By Jeff Malet, Writer/Photographer

They made them feel comfortable with sights and sounds.

With toys in hand, four first-year WesternU optometry students, with the help of Assistant Professor Jasmine Yomuri, OD, got their first experience at examining the eyes of infants Wednesday Sept. 23, 2009, looking into the often-wandering, easily-distracted eyes of children six to 12 months old.

The College of Optometry (CO) at Western University of Health Sciences provided free vision screenings to nine infants at Prototypes in Pomona as part of the American Optometric Association’s (AOA) InfantSee Program.

For the first time, Prototypes offered the free eye exams to clients, many receiving services from one or both of the San Gabriel Best Babies Collaborative (SGVBBC) and the Black Infant Health (BIH) Program.

The BIH Program provides free services to African American women who are pregnant or are parenting a child under the age of 12 months. Funded through Los Angeles County, its goal is to reduce infant mortality and morbidity in the African American Community. SGVBBC is a project of six community agencies looking to improve birth outcomes of families in the East San Gabriel Valley.

Yumori offered early detection of potential eye and vision problems with the help of four first-year optometry students — Dong Suk, Christine Pham, Elizabeth Nguyenchan and Anne Song.

“”Your eyes look great,”” Yumori said to Thia, whose 11-month-old daughter, Rayan, had just had her eyes checked.

“”You don’t have eyes like your brothers,”” replied Thia, cooing, comforting and cradling her daughter.

Students were introduced to various techniques for examining infants, setting the foundation for their future practice and their roles serving their communities, said College of Optometry Founding Dean Dr. Elizabeth Hoppe.

“”The College of Optometry is happy to participate in the national InfantSEE public health program,”” Hoppe said. “”Our participation promotes awareness about the role of vision in the overall development of children and helps educate parents about the importance of comprehensive eye care.””

Babies should be taken for his or her first eye exam at about age 6 months. Optometrists will test for excessive or unequal amounts of nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism and eye movement ability, as well as eye health problems, according to the AOA.

The College of Optometry recently opened The Eye Center at Western University Medical Center, 887 E. Second Street, Pomona. Eye care, provided by WesternU faculty and staff, is available to community members.

“”I think that it will be a valuable service to our clients and give them a resource to be able to follow up on and continue eye health for their children,”” said Stacy Powell, program manager of Prototypes’ BIH Program.