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A Better Future in Sight

Free eye care examinationFor most people, the ability to see underpins much of daily life: how we earn a living, get from place to place and relate to other people. No wonder the UW Free Community Eye Clinic fills the waiting room on Saturday mornings.

Established more than 15 years ago, the clinic serves uninsured patients referred by local social service organizations and UW Health clinics. On this day, patients gather as volunteer staff, resident physicians and UW Health faculty prepare to start the busy monthly clinic.

In a few minutes, one patient emerges from the doctor's office and explains his plan: seeking a better life for himself and his family, he has moved to Madison from a nearby small town. Without a car, he needs housing and employment on bus lines and must learn to master the Madison Metro bus schedule. He's anxious about the time at the clinic, knowing he will need to take several buses to get to an afternoon appointment about a potential job.

Still, he has time to explain the importance of the clinic. His only pair of glasses had broken several months earlier and without them, he struggled to see well enough to work, fill out job applications and read bus schedules. The glasses were the key to everything, he emphasized. His exam complete, knowing he would get them, he put the plan in motion. He stepped out to catch his first bus.

The Free Community Eye Clinic serves about 120 patients annually. In addition, UW Health partners each year with the Combat Blindness Foundation for the annual Right to Sight free clinic which serves an additional 75 patients. A growing partnership with the Combat Blindness Foundation (www.combatblindness.org) will expand the number of patients served and the services provided, leveraging UW Health's many-year commitment to access to eye care.