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Latino-focused eye care practice opens to target disparities in vision care

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — An Indianapolis eye care center has opened what its operators call the first Latino-focused comprehensive eye care practice in central Indiana.

Representatives say the practice will provide care to underserved communities with little access to resources. The newest location will be inside the Alivio Medical Center, 2060 Shadeland Ave., just southwest of the I-465/I-70 interchange on the city’s east side. That’s in an area that already sees a large Latino patient base.

Doctors say quite a few disparities exist when it comes to vision in the Latino community, and they are ready to do the work to change that.

Nearly four decades of work has culminated into the new venture. Abrams Eye Care is adding onto its west-side service by expanding to the east side.

Dr. John Abrams, an ophthalmologist, said, “Community is growing obviously and it’s undeserved. It’s well known that Latinos tend to have high diseases that are undiagnosed in untreated until much later in the course of the disease, which makes it much more difficult to treat.”

Abrams says several things factor into vision disparities in Latino communities. Some stem from common medical issues in communities of color. “There’re several eye diseases that are very very common and have a higher incidence in people of color, specifically glaucoma diabetic retinopathy and even cataracts.”

But, a bigger disparity may be language barriers and fear of cultural competency inside medical facilities.

Dr. Rolando Mendoza, an optometrist, said, “Their language barrier is definitely a reason why patients don’t seek out help. I mean I’ve had patients, they tell me the way either the wait for someone to see them and be able to help them in three months or six months.”

Mendoza will head the east-side eye care center. Growing up with parents who didn’t speak English, he knows the communication challenges many Latino families face.

“That’s why I’m really happy that we are able to do this. Because we are helping people stay active in their community and being able to contribute,” Mendoza said.

The optometrist says people often will live with the pain or vision loss, hoping it’ll get better. Many times, the wait makes it worse and causes more disparities. Vision loss, he says, is a key reason why people can no longer work.

Abrams and Mendoza will dedicate the new space Sept. 22.

Abrams said, “And this is a little bit of a philanthropic office journey to try to provide care to undeserved people. They just don’t have the resources or don’t have the access.”

The eye care facility has been open for a few months now, but its operators will be out meeting the community at this weekend’s Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations.