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Multifaceted Care


MBKU’s Garden Grove Clinical Facility Works Wonders

It might be tempting for a person — when looking at the size and scope of Ketchum Health, or at the rich history of University Eye Center in Los Angeles – to believe that the good work happening in those clinics has mostly to do with their cutting-edge technology and well-equipped exam rooms.

When one considers MBKU’s Garden Grove clinical facility, however, it reveals the truth of the matter, a truth that applies to all three clinics: Their success stems from the people within them, from their directors and the support staff to the faculty mentors and the students rotating through.


The reason the Garden Grove clinic functions as such a great reminder of this truth is because co-directors Dr. Jillian Youngerman and Dr. Allegra Burgher are able to deliver care that meets the standard of excellence MBKU is known for in facilities that are a bit smaller than the other clinics. As a part of a program called Access to Resources for Children’s Health, Education, and Support (ARCHES) at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Garden Grove, Dr. Youngerman and Dr. Burgher work out of a suite in a larger CHOC building, where they play musical chairs with eye equipment, mini fridges, and water coolers to provide enough exam areas to serve as many children as possible on the days they’re open. And serving children is the mission at Garden Grove. There’s no doubt all the individuals who work there are happy to forgo some creature comforts, empowered as they are by the perspective that comes from a front-row seat to the transformational effects of providing quality vision care to children who need it.

“Children don’t understand that their visual experience is unusual until they’re screened,” says Dr. Burgher. “We see a lot of amblyopia, for example, a condition which prevents the brain from developing a pathway to one of the eyes. Kids who have this often just try to adapt to it, but the thing is, it’s treatable. A lot of kids do not come in with any complaints, because they’ve been making do on their own. Since a child is often not going to tell you that they’re not seeing well, a lot of vision problems go untreated in children. This is why it’s so essential to check children’s vision if they’re struggling school. These kids are relying on us, which is why we take a lot of pride in doing the best work we can.”


Educating communities and doing vision screenings for children are both vital, given that children often suffer an even worse fate than an untreated eye condition: an untreated eye condition that is misdiagnosed as a learning problem. This issue is close to Dr. Youngerman’s heart because it’s precisely what happened to her as a child. “When I was a kid, I was labeled ‘slow’ because my vision was so poor that I would go up to the front of the board and try to memorize everything so I could do my assignments,” she recalls. “So I am very aware of the impact we can have with just one eye exam. And it’s very rewarding not just to help these children but to instill that love of helping others in our students.”

The opportunities that those who work in the Garden Grove clinic have to help children go far beyond vision care. Just by virtue of its proximity to a larger network of social services, ARCHES is able to meet needs in a number of different places where they arise. “We do a lot of homeless youth case management, we do a lot of health insurance, social services and enrollments,” says Dr. Burgher. “We have school supplies, and we have laundry detergent and hygiene supplies that we give to patients.” The idea is to remove barriers to continuing care that often take the form of basic but unmet needs.

“In some ways it’s challenging working out of a space like this,” says Dr. Youngerman. “But in other ways it is so unique and rewarding. We might be working on a glasses order while someone from ARCHES is pulling open a drawer to give dinner to our patient for that night. Or they’re grabbing backpacks filled with school supplies from the room where we’re giving an eye exam. Being able to help them with what they need and provide all these resources in one place is so great.”


The ability to be so generous with all the common and the unique resources of a vision care office comes from the support the clinic receives from the Boys & Girls Club and of course, from MBKU. Both Dr. Burgher and Dr. Youngerman have first-hand knowledge of what it’s like to experience difficulties with access to health care, so they both fight and advocate for their patients as only individuals who know what it is to struggle can, with MBKU as an essential partner. “Because we see so many low-income patients, if this were a private practice setting, it would be untenable,” says Dr. Burgher. “With our University support, we can have these patients come through, we can dedicate a lot of time to them, provide them with glasses, and these other resources on a sliding scale so they can afford it. Whether it’s the University itself, or the Office of Advancement securing grants for us, there are many different people working to help these children. And, I would like to add that we are always looking for more people who have the same goals to help these kids.”

Of course, MBKU gets something out of the partnership as well: The Garden Grove clinic is one of the University’s most important rotation sites, reserved for fourth-year students, who will be challenged by a diversity of cases and situations they may not see elsewhere. “The children at our clinic often have more complex cases, due to no prior care or lack of access to resources,” says Dr. Burgher. “It helps students think more globally about their patients.”

“We are also unique in that we provide a multitude of eye services in one place,” adds Dr. Youngerman. “We’re so small, we do the billing and the coding, the exam, of course, and also the optical portion. There are a lot of lessons to be learned from working with pediatric patients. You have to think on your feet, be creative, not be afraid to get to know your patient where they’re at. You have to learn to educate your patient really well! I tell my students that if you can educate a seven-year-old on amblyopia, you should be able to educate a 75-year-old on glaucoma, because you’ve learned all these different ways to communicate.”


The Garden Grove clinic is a bit smaller than the others, and it’s a bit farther away, but it fits beautifully into MBKU’s philosophy of service to the community as an essential component of a quality health care education. And Dr. Burgher and Dr. Youngerman hope to partner with even more people to see the influence of their clinic extend beyond Orange County. “Dr. Burgher and I are both passionate about making a difference in our community,” says Dr. Youngerman. “One person can have a huge impact, but it becomes a lot more powerful and starts to become more a global impact when we have a team around us with similar goals and similar vision. One of our big visions is to be able to impact children’s eye care not just for our community but for children throughout California and children throughout the nation. We are always looking for more resources to be able to do that.”