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VOL. 128 | NO. 217 | Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Eye of the Tiger

SCO opens optometry clinic at University of Memphis

By Michael Waddell

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Southern College of Optometry opened its first full-scope primary care external clinic Monday, Nov. 4, as University Eye Care at the University of Memphis welcomed its first patients.

Dr. Aaron Kerr examines Kelli Brignac at University Eye Care, which opened on the University of Memphis campus Nov. 4. It’s Southern College of Optometry’s first full-scope primary care external clinic.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

The 2,000-square-foot, full-service eye health and vision clinic is located above the university bookstore at the V. Lane Rawlins Service Court Facility.

“We’ve been working towards having a clinical presence physically on the campus at the University of Memphis for almost three years,” said Dr. James Venable, SCO vice president for clinical programs, who explained the college has received countless referrals from the U of M’s Student Health Services division through the years.

SCO has invested roughly $300,000 in the new facility, which will offer comprehensive pediatric and adult primary eye health and vision care.

“This is a wonderful partnership,” said Dr. Richard Phillips, SCO president, in a prepared statement. “We look forward to bringing top-notch eye care to the U of M community.”

The new facility will have the capacity to see approximately 4,000 patients per year.

“We are very close to 100 percent capacity in our clinic on our Midtown campus, so we have a need to reach out to other locations to provide care as more and more people come to us and ask for our services,” said Venable, who graduated from SCO in 1989 with a doctorate in optometry.

One of Venable’s major duties as vice president for clinical programs is to assure that the school’s interns and residents have exposure to a diverse and large number of patients during their training program.

“Because of the nature of our main clinical facility on our campus, where we see about 60,000 patients annually, we do not see many young college students or a tremendous number of contact lens patients,” Venable said. “So this was an ideal fit to be able to diversify our patient population for our students as well as provide really convenient care for the students of the University of Memphis, its faculty and staff.”

University Eye Care is staffed by five optometric physicians, with support by student interns.

Services include eye examinations, contact lens fittings and ocular disease management.

“Our focus is on primary care,” Venable said. “We will manage some ocular disease, but the more advanced specialty care such as rehabilitation or vision therapy will continue to take place on our main clinic on our campus in Midtown.”

In addition to eye health services, the clinic offers designer eyewear and contact lenses.

The clinic is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, except on holidays and when the university is closed.

Most major medical insurance plans will be accepted, and SCO has created the Tiger Eye Care program to make vision care affordable for students and their families without other vision coverage. Tiger Eye Care packages range from $35 to $169.

“It will be very affordable for students, their dependents, the faculty and staff to be able to get the eye care and the eyewear they need without having to pay a fortune for it,” said Venable, who estimates that the new clinic will be able to do about 85 percent of everything that its main facility in Midtown is capable of doing.

University Eye Care will also provide some educational services for the U of M’s College of Public Health.

“This will be a working health care clinic where students from the College of Public Health and other areas throughout the university can actually come in and do internships or clerkships as part of their education,” Venable said.

Further SCO growth plans over the next five years call for at least another three external clinical facilities, including one that is likely to be located at the Sears Crosstown building.

“We have signed a letter of intent with the Crosstown Redevelopment Corp. for the plans taking place in the old Sears Crosstown building,” Venable said. “Beginning in 2015, if all goes according to plan, we will begin build out a 4,000-square-foot clinical facility in that location.”

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