Stephanie Callisto examines a refugee
By Ashleigh McMillan
Flinders University Optometry Student Association presidents Stephanie Callisto and Sarah Golfis have launched Mobile Vision, an outreach clinic based in South Australia.
The first Mobile Vision screening took place at the Migrant and Refugee Services office for St Vincent De Paul in Adelaide on 17 August, with support from Flinders University, Optometry South Australia and Early Career Optometrists South Australia (ECOSA).
Stephanie and Sarah were joined by fourth-year student Sam Hobbs to provide optometric consultations for 14 refugees, with optometrists ECOSA co-ordinator Luke Higgins and Phuong Truong supervising the screening.
(L-R) Luke Higgins, Sam Hobbs, Stephanie Callisto, Sarah Golfis and Phuong Truong
Stephanie said that the program evolved out of conversations with Professor Konrad Pesudovs, former head of Optometry at Flinders University, in which they discussed that members of society who are marginalised or low income earners might not be accessing eye care.
The Mobile Vision team offered eye examinations to every person who attended the Migrant and Refugee Services office looking for assistance related to their status as a refugee.
‘Even though we have an optometry store around every corner, there are people who aren’t walking into those stores.’ Stephanie said. ‘We realised that optometrists need to physically go to those people, and Sarah and I ended up saying: Why can’t we do it?
‘Sarah and I both went into this first screening with low expectations, because we weren’t sure how many people would show up to the office and if they would even want to get their eyes examined. Anyone who walked into the refugee centre requesting help was offered an eye examination, and almost every person said yes.
‘There was a language barrier most of the time, so learning how to communicate what we were doing with someone who didn’t understand English was a massive challenge, but great experience.
‘Working with equipment which was not what we’d usually have and compensating for those things was really interesting. Being able to do a consultation on a two-year-old child was crazy, and we learned so much from the whole experience,’ she said.
Flinders University Optometry Student Association (FUOSA) members and South Australian optometrists will return to the Migrant and Refugee Services office in the coming weeks to fit patients at the clinic with spectacles. Frames have been donated by Bailey Nelson, with lenses donated by the Essilor Vision Foundation.
The next Mobile Vision screening will be held in October in Adelaide. FUOSA will donate funds from a raffle at its annual EyeBall on 8 September to purchase more equipment for the Mobile Vision kit.
Stephanie said the assistance from Optometry South Australia, ECOSA and Flinders University had been invaluable, with each providing equipment and mentoring.
‘At the point where we were organising it, we’d never done outreach placement, so we didn’t know what was needed to run the day,’ Stephanie said. ‘Luke Higgins essentially coached us all the way through the process. From the beginning he helped us with logistics including Medicare, and covering costs and transport, and assisted right through to giving us equipment and letting us borrow his kit on the day.
‘Optometry SA CEO Libby Boschen was a great mentor too. She was one of the first people who told us it was possible, and then showed us how to set up a business plan and make the initiative something to really build on.’
Luke Higgins donated the assigned Medicare rebates claimed during the clinic to FUOSA, in order to fund future clinics and purchase more equipment for Mobile Vision.
‘It was a brilliant initiative to be involved with and shows great passion and initiative from FUOSA to go out and organise a clinic that had a real, positive impact for the patients who were seen,’ Luke said. ‘Steph, Sam and Sarah were a brilliant trio and provided excellent optometric consultations.’
Luke Higgins with a refugee
Visit the Flinders University Optometry Students Association Facebook page
Visit the St Vincent de Paul Society’s website