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New eye care center's dual focus: Uninsured patients, health students

New Hampshire Union Leader

June 05. 2018 9:16PM
Optometrist Dr. Gerald Asotorino of Manchester Community Health Center, left, gives a demonstration of new eye care equipment at the new Eye Care Center at MCHC on Tuesday. Maryke Neiberg, an associate professor at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences University, and Dr. Gavin Muir, chief medical officer of MCHC, look on. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER -- A new eye care center will help people see more clearly and serve as a training ground for nearby optometry students.

Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences University (MCPHS) has teamed up with Manchester Community Health Center (MCHC) across the street to open The Eye Care Center at MCHC at 1245 Elm St.

The clinic hopes to treat those who have difficulty going to the eye doctor because of transportation, language or income limitations, said Kris McCracken, president and CEO at the health center.

“We have a sliding scale for uninsured patients,” McCracken said Tuesday.

MCHC, which will run the eye center, serves more than 16,000 patients who live in the Greater Manchester area. It serves nearly 7,000 children who need access to affordable eye care, and it primarily works with children and adults who have no insurance or limited vision coverage, or who are part of Medicaid.

The health center and university on Tuesday held a celebration at the eye center, which opened May 21.

Two students at a time will work at the clinic on 14-week rotations.

“They will do their rotations in the clinic and, hopefully, get interested in primary care and health centers and stay here and be their future employees,” said MCPHS President Charles Monahan Jr.

The university’s Manchester campus has grown from about 100 students in 2001 to more than 500 today.

“This is the perfect partnership,” Monahan said.

The university spent around $70,000 on the project.

Northeast Delta Dental donated $85,000 for building renovations and equipment.

“One of my goals is to connect the head to the body in terms of health care, so eye care is just a natural complement to oral care,” said Tom Raffio, president and CEO at Northeast Delta Dental.

“From an educational standpoint, we want students to end up staying and practicing in Manchester and New Hampshire,” Raffio said. “It just made a lot of sense.”

The McIninch Foundation provided $17,000.

McCracken said another $10,000 in donations will go to provide glasses to children not covered by insurance.

McCracken said she hopes the eye center will break even financially in its second year.

Student Siddhi Mulay, from Memphis, Tenn., is working there as an optometry intern.

“Every patient is different,” said Mulay, who will graduate in May 2019. “It’s like taking a test with every patient.”

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