West Side residents will receive important and free eye screenings on June 11 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church at 4301 W. Washington Blvd. Dr. Tamara R. Fountain, an ophthalmologist at Rush University Medical Center, and seven of her colleagues will conduct the screen that is part of a new initiative from the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the Illinois Association of Ophthalmology (IAO), EyeSmart EyeCheck, a program created to combat undetected eye impairments among at-risk populations in the United States.

"Our goal is to raise awareness and understanding of the impact of eye disease and visual impairment, particularly among Chicago's minority populations who disproportionately lack access to care," said Fountain, a past president of the IAO.

Fountain, two other Rush ophthalmologists and five Rush residents are among 33 physicians slated to provide screenings at the event. Overall, 44 volunteers will be at the event to help EyeSmart EyeCheck implement the following goals:

- Introduce a new screening methodology for adults, focusing on detecting vision damage rather than screening for specific eye diseases. Studies suggest this approach may be more cost-effective.

- Facilitate free screenings to help identify undiagnosed visual impairment among populations with limited access to health care that are at the greatest risk for vision damage.

- Provide referrals to eye care providers and distribute eye health information.

The prevalence of eye disease in the black and Hispanic communities is what prompted a different approach to adult vision screenings.

"Traditional adult vision screenings typically screen for a specific disease like glaucoma or cataracts," said David W. Parke II, MD, CEO of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. "To get the greatest benefit from a screening, it makes sense to screen broadly for functional impairment in a sequential process of elimination. This allows us to screen more individuals in a given time period, much like triage in an emergency room, where more serious cases are quickly referred on for care."

The EyeSmart EyeCheck program will work with Rush, Chicago area ophthalmology practices, local health departments and community clinics to provide sources for care once visual impairment is detected.

This is the second pilot event for EyeSmart EyeCheck. The first pilot was held in a predominately Hispanic section of Los Angeles last July 25.

Rush University Medical Center