MetroHealth's Dr. Thomas Steinemann Honored for Advocacy
About 20 years ago, Dr. Thomas L. Steinemann noticed an alarming trend at MetroHealth Medical Center’s bustling emergency department: A record number of young people with blinding eye infections.
The cause? Over-the-counter, cosmetic contact lenses – many of which had been purchased at gas stations, convenience stores, costume shops and the like. Dr. Steinemann, a highly regarded ophthalmologist who joined MetroHealth in 1999, knew something had to change.
“For many young people, these lenses were just another piece of disposable merchandise to change their appearance,” Dr. Steinemann said. “They weren’t worn for medical reasons but for fun – fun that could quickly turn dangerous.”
Because of Dr. Steinemann’s advocacy, the sale of contact lenses without a prescription – cosmetic or corrective – has been illegal since 2005. The tweak in federal law was a victory, no doubt, but Dr. Steinemann’s advocacy continues because the lenses are still easy to buy over the internet. He continues to work closely with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Federal Trade Commission and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In recognition of his ongoing work, the American Academy of Ophthalmology has selected Dr. Steinemann to receive its Outstanding Advocate Award. The award will be presented during the academy’s virtual annual meeting in November.
“We have to keep educating people because these lenses are still so easy to buy – and it's our kids who are taking this risk,” Steinemann said. “Many don’t take these seriously like the medical devices that they are.”
In many cases, these lenses are made cheaply overseas and often contaminated because they don’t meet the FDA’s standards for safe medical devices. Likewise, without the supervision of an eye-care professional, wearers often aren’t fitted properly or educated about how to care for the lenses.
“Contact lenses are not risk free,” Dr. Steinemann said. “They can be a wonderful way to correct vision, but these are more than a consumer product. You have to be serious and do the right thing – or you’ll end up in trouble.”
The MetroHealth System is redefining health care by going beyond medical treatment to improve the foundations of community health and well-being: affordable housing, a cleaner environment, economic opportunity and access to fresh food, convenient transportation, legal help and other services. The system strives to become as good at preventing disease as it is at treating it.
The system’s more than 600 doctors, 1,700 nurses and 7,800 employees go to work each day with a mission of service, to their patients and to the community. As Cuyahoga County’s safety-net health system, MetroHealth plays an essential role in the region, caring for anyone and everyone, regardless of an ability to pay.
Founded in 1837, MetroHealth operates four hospitals, four emergency departments and more than 20 health centers and 40 additional sites throughout Cuyahoga County. The system serves more than 300,000 patients, two-thirds of whom are uninsured or covered by Medicare or Medicaid.
MetroHealth is home to Cuyahoga County’s most experienced Level I Adult Trauma Center, verified since 1992, and Ohio’s only adult and pediatric trauma and burn center.
As an academic medical center, MetroHealth is committed to research and to teaching and training tomorrow’s caregivers. Each active staff physician holds a faculty appointment at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Its main campus hospital houses the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s Lincoln-West School of Science & Health, the only high school in America located inside a hospital.
Knowing that good health is about much more than good medical care, MetroHealth has launched the Institute for H.O.P.E.™ (Health, Opportunity, Partnership, Empowerment), which uses a coordinated, collaborative and strategic approach to help patients with non-medical needs such as healthy food, stable housing and job training.
The MetroHealth Glick Center, a new 11-floor hospital, is under construction on the system’s main campus in Cleveland and is scheduled to welcome its first patients in October 2022. The billion-dollar project is the cornerstone of a wider neighborhood revitalization effort led by the system and its partners in the community.
For more information, visit metrohealth.org.