January 2019

BJVIM Offering Laser Eye Screenings

Author: Dot Jeger

It’s a very Happy New Year at Greater Bluffton Jasper County Volunteers in Medicine (BJVIM) with the recent addition of a new Laser Eye Machine, designed for early detection of eye diseases in diabetic patients. The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) selected BJVIM as the second free clinic in the Lowcountry, and just the fifth in the whole state, to receive the laser eye machine.

The new laser eye machine requires no dilation and produces a high quality of photography, aiding in early detection of various eye diseases. There are older cameras available to aid in eye disease detection, but they require dilation and a trained technician to administer.

Initially, screenings will be done by appointment only, Monday-Thursday mornings, and as the need increases, the times will expand. BJVIM medical providers will conduct the tests, aided by members of the Hilton Head, Sun City and Beaufort Lions Club members. BJVIM began conducting the screenings in December.

Pam Toney, executive director at BJVIM, is excited to bring this new level of care to the many diabetic patients in the BJVIM clinic and to patients throughout Beaufort County.

“In continuing to believe in collaboration, BJVIM will work with Good Neighbor Free Clinic, Hilton Head VIM and AccessHealth of the Lowcountry to screen diabetic patients,” Toney said. “The new laser machine will allow us to provide state-of-the-art eye care in diabetic patients, to help prevent or curb eye disease leading to blindness, through proactive measures. We are thrilled to have this new technology at BJVIM.”

Over 40 percent of BJVIM’s patients suffer from diabetes. South Carolina ranks tenth in the nation in diabetes, and our Lowcountry area has one of the highest diabetic populations in the state. One risk of diabetes is loss of eye sight, and diabetes is the leading cause of adult-onset blindness. But the key is early detection.

Despite the risks of eye disease, a large percentage of diabetic patients go without adequate eye screening. This usually leads to a delayed diagnosis when loss is often irreversible.

To help tackle a growing concern with the increase of diabetes, several doctors from the MUSC Storm Eye Institute applied for and were awarded a grant from the prestigious Duke Endowment to obtain four state-of-the-art laser eye cameras for South Carolina primary care clinics. The first cameras were placed in the MUSC Internal Medicine Clinic and the Harvest Free Medical Clinic at the old Naval Base campus in North Charleston.
The areas around Charleston are in what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls the “diabetes belt,” meaning at least 11 percent of residents have been diagnosed with diabetes. Over 400 patients have been screened with the new laser eye machines in the Charleston area clinics since February 2018.

To expand the program over more of South Carolina, additional cameras were purchased by the Storm Eye Institute and installed in Hartsville, Bluffton, and Summerville. Dr. James Kondor, a local ophthalmologists and volunteer at BJVIM, worked with the Storm Eye Institute to obtain the laser machine for BJVIM at no cost to the clinic.

BJVIM provides medical care on a volunteer basis to the uninsured community of Bluffton and Jasper County. In operation since 2011, BJVIM recently purchased space and moved to a new permanent location at 29 Plantation Business Park, Units 601-604. BJVIM operates with the help of 92 medical and non-medical volunteers.

Bluffton-Jasper County Volunteers in Medicine is one of over 90 independent clinics under the guidance of the National Volunteers in Medicine Alliance. The clinics offer free medical exams, counseling and nutritional services, as well as preventative disease education. The greater Bluffton and Jasper County clinic sees more than 2,000 patients a year.

The new laser eye machine is one more step in BJVIM’s commitment and dedication to serving the needs of their patients and providing the highest level of professional healthcare, as dictated by their vision: No one in our community goes without access to quality health care.

The staff and volunteers at BJVIM are so thankful to be kicking off 2019 with this new machine to help aid in the health and wellness of so many of its patients.

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