an eye exam at Middlesex Community College’s Community Eye Care Day.
Pictured here, Duane Austin, M.D., an ophthalmologist from CT Eye Center in West Hartford, performs an eye exam at Middlesex Community College’s Community Eye Care Day.

Middlesex Community College’s (MxCC) Ophthalmic Design and Dispensing Program (OD&D) continued to show its commitment to the community by holding its 21st annual Community Eye Care Days on March 4 and 6. By the end of the project, over seventy people who could not otherwise get a complete ocular health assessment and eyewear will be wearing their new glasses.

This event originally began through the efforts of René “Skip” Rivard, OD&D professor, and provided many people from surrounding communities with eye exams and eyewear they could not have otherwise afforded.  

Each patient’s treatment began with an ocular health assessment by Duane Austin, M.D., an ophthalmologist from CT Eye Center in West Hartford or Hal Olstrom, O.D., an optometrist from Clinton Eye Associates.  After the examinations, OD&D students took measurements, manufactured, and dispensed the eyewear, which were all completed in the on-campus eyewear clinic.

“Vision is so important and I am happy to come here and give back to the community,” said Duane Austin, M.D. “I know that the patients we have seen are very appreciative of what we are doing.”

“It’s estimated that in Connecticut, some 5,000 people per year are not getting the eye care they need because they are unable to pay for it,” said Professor Rene “Skip” Rivard. “This project provides an opportunity for our students to understand that being a health care provider is not strictly measured by financial benefits. They recognize the need to use their education to provide public service within their community. The benefits of this lesson should follow them throughout their career.”

Students of the College’s Ophthalmic Design and Dispensing (OD&D) program exclusively coordinated this event.  Student project coordinators Rea Guckin of Meriden and Heather Thompson of Niantic contacted various social and human services organizations in Middletown such as St. Vincent de Paul and Amazing Grace Food Pantry for referrals to the eye clinic.  

“The Community Eye Care Days program is a great opportunity for those in need who cannot obtain eye care and eyeglasses,” said Guckin. “It allows students to recognize the importance of public service.”  

“So many people need eye care, but are unable to afford it,” said Thompson. “This experience reinforced what I learned as a health care professional. It was a great feeling to be able to share my knowledge and skills with people in need within the community.”

Optical lenses and frames were donated by HOYA Vision Care Company of South Windsor, Precision/PrefRx Optical of East Hartford and McLeod Optical Company of Warwick, RI.  John’s Catering of Middletown and the Connecticut Opticians Association donated meals and refreshments. 

During their two years of study in the OD&D program at MxCC, students train to become nationally certified and state licensed as opticians. When licensed by the state, students will be able to design and fit people to eyewear and contact lenses based on the prescription of an ophthalmologist or optometrist.

Founded in 1966, Middlesex Community College (mxcc.edu) is part of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System. In all it does, Middlesex Community College strives to be the college of its community. By providing high quality, affordable, and accessible education to a diverse population, the college enhances the strengths of individuals through degree, certificate, and lifelong learning programs that lead to university transfer, employment, and an enriched awareness of our shared responsibilities as global citizens. MxCC, recently named a "Great College to Work For" by The Chronicle of Higher Education, offers more than 50 degree or certificate programs at the main 38-acre campus in Middletown, the downtown Meriden Center, and online.

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