August 29, 2017
2 min read

AOA rallies behind optometry’s victims of Hurricane Harvey

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Christopher Quinn, OD
Christopher J. Quinn

The American Optometric Association is reaching out to doctors and students in Hurricane Harvey’s path of destruction, offering messages of unity and support, while encouraging all members to rally and help colleagues in need.

“While we do not yet know how many of our hundreds of Texas doctors of optometry may be affected by this storm, the AOA and our fellow members stand with you all and are at the ready to provide the assistance needed personally and through Optometry’s Fund for Disaster Relief,” AOA President Christopher J. Quinn, OD, said in a press release from the group.

The AOA provided a personal account to Primary Care Optometry News from Danica Marrelli, OD, the ocular diagnostic and medical eye service director at University of Houston College of Optometry (UHCO).

“I've lived here my whole life, and I've never seen this type of damage," Marrelli said. "It is absolutely heartbreaking, and it will take months and months to recover."

Danica Marrelli, OD
Danica Marrelli

She is sheltered at home with her family since the weekend's monumental storm. Several homes in her neighborhood took on water, and the subdivision's main thoroughfare was still inundated Monday morning, she said. She is waiting for the waters to recede and hoping she does not lose power.

A few miles away, the flooding is expansive and may get worse. Marrelli said many of the bayous and rivers spilled over in the night, while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was forced to open two brimming flood-control dams Monday that would impact thousands of area residents. Nearly all the major freeways that lead into Houston from the suburbs are still underwater.

The AOA said that new students had just begun their first week of class at UHCO, but the college anticipates flooding and recovery efforts to keep the campus closed through Labor Day.

Marrelli and other college staff, prior to the storm, helped students prepare for what to expect. They also went through the academic offices and clinics, unplugging and moving electronics off the ground or onto another floor altogether.

"We are just heartbroken for those who have been less fortunate than we have," Marrelli said. "Still, the spirit of Texans, and Houstonians, is strong, and we will get through this together."

AOA leadership has stepped up donations and is requesting members of the optometric family to do the same to ensure eye care practitioners are able to better to help their patients in need, Quinn said.

Optometry’s Fund for Disaster Relief, a program of Optometry Cares – The AOA Foundation, provides immediate assistance to those in need in the wake of natural disasters. – by Abigail Sutton