March 3, 2016 | UAMS Glaucoma specialist Grant Morshedi, M.D., knows how important Little Rock’s Harmony Health Clinic is to those who need health care but can’t afford it.

As a UAMS medical student in 2008, he worked with many others at UAMS and in the community to establish the free clinic that is staffed mostly by volunteers to serve the uninsured and underserved in Pulaski County.

Now as an assistant professor in the Department of Ophthalmology in the College of Medicine and a clinic volunteer, he is able to help meet the clinic’s growing need for eye care, especially diabetes-related complications.

He was approached last year by clinic board member Robert Hopkins, M.D., director of the Division of General Internal Medicine in the Department of Internal Medicine at UAMS, with the need for services and immediately began working to determine what could benefit Harmony’s patients most. That’s when he realized how much the clinic needed a retinal camera.

“The clinic has a high prevalence of diabetic patients,” said Morshedi. “That creates a huge need to screen patients for diabetic retinopathy.”

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that causes damage to the retina. If the condition is not detected and treated early, it can become untreatable and lead to blindness. The condition can be asymptomatic, which can make it more difficult to diagnose early.

With the addition of a retinal camera, other health care providers can screen diabetic patients during regular wellness or medical visits and have a picture of their retina uploaded to a secure server. In addition to regularly seeing patients in a newly outfitted eye exam room at the Harmony Health Clinic, Morshedi can also remotely screen asymptomatic patients for retinopathy by reviewing their retinal images. According to Morshedi, this combined approach will extend the reach of his eye care services.

He presented the clinic’s need for a retinal camera to the Arkansas Lions Eye Bank and Laboratory Board of Directors, whose members agreed to fund the purchase of the equipment with help from the Lions Eye Bank & Laboratory’s endowed trust fund.

“This opportunity to assist Dr. Morshedi and an incredible organization like the Harmony Health Clinic fits the Lions’ mission perfectly — to help those who cannot help themselves,” said Bruce Davis, chairman of the Arkansas Lions Eye Bank & Laboratory Board of Directors.

“This is a great opportunity to utilize telemedicine to provide a service in an urban area where it may only be a mile to the nearest eye doctor, but a world away in terms of access to care for those most in need,” he said.

It also allows for screening of patients who are asymptomatic and unable or less inclined to return to the clinic for a separate eye exam, he said.

“Vision loss has a disproportionately severe socioeconomic impact on those already living paycheck to paycheck,” said Morshedi. “Many of these patients are working-age individuals with families, so decreased or lost vision can be devastating on more than one level. We hope this equipment and service can help detect patients at high-risk of vision loss and prevent it from occurring.”

Located at 201 East Roosevelt Road, the mission of the Harmony Health Clinic is to understand and serve the health and wellness needs of the medically uninsured and low wealth residents who live in Pulaski County. This is accomplished by providing access to quality medical and dental care at no cost in a private, community-based clinic staffed by volunteer professionals and marked by a unique atmosphere of care, compassion, respect, dignity and diversity. For more information, call 501-375-4400 or visit harmonyclinicar.org or facebook.com/harmonyclinicar.