Iowa Alumni Magazine | June 2005 | People

Vision Quest: William Scott

By Mary Fishburn

Hundreds of Iowa parents have never met William Scott—but if they did, they’d thank him for everything he’s done for their children.

Although now retired, Scott continues his quest to help Iowa children with vision problems such as astigmatism and farsightedness.

Five years ago, Scott helped establish the Coming to Your Senses program that’s tested the eyesight of more than 42,000 Iowa infants and children in 306 towns, hoping to pinpoint vision problems before they lead to permanent damage or developmental delay. Governor Tom Vilsack recently recognized the program with a state award for outstanding healthcare service to children.

"In Iowa, children receive vision screenings once they reach kindergarten, but sometimes that’s too late for treatment to be completely effective,” explains Scott, 59BS, 62MA, 64MD, a UI emeritus professor of ophthalmology and the program’s volunteer medical director.

Coming to Your Senses emerged after the Lions Club of Iowa, a group of volunteers who support sight and hearing philanthropies, approached Scott about forming a statewide project for children. As the founding member of the UI pediatric ophthalmology department, Scott was able to explain the available resources and develop a program that suited their mission.

Through the project, trained Lions Club volunteers travel to daycares and preschools conducting free eye screenings. They employ a modified Polaroid camera—called an MTI photoscreener—to capture two images of a child’s eyes and quickly identify any areas of concern.

Should a screening suggest questionable results, the child is referred to a local professional for further evaluation and possible treatment. Roughly five percent of all screenings result in a referral, with 90 percent of those cases requiring medical care. Last year, volunteers screened close to 15,000 children, up from 376 in 2000—although their target group numbers 190,000 youngsters.

"While we’ve reached our initial goals, so many more children need help,” Scott says. "But just knowing that we’ve made a difference to one child keeps me going.”