Industry offers significant support to colleagues in need; how you can help

October 7, 2021
EssilorLuxottica, CooperVision respond with generous donations to Optometry’s Fund for Disaster Relief to help doctors in Ida aftermath.
Optometry's Fund for Disaster Relief

As doctors of optometry continue to recover and reopen in the wake of Hurricane Ida’s destructive 150-mile-an-hour winds, saturating rains and soaking flood, industry supporters have been stepping up to support Optometry’s Fund for Disaster Relief (OFDR) and practices that sustained losses from the ferocious storm.

On Aug. 30, Ida upset the lives of thousands of people, some fleeing to safer havens in other parts of the state and others staying put but without electricity.

The lights are back on—mostly—though it will be a while before things get back to normal, doctors of optometry in the New Orleans area say. OFDR has provided nearly $100,000 in support to doctors whose practices and homes were damaged by Ida, enabling them to cover their most urgent needs and begin the recovery process.

“Most families inside the flood protection area of New Orleans are dealing with relatively minor damage to their property,” says David Heitmeier, O.D., who closed his practice for a week because much of the area was without power. “Outside the flood protection area—in Lafitte, Laplace and Grand Isle to name a few areas—they’re still devastated. It will be a long recovery.”

Says Jarrett Johnson, O.D., M.P.H.: “We reopened two weeks ago. We’re quite busy because several of my colleagues (doctors of optometry and ophthalmologists) sustained damage to their offices and are not able to return to work. We also are seeing patients from nearby parishes (Houma, Laplace, Luling) that sustained significant damage. Several of my employees had damage to their homes, but like everyone else they are waiting for the insurance adjusters to assess the damage. Overall, we are doing well, but I think with the COVID-19 pandemic and now, with a hurricane, people are feeling overwhelmed. The city is slowly recovering—resilience is the key.”

Kevin Kasovich, O.D., reported significant damage to the roof on his home, creating an opening for rainwater to drain inside.

“My practice also had significant roof damage and a lot more water damage,” Dr. Kasovich says. “The building has been gutted and it will most likely be 6-8 weeks before we can start seeing patients there. We did have a small satellite office that did not sustain any damage. We are able to take turns seeing emergency patients out of the clinic. Homeowner’s insurance traditionally has a large deductible for hurricanes. The OFDR grant came at a critical time to help us begin the recovery process at home, especially with the office being shut down for such a lengthy time.”

Eye care industry shows support

In the aftermath of Ida, donations to OFDR –from individuals and industry—have poured in. EssilorLuxottica responded with a donation of $100,000 and CooperVision $20,000.

“Independent optometry is the backbone of our business and we want doctors to know we have their back in good times and in tough times,” says Fabrizio Uguzzoni, president of North America Wholesale for EssilorLuxottica. “We’re proud to support Optometry’s Fund for Disaster Relief and the efforts of the AOA to help our colleagues recover in the aftermath of Ida. We will continue to step up when the industry needs us.”

Says Michele Andrews, O.D., vice president of professional and government Affairs, Americas, CooperVision, “Eye care professionals are dedicated to changing lives every day by giving their patients the gift of sight. When a disaster strikes, this important work is threatened and the future of their businesses are often on the line. CooperVision is committed to helping optometry practices in need through our continued partnership with Optometry Cares in support of its disaster relief fund.”

Their support helps ensure that OFDR grants are available to doctors needing assistance, says Peter Kehoe, O.D., president of Optometry Cares®—The AOA Foundation, which manages the OFDR program. A program of Optometry Cares, the fund has distributed more than 500 grants to doctors and students, totaling more than $1 million in aid since it was founded after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“Our industry support at times of disaster is unmatched and it is refreshing to have industry partners reach out even before being asked,” Dr. Kehoe says. “Thank you to all of our industry supporters who take our call and step up to help our profession at this significant time of need.”

Optometry's Fund for Disaster Relief

To apply for aid or donate to the cause, visit aoafoundation.org/OFDR.
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