The Illinois Eye Institute (IEI) at Princeton opened in 2011 as a collaboration between the Illinois College of Optometry (ICO) and the Chicago Public School (CPS) system. The need for the IEI at Princeton arose from the extraordinary number of children with untreated vision and eye health problems. The clinic sees any child from birth until high school graduation, regardless of a family’s ability to pay. Every child that needs corrective glasses receives them. If they do not have insurance through the state or privately, ICO uses private foundation grants to help cover the cost of delivering care.
Since opening, the clinic has served more than 45,000 youth living in the Chicago area. All children receive comprehensive eye exams that include dilation, eyewear, and advanced care related to any underlying conditions. One of the major benefits to the clinic is that the IEI at Princeton exposes ICO student clinicians to the needs of underserved communities. They hone their professional skills while developing a sense of compassion for the less fortunate.
When the Clinic first opened, the equipment used was out of date and difficult to keep in working order. As a result, it became difficult to provide full eye exams when large or unscheduled quantities of children arrived on buses. Through a grant from the Washington Square Health Foundation, the IEI at Princeton was able to invest in modern, digitized, visual acuity testing systems. These allow clinicians to measure a patient’s refractive error and assess their need for glasses.
There are many advantages to the new systems. First, they work flawlessly, which is important when a small child with a short attention span is being seen. In addition, the new tools improve what the clinicians are able to assess during examinations. Lastly, the systems allow the clinicians to watch the children at all times to ensure they are complying with requests to attend to the screen without squinting or peeking.