Guerilla Eye Service provides free eye care to those in need

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The Guerilla Eye Service (GES) is a mobile clinic that provides free eye care to those in need. It’s staffed by volunteer residents, medical students and UPMC Eye Center staff. It was started by medical students with an interest in ophthalmology (the branch of medicine that studies the eye) and Evan (Jake) Waxman, MD, associate professor of ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh, who had the vision and knowledge to turn the idea into a program.

GES came to be when students approached Dr. Waxman, vice chair of the ophthalmology department’s resident and medical education programs. They asked to start a local chapter of one of the national vision screening organizations. Dr. Waxman believes screening events raise community awareness of eye disease. They can identify patients at risk of losing vision. But screening events often don’t target patients most at risk.

“In my experience a lot of patients who show up for screenings are outside the targeted risk group,” he says. “In many cases, patients who already have established ophthalmic care come to the screenings for an inappropriate second opinion. Also, I was concerned that patients walk away from the screening overly reassured that they have had a real eye exam. Most importantly, many people who are identified as at-risk receive no follow-up and may forget to or be unable to seek care. I felt we could do better.

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