Statistics show 80% to 90% of blindness is preventable through education and access to medical care. For over 30 years, education and access to medical care have been mainstays in the Northern Plains Eye Foundation (NPEF) mission to protect and preserve vision and restore sight.
The Rapid City-based nonprofit offers vision-related community outreach focused in the Black Hills but with far-reaching impact across the region. NPEF’s educational centerpiece is the Dr. Paul Zimmerman Memorial Scholarship Endowment, which awards scholarships to University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine fourth year students pursuing ophthalmology. Since 2014, NPEF has also partnered with university medical students to conduct pioneering vision research in the state of South Dakota. Four studies have been published, a fifth study is planned for publication in 2021, and a sixth is underway.
Access to medical care is the core of NPEF’s other outreach programs. Its Gift of Sight program serves low income individuals experiencing vision loss, most often due to cataracts, who lose the ability to drive and maintain employment because they cannot afford surgery to restore their sight. Through Gift of Sight over 80 sight-saving surgeries have been performed, restoring vision, along with livelihood. Another program, VisionCARE, currently in a pilot launch in collaboration with Community Health Center of the Black Hills, gives access to basic eye care to underserved individuals. Patients in need of assistance receive a free eye exam and glasses underwritten by NPEF to provide a simple but powerful path to help people see better to live better.
Through NPEF’s Children’s Vision Screening Initiative (CVSI), young children are also given access to free vision screenings beginning at 6 months of age. CVSI vision screenings identify children with a vision problem and refer them to an eye doctor for treatment. Over 33,000 free vision screenings have been administered with 12% of children screened impacted by undetected vision disorders. At times these children are simply in need of an eye exam and glasses – but in some instances, conditions like amblyopia or cataracts are discovered that may have led to long-term vision loss or even blindness without the screening.
Simply put, “Vision for a Lifetime,” as NPEF’s motto states, is something NPEF hopes for all to have. To successfully run the Foundation’s programs and manage its volumes of data, NPEF, for well over a decade, has turned to KT Connections. “KT has worked hard to meet our technology needs and has our back when issues arise,” said Ronda Gusinsky, NPEF Executive Director. “They are consistently assessing our plan and offering analysis on how to affordably make the most of our business technology.”
Rodd Ahrenstorff is the Director of Business Operations for KT Connections, as well as a member of the company’s ownership team starting in 2014. Rodd has been working in the computer and telecommunication fields for over twenty years—a term during which he has held a number of leadership positions. In the past, he has served as a broadcast television engineer, an systems architect, and most recently Director of Information Technology, including a role as a HIPAA Security Officer for behavioral health and multi-specialty medical providers.