The Impact of the Kentucky College of Optometry

We Make a Difference!

The Kentucky College of Optometry (KYCO) has developed several off-campus community outreach programs in which — as part of their standard clinical training — students provide vision care services to rural underserved patient populations. Our goal is to provide valuable clinical training for our students as they serve those segments of the local population who have only limited access to healthcare.

Elementary School Vision Screenings

Since fall 2017, KYCO has provided vision screenings to hundreds of Pike County elementary school students each year. Second-year KYCO students are able to assess these children’s visual acuity, color vision, ocular alignment and ocular health.

Through our screenings, approximately 28% of the elementary school students were referred for a comprehensive eye exam based on their findings. We have identified a sizable number of elementary school students with untreated visual conditions such as an eye turn, lazy eye, high refractive error and ocular disease.

Elementary School Educational Events

Since 2019, optometry students and an overseeing faculty member have visited numerous local elementary schools to discuss vision and optometry with students. During these two-hour lessons, elementary school students learn about topics such eye anatomy, depth perception, contact lenses, and much more. KYCO hopes to inspire children from a young age to consider possible opportunities after high school and hopefully even a career in medicine or optometry with these educational events.

Community Vision Screenings

In the second year clinical internship courses, students are further able to provide vision screenings to adult patients in the community. With our screenings, we are able to provide information on the importance of vision care and identify significant problems with visual acuity, ocular alignment, visual field, intraocular pressure and ocular health.

Since Spring 2018, KYCO has served numerous local establishments including the UPIKE campus, Pike County Judicial Center, Carl B. Perkins Job Corp, Cedar Creek Assisted Living and several others.

International Trips

Since 2018, KYCO has held one week international clinics through their Student Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (SVOSH) and Fellowship of Christian Optometrists (FCO) chapters. The SVOSH group has conducted clinics in Mexico and in El Salvador, partnering with local groups to ensure sustainability. The FCO group has partnered with the Ret Pray Love Foundation to provide volunteer clinics in Puerto Rico and also has conducted a trip to the Dominican Republic.

Through these clinics, thousands of patients who were unable to obtain eyecare were able to receive glasses and sunglasses to help them function better in their lives, and many patients were referred for medical conditions that were discovered at these clinics. Additionally, students and faculty have also traveled to China twice in order to build partnerships with foreign providers and assist in examining patients at risk for myopia.

Lions Club Screenings & Exams

KYCO partners with various Lions Clubs in Kentucky and Tennessee to provide eye exams and vision screenings to people of Appalachia. These clinics serve approximately 100-150 patients per day. One of these clinics is held in a joint effort with the Pikeville Lions Club (founded by faculty and students of the Kentucky College of Optometry). A vision screening is held outside of the optometry building during Hillbilly Days every year.   

Remote Area Medical Trips

The Kentucky College of Optometry’s Student Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (SVOSH) chapter has partnered with Remote Area Medical in order to provide eye care services to the underserved of Appalachia, concentrating efforts in Eastern Kentucky, Western Tennessee and Southwestern Virginia. These clinics provide eye exams and glasses for those who need them. Approximately 200 patients are served at each clinic and SVOSH coordinates several of these trips yearly.

For more information:

If you have any questions or wish to learn more about KYCO’s community outreach efforts, please contact the Director of Community Outreach, Dr. Rachel Fitzgerald. 

Rachel Fitzgerald, OD, FAAO
Phone: (606) 218-5532