Columbia University Medical Center

Tele-Ophthalmology Van Pioneers Blindness Prevention Effort


Columbia Ophthalmology and NewYork-Presbyterian are taking the fight against blindness out of the traditional clinic and onto the streets of New York City.

Through the department’s new tele-ophthalmology van, residents of New York City can be screened, free of charge, for four major sight-threatening conditions: glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy.

The tele-ophthalmology van is the first of its kind in the country and is visiting neighborhoods where residents are most vulnerable to eye disease.

“You can treat these eye conditions and prevent blindness if they’re caught early,” says Lama Al-Aswad, MD, MPH, director of the tele-ophthalmology initiative and associate professor of ophthalmology at Columbia University Medical Center. “But, unfortunately, many people in underserved communities don’t have access to proper eye care, and by the time these diseases progress, it’s often too late. This project leverages technology and mobility to help these patients get the care they need, when they need it.”

The mobile unit has screened approximately 160 individuals so far, with plans to visit Washington Heights, Harlem, Flushing, and Fort Greene later this year. It will conduct up to 2,000 free screenings each year.

Visit Tele-Ophthalmology@CUMC for more information and the van’s schedule.