Brother’s Brother Foundation (BBF), a non-profit organization based in Pittsburgh, recently donated a mobile “eyeVan” to UPMC Mercy and the Eye & Ear Foundation. The van is like a doctor’s office on wheels, equipped with medical technology to provide eye exams, screenings and treatments for those in underserved communities.
Dr. Evan “Jake” Waxman, director, UPMC Mercy Eye Center, happily took the keys with the goal of helping more people in and around Pittsburgh. He oversees a program called Guerilla Eye Service, which provides vision care to individuals who may not have access due to financial barriers or transportation challenges, to name a few.
“We’re like a commando mobile eye squad,” Waxman said. “We take medical students and residents and mobile equipment to places where people are getting their primary care for free – and we provide their eye care for free.”
Many people who struggle with food or housing insecurity delay seeking vision care, Waxman noted “People are losing vision without knowing it, but we’re going to be there to take care of it,” he said. “We’re not going out to do screenings, we’re going out to become their eye doctors.”
Waxman’s team takes a thoughtful and targeted approach to helping people by coordinating with community health clinics and schools to determine where the van goes.
The partnership between BBF and UPMC Mercy is a testament to the shared vision of promoting health and well-being to those in need. This mission inspires Dr. Jose-Alain Sahel, chair, Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and director of the UPMC Eye Center.
“While we are developing many cutting-edge programs to restore vision, at the same time, we are aware of the many people who live in this city and surrounding neighborhoods who do not have access to the care they need,” Sahel said.
Ozzy Samad, BBF president, was onsite at UPMC Mercy to commemorate the donation and highlight the importance of helping people in Pittsburgh. Samad noted that BBF helps people all around the world but is also focused on what BBF can do to help people within its own footprint.
“When the idea for the mobile clinic came up, we understood that the key is to have implementation partners – the people who are actually doing the work – and the UPMC Eye and Ear Foundation and UPMC Guerilla Eye Service are the perfect partner,” Samad said.
With the van keys in hand, Waxman said he and his team are scheduled for their first outing to help people without homes later this month.