When Dr. J. Edward Hill started his medical career in the 1950s, the cost of a visit to the doctor with an exam, tests and treatment was $4, without health insurance.
Hill, a well-respected Richmond urologist who helped found Virginia Urology, recalls that his first practice included three staff members—a secretary, office nurse, and cleaning lady, who eventually became a computer guru—in addition to the physicians. Dr. Hill estimates that today Virginia Urology has over 300 administrative staff members to help keep up with all of the mandatory needs and additional infrastructure.
In 2004, Dr. Hill got to see the other side of the patient experience when he needed medical care from retinal specialist Dr. Juan Astruc. The treatments he was receiving for age-related macular degeneration allowed his vision to remain relatively stable but he still had to rely on the assistance of his wife and daughter for basic visual needs. Dr. Hill was referred to the MEDARVA Low Vision Center for those functional visual deficits.
Determined to remain independent, Dr. Hill remained optimistic. He knew he was in good hands when he met with Dr. Suzanne Kim, MEDARVA’s low vision specialist, and Mary Bullock, MEDARVA’s low vision occupational therapist. “What’s so great about the MEDARVA Low Vision Center is that they have given me back the pleasure of reading the daily newspaper by using a device that puts a camera image on a screen and enlarges the print,” Dr. Hill says.
Bullock keeps track of Dr. Hill’s progress as well as technology and lets him know when he needs to consider upgrading devices. “Right now I have two of the same type of hand-held magnifier: one by my most comfortable chair in the house and another by my front door that I take with me whenever I go out,” he says.
“I am all in favor of getting the word out about the MEDARVA Low Vision Center because it has benefitted me so much,” he says.
He knows how difficult it can be for people to get the right health care when they can’t afford to pay for it. “Twenty percent of my acute-care caseload was patients who could not pay,” he says about his early days in practice. “We got a lot of hams or chickens for payment.”
Today there is a lack of access to care for low vision patients. It may be due to physicians who don’t refer patients to a fully comprehensive low vision center, a lack of health insurance, or even transportation issues.
Patients can now find the help Dr. Hill has found by working with Bullock at the MEDARVA Low Vision Center. “It’s hard to learn how to use the wonderful devices that can expand your world, especially when you are already having loss of vision,” he says. “But Mary makes it all approachable.”
MEDARVA is inspired by Dr. Hill who is giving back to the community by helping promote access to care just as he did when he was a practicing physician. And he isn’t letting his impairment prevent him from playing his beloved game of golf, three or
four times a week. He knows that when one of his golfing buddies is giving him a hard time, it is merely because his ball made it in the hole yet again.
Thanks Dr. Hill for encouraging all of us to seek “help” and to “stay in the game.”