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." 

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