Thomas Rogers ’04 leads Tarrant County screening program.
by Rachel Stowe Master ’'91
Updated: Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Thomas Rogers '04 is executive director of the Children's Eye Foundation.
Thomas Rogers ’04 plans to spend a lot of time at the pediatrician’s office.
As executive director of the Children’s Eye Foundation, headquartered in Grapevine, Rogers is charged with rolling out the new See by Three program in Tarrant County.
Backed by a $345,000 grant from Fort Worth-based Alcon, the program offers free vision screening training and support for Tarrant County pediatricians.
“There is a clock ticking, so to speak,” Rogers said. “As children grow and they develop physically, their brains also develop. Generally, about from age 3 to 5 is when it’s best to have these vision screenings performed. And what we saw as an organization is that it just was not happening.”
States require vision and hearing screenings in grade school, but that is not soon enough. The earlier the detection of eye disorders, the more successful the treatment outcomes.
“Because the brain is developing, it’s essential to get vision screening as early as possible. That’s sort of how the program came about,” he said.
See by Three began in Florida and West Virginia, where almost 10,000 children have been screened.
The goal of the Tarrant County program is to screen 26,000 kids over four years. Rogers found out about the Alcon grant at the end of 2010 and has since been trying to determine which of the some 300 pediatric practices in the area are interested in the program. He will coordinate — not conduct — the training, which began March, with screenings to immediately follow.
See by Three also offers follow-up support. When screenings reveal a potential problem, the pediatrician’s office will contact the Children’s Eye Foundation — which is the official foundation of the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus — so it can help make sure the child gets the help he or she needs.
“One of the biggest components of the program is public awareness,” Rogers said. In West Virginia and Florida, the foundation found that when parents were told by their pediatrician or pediatric nurse that their child had a vision problem requiring follow-up, the parents only followed up about half the time.
“To us, that really says that we have some work to do because if parents knew how important it was, they would be following up,” he said.
For example, amblyopia, often called lazy eye, occurs in about one in 20 kids — or one child in every classroom, as the foundation says — and is the leading cause of vision loss in children.
“These screenings will uncover a number of different vision disorders. If the child is nearsighted or farsighted, if they need glasses; all those things would be identified, but the more serious disorders are amblyopia and strabismus,” Rogers said.
Looking ahead, the foundation hopes to implement the program in additional cities.
“Longer term, we see this program as a tool to implement our larger mission, which is to eliminate preventable blindness,” he said.
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