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Student-run Shade Tree Clinic debuts ophthalmology service

Sep. 25, 2014, 8:06 AM

At the Shade Tree Clinic are, from left, fourth-year VUSM student Alexandra May, Uyen Tran, M.D., and fourth-year student Kenny Taubenslag. (photo by Mike Pilla)

When the Shade Tree Clinic first opened its doors in 2005 the patients received primary care services in the compact space of a cramped doublewide trailer.

In 2012 the clinic moved to its current location within one of the United Neighborhood Health Services family clinics. Not only was the actual square footage increased, but the types of medical services offered expanded as well.

Most recently, the student-run health clinic held its first ophthalmology clinic. Organizers hope to offer the service every six weeks.

Fourth-year School of Medicine student Kenny Taubenslag serves as the co-coordinator of the ophthalmology clinic at Shade Tree along with Alex May.

“We have roughly 350 patients, and most of them do not have access to eye care,” said Taubenslag. “Many of our patients have diabetes or hypertension; some have family history of glaucoma. All of these put our patients at a heightened risk for eye disease.

“We are now able to offer retinal screening for patients with diabetes as well as routine eye exams. We can check for glaucoma and even perform refraction for prescription lenses, providing eye care that is not only recommended but greatly needed,” he said.

“There’s no reason any of our patients should have to cope with preventable vision loss,” said Taubenslag, a clinic volunteer during his four years at Vanderbilt. “We are really happy to be able to provide this service. It really is a big deal.”

Uyen Tran, M.D., examines patient Arnita McAdo at the Shade Tree Clinic, which recently added ophthalmology to its list of services. (photo by Mike Pilla)

Robert Miller, M.D., associate professor of Allergy, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine and co-medical director of the Shade Tree Clinic, said the addition of the eye specialty not only enhances the clinic offerings, but also the teaching possibilities for the medical students working at the facility.

“We have a real capacity to deal with ophthalmologic problems, which is greatly needed,” said Miller. “But this also provides a great opportunity for teaching and demonstration of the various ophthalmologic evaluations.

“It is a unique teaching experience for our students and unusual for a student-run clinic to have this level of service.”

Shade Tree offers cardiology, endocrinology, gynecology, nephrology, neurology, orthopaedics, physical therapy, psychiatry and rheumatology specialties.

The clinic received a grant from the Cal Turner Foundation which helped purchase the necessary ophthalmology equipment.

The state-of-the art technology impressed Uyen Tran, M.D., associate professor of clinical Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences.

“I remember when I first volunteered at the clinic a few years ago, I had to bring all of my own equipment, my drops, everything I needed for exams because they did not have anything,” she said.

“And now, they have the diagnostic tools, medications and a program that projects the images of the patient’s eye on the screen so the medical students can see what the physician is doing during the examination.

“The eye clinic at Shade Tree is an incredible service to the community. The patients were so very grateful.”

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