Community-Minded

Ophthalmologist sets sights on underserved populations

Author | Allison Wilson

Top Photo: Daryl Marshke, Michigan Photography

Paula Anne Newman-Casey (M.D. 2007, Residency 2011), has fostered both a career and a way of life by asking herself one question: How can I leave the world a better place than I came into it? 

The answers have taken her from her hometown of Huntington Woods, Michigan, to a village in Ecuador, where she led community enrichment activities. As a medical student at U-M, she returned to the village for an internship with Ayuda Directa, a non-profit aid organization, and ran a free medical clinic for the same community. 

Now an assistant professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences, Newman-Casey's passion for helping underserved communities earned her the 2015 Medical School Local Community Service Award. She was recognized by Medical School leadership for establishing a collaboration between the U-M Department of Ophthalmology and Hope Clinic, a free clinic for the underinsured in Ypsilanti. The departments of ophthalmology, dermatology, plastic surgery and otolaryngology created a partnership allowing Hope Clinic to refer patients to U-M specialty clinics — staffed by volunteers from U-M — including the Kellogg Eye Center, for free on Saturdays. 

"This program's success is really only possible because of how generous everybody involved has been with donating their time," Newman-Casey says. Hundreds of people have volunteered and, in the last five years, 1,000 patients have been seen. 

During regular work hours, Newman-Casey is a glaucoma specialist at the Kellogg Eye Center, where she researches chronic eye disease management. As co-director of the Kellogg Eye Center for e-Health, she also studies how to use low-cost technologies, including gaming systems and tabletop cameras, to screen and monitor eye disease in underserved communities. 

Though Newman-Casey has been around the world, she continues to find meaningful answers to her most driving question in Ann Arbor. 

"That's something very special at Michigan," she says. "And it's something that I feel is unique — just how generous all of the staff are with their time and willingness to help our community." 


More Articles About: enrichment free clinic Faculty Glaucoma Eye Care & Vision
Featured News & Stories Minding Memory with a microphone and a shadow of a microphone on a blue background
Minding Memory
Vision Impairment as a Risk Factor for Dementia
The population of older adults living with dementia is expected to swell to nearly 14 million by 2050 and is estimated to cost the US economy more than 500 billion each year. In the absence of a cure for Alzheimer's disease, the primary cause of dementia, there's interest in understanding modifiable risk factors. In theory, getting a handle on the modifiable risk factors for dementia, would enable public health efforts to reduce cognitive decline in dementia at the population level. We've come a long way in understanding the risk factors for Alzheimer's disease and other related dementias. However, there's still work to be done. In this episode, we'll speak with Dr. Josh Ehrlich, a researcher at the University of Michigan, who has examined vision impairment as a risk factor for dementia.
eye exam
Health Lab
Few children – especially those with safety-net insurance – get vision checked at checkups
Few children are getting eyes checked at their pediatrician or other regular doctor’s office, and rates vary greatly by insurance status.
older woman holding glasses in lap
Health Lab
Study shows dementia more common in older adults with vision issues
A link between vision issues in older adults and an increased likelihood of dementia.
egg splat microwave
Health Lab
“Eggsplosions” and eyes don’t mix 
The social media trend  involving microwaving hard boiled eggs, then slicing them to explode, can be dangerous to your eyes experts say.
little boy playing outside with glasses on
Health Lab
Making kid’s eye care more accessible
In Michigan, families don’t have to travel far for top pediatric eye specialists
eye glasses blue two yellow dots
Health Lab
Youth value eyesight but face key barriers to getting eyeglasses
Michigan Medicine research shows that a few key barriers stop young people from getting the glasses they need.