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Can you think of a common eyesight “fun fact” that you’ve never actually heard a doctor say? Those are what we’d call “eyesight myths” — old wives’ tales for your eyes.
Most of us have probably wondered how true they are. So today, we are going to break down some common eyesight myths and separate fact from fiction, in our second of a three-part series.
Myth 4: Cataracts only come from our parents (i.e., they’re inherited)
Fact: Cataracts can actually be the result of both genetic and environmental factors. According to the World Health Organization, cataracts are the 2nd leading cause of vision impairment or blindness, behind only uncorrected refractive error. Fortunately, developments in technology have made cataract surgery incredibly safe, and approximately 98% of patients will experience improved vision if no other eye conditions are present.
A cataract can be defined as an opacity of the crystalline lens. There are a surprising number of different types of cataracts, but for the most part, they can be broadly divided in to two categories: 1) congenital, and 2) acquired.
Congenital cataracts can be inherited but may also develop because of infections, metabolic diseases, trauma, inflammation, or even drug reactions.
Age-related cataracts are the most common form of acquired cataracts. Both genetic and environmental factors can cause age-related cataracts. Since we don’t have a natural cure for age-related cataracts yet, it’s important we take preventive measures. We can decrease the risk of developing age-related cataracts by making healthy lifestyle choices like not smoking, limiting alcohol use, and managing health problems. Other healthy habits include eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, wearing sunglasses outdoors, and, of course, getting annual comprehensive eye examinations.
Myth 5: Over-the-counter glasses are good enough
Fact: It probably comes as no surprise over-the-counter glasses (or OTC glasses) aren’t the best glasses you can get in terms of physical appeal or prescription quality. These types of glasses will not hurt your vision, but they most likely will prevent your visual system from functioning at their highest levels.
For starters, most people have far-from-perfect distance vision, and reading glasses only help your near vision. During your annual eye examination, your local Doctor of Optometry can help determine if you are also struggling with your distance vision. There are quite a few ways to treat these challenges, with lined bifocals, lined trifocals, and progressives being the most commonly prescribed solutions.
Most patients don’t have equal vision in their eyes, and OTC readers assume you do, so each of your eyes has the potential of being significantly over or under corrected. And yes, most people will need reading glasses because of their naturally aging crystalline lenses, but don’t forget to see your local optometrist to be sure the changes that are occurring to your vision are not something more menacing.
Myth 6: Only go to the eye doctor when there’s a problem
Fact: How do you know when there’s a problem? Most problems that your eyes can have don’t result in pain or vision loss until you’ve waited too long. The only way to get ahead of a problem is to have annual comprehensive eye exams.
For example, there’s a condition called macular degeneration. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in Americans over the age of 50, as well as the most common cause of blindness in the Western world. The back of the eye has a thin sensory layer called the retina. The retina is loaded with photoreceptors, which are light-sensing cells. The macula contains the highest density of these photoreceptors and is responsible for our incredibly detailed central vision. When these cells deteriorate, it affects the quality of the images collected. This translates in blurry, distorted, or even permanently lost vision. There are three main stages for Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD): 1) Mild AMD, 2) Intermediate AMD, and 3) Advanced AMD. Most people do not experience vision loss during the Mild stage, so this stage is critical for diagnosis because there is no cure for AMD.
Your local Doctor of Optometry is capable of detecting and treating many diseases like this, so make sure to see them annually so they can help you (and your eyes) stay in tip-top shape!
Did you know the truth about these myths before reading? Or was I able to shed some light (ha!) on how our eyes work?
Share this article with someone and stay tuned for the next part in our three-part series!
Jeffrey Lewis, O.D.
A Short Conversation with Dr. John Flanagan, ASCO President
During ASCO’s Board meeting in June, ASCO swears in a new President for the upcoming 12 months. This year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Board meeting was held remotely, and Dr. John Flanagan was sworn in as ASCO’s President virtually.
Dr. Flanagan is the Dean and Professor at School of Optometry and Vision Science Program, University of California, Berkeley. He graduated in Optometry and Vision Sciences from Aston University, Birmingham, UK in 1980, where he later earned his PhD in 1985. From 1985 to 2014 he was Professor at the School of Optometry and Vision Science, University of Waterloo and for the latter 25 years was seconded 75% to the Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Sciences, University of Toronto, Canada, where he was a Professor and Director of the Glaucoma Research Unit, Toronto Western Research Institute and a Senior Scientist at the Toronto Western Hospital, University Health Network.
He has held continuous federal research funding for 32 years (MRC/CIHR/CHRP/ORF/NEI-NIH), with additional research funding from the BrightFocus Foundation, the Glaucoma Research Society of Canada and the Glaucoma Research Foundation. He has supervised 45 graduate students and has authored more than 175 peer-reviewed publications. In addition, he has 14 book chapters, three books and given numerous invited lectures to both professional and academic audiences around the world. His research interests include basic mechanisms of human glaucoma (glial cell activation, neuroprotection), ocular imaging, clinical psychophysics, ocular blood flow and studies of vascular reactivity. Awards include Certificate of Merit for Research Excellence, Glaucoma Research Society of Canada; Claire Bobier Lecture, University of Waterloo; Springer Lecture, University of Alabama; the Glenn A Fry Award from the American Academy of Optometry; Outstanding Performance Award, University of Waterloo (2004 & 2013); Institute of Medical Science Mel Silverman Mentorship Award, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, 2011; the Dario Lorenzetti Lecture, McGill Ophthalmology, 2013; and the Karen Walker-Brandreth Lecture, UC Berkeley, 2015. He was a plenary lecturer at the 2003 AAO meeting, and was appointed as faculty for the inaugural World Glaucoma Congress in 2005 and at each subsequent WGC meeting. He was a founding member of the Optometric Glaucoma Society; Program Chair from 2002 to 2007, and President from 2007 to 2012. He is also a member of the American Glaucoma Society, Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology and American Academy of Optometry. Professional organizations include the American Optometric Association, California Optometric Association, Ontario College of Optometrists, and British College of Optometry. From 2008-2014 he was Chair of the Clinical Research Ethics Committee at the University of Waterloo. He has also served as a Governor and Senator at the University of Waterloo, and was a member of the Senate Executive Committee. He is currently President of the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry, having previously served as Secretary and Treasurer. In 2015 he was awarded a life fellowship of the British College of Optometrists. In 2016 he received a DSc honoris causa from alma mater Aston University, and fellowship of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology. In 2020, he received the President’s Award for services to the profession of optometry, by the American Optometric Association.
Titles: J.G. Flanagan BSchons, PhD, DSchc, FCOptom, FAAO, FARVO
Dr. Flanagan chatted with ASCO’s Director of Communications, Kimberly O’Sullivan to talk about the upcoming year.
ASCO: Dr. Flanagan, congratulations on being named ASCO President for fiscal year 2020-2021. Before we get into that, how are you doing during these challenging times? How are you adapting to the “new normal”? What was graduation like and how are you preparing for the upcoming academic year?
Dr. John Flanagan: Thank you for asking. It has indeed been a challenging time, I’m not sure I’ve ever worked harder than in the last 4 months, yet it has not been without rewards. I’ve come to dislike the idea of this being a “new normal.” I certainly hope not, but I do think that there will be significant change to the way we live and the way we practice. As an optimist I believe many of these changes will be for the good of the profession. I’m excited by the acceptance of telehealth, finally. I believe this is good for our patients and good for optometry. I think that we were overdue for a reminder of the importance of good infection control practices. We have all worried about adenovirus, and in other parts of the world how Creutzfeldt-Jacobs disease has influenced practice protocols, but after SARS-CoV-2 I believe we will all take viruses that cause colds and flu, more seriously. Why should we be so relaxed about exposing our elderly or immune-compromised patients to other viruses? I believe that many of us will continue to wear scrubs in everyday primary care practice, have a much lower tolerance to wearing face masks, and I think it appropriate to adopt a west coast namaste rather than a hand shake.
Graduation was probably one of the most emotional, socially distanced events of the lock down. When a class is ready to graduate, there is a wonderful dynamic between the graduates and the faculty and staff. The graduates are eager to begin the next step in their careers, but there is a bond that is genuinely emotional. Graduation is a celebration for family, friends and classmates, but for many faculty and staff it is also a cathartic separation. This year we had an informal Zoom toast, but promised that as soon as possible we will arrange the best of commencement celebrations. This is after all, the Class of 2020!
The upcoming academic year will be interesting, and is already taking a great deal of time, effort and planning. We are proposing a hybrid curriculum where all clinic, clinic labs and small group teaching in the OD and Vision Science programs are taught in person, but all didactic classes will remain remote but synchronous. Key to the planning is that no group of more than 26 can gather in a single room or place, and that, wherever possible they remain socially distanced. We are hopeful that our incoming first year students will be together enough to create a class identity, and start supporting each other from the start. This is essential to training and bonding, and ultimately professionalism. Second years will be together in clinical training, and third and fourth years will be in full clinical rotations, albeit with reduced patient capacity due to essential safety measures.
ASCO: What are you looking forward to most as President of ASCO? What will be some of your top priorities this year?
JF: As a Dean who comes from away, I have greatly appreciated the comradery and cohesiveness of ASCO. Colleagues were welcoming and helpful, and willing to educate me to the national culture of the profession. I knew many of the Deans and Presidents before moving to California, but by no means all. It has been a true pleasure getting to know everyone. We are a small group, and we enjoy the privilege of meeting as an all-inclusive board. This is unusual in such professional organizations.
I look forward to honoring the tradition established by my immediate predecessors Jenny Coyle, David Heath, Karla Zadnik, David Damari and Elizabeth Hoppe. They have provided inspired leadership. The staff, under the leadership of Dawn Mancuso, have equally enabled and organized, and shared their talents.
Our priorities are well defined moving forward; Optometry Gives Me Life/applicant pool and diversity. As part of the executive committee I worked hard to ensure these were ASCO’s priorities, and it is essential we remain focused and within the financial means of our relatively small association. We have an active Strategic Plan and a treasure trove of creative thinking from our recent Opening Our Eyes and Research summits. The Board knows of my concerns regarding diversity. As a profession we need to do better. With less than 3% black students nationally we have to do better. This will be a major focus of my presidency.
In addition, it is important to acknowledge the many activities of ASCO, from faculty and leadership development, SIGS and committees, academic advocacy, residency promotion, data development, and communications.
ASCO: Please tell me more about the priorities you mentioned above. How will you continue focusing on the applicant pool? Has the public awareness campaign, Optometry Gives Me Life, launched in March 2019, yielded any positive results yet or it is too soon?
JF: Optometry Gives Me Life has launched with great promise. We understood it to be a 4-year commitment. The numbers of engagement are startling, but at the end of year 1, and as expected, there is not yet clear evidence of impact. The large numbers engaging with the program augers well for future impact and increase in the applicant pool within 4 years.
Five years ago, the Board considered a proposal by Berkeley Optometry and the National Optometric Association to hire an Executive Director of Diversity Success. The Board were supportive and unanimously approved a motion to commission a consultant’s report. We are yet to fund the report. I still believe that this is an essential element towards helping each and every School and College improve their diversity and inclusion. The national statistics tell of a stark reality. Less than 3% of all optometry students and 4% of all faculty are Black, when there are 12.7% African-Americans nationally. These numbers have been static for at least the last 10 years. We must find creative ways to fund this position and an initial consultant’s report to inform ASCO as to the type of programs and type of search we need to help this critical, national effort. I will seek the advice of ASCO’s Diversity and Cultural Competency Committee as to how best to move forward, and once again look forward to collaborating with the National Optometric Association.
However, underlying all special projects and initiatives is a need for ASCO to play a role in national coordination, advocacy, policy and communication, alongside our partner organizations. During the onset of the pandemic the ASCO board met informally on a weekly basis. It became a welcome sanity check and invaluable exchange of experiences and ideas as we each worked through the problems of remote education, lock down, PPE, urgent and emergent care, mental health, ACOE requirements, COPE regulations, National Boards, graduation, state licensure and clinic reopening protocols. Never has it been more obvious that ASCO needs to be a strong national voice for education, research, students, faculty, and residents.
ASCO: Let’s get to know you on a personal level better. Why did you choose the career of optometry? What did your path entail getting you to the Dean of Berkeley School of Optometry? What did you find most appealing about the field of optometry?
JF: I started wearing glasses as a 6-year-old myope. I never particularly enjoyed wearing my glasses at school, but I always enjoyed seeing my optometrist. The colored lights, the letters, the questions, feeling part of the examination, were all part of a positive experience. In high school I always thought I would be a vet, but a severe cat allergy developed in my late teens and quickly put a stop to that. I took a gap year and worked in theater and as a truck driver. I ended up with a choice between performing arts, medicine and optometry, and decided that optometry would be the perfect qualification for a starving actor. I started optometry school at a particularly magical time at Aston University. They had an amazing faculty who fostered a new attitude towards research for that time in the UK profession. I simply never looked back. I also co-founded a Revue company based within a community arts center in the grounds of the campus. We performed locally and each summer at the Edinburgh Fringe, so I was happy to accept a scholarship from the Royal National Institute for the Blind to study for a PhD back at Aston. However, the research won out and overpowered my thespian urges. At the end of my PhD there were no academic jobs in Thatcher’s Britain, but Canada was recruiting. I married the love of my life, Kathy Dumbleton, who had just finished her residency in contact lenses at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, and we both accepted jobs at the University of Waterloo.
My research led me to an interest in glaucoma and neurodegenerative disease. This quickly started a collaboration with Professor Graham Trope, an ophthalmologist and glaucoma specialist at the University of Toronto. This eventually led to a unique opportunity that resulted in me being seconded (75%) to Toronto for 25 years, and I thank both Graham and Professor Jake Sivak for making this possible, their support and respective leadership in Ophthalmology and Optometry, were always inspiring. I never thought I would leave this wonderful post, but in 2014 Berkeley Optometry came calling and I have never regretted the new and unanticipated opportunity of leadership and administration. I have recently accepted a second 5-year term as Dean, and look forward to celebrating Berkeley Optometry’s centennial in 2023!
ASCO: Tell me more about Berkeley and the Schools of Optometry. Berkeley has a storied reputation.
JF: UC Berkeley is an amazing university, with a beautiful campus and an outstanding School of Optometry. The depth and range of daily academic pursuit can leave you breathless. Every year I speak to the first-year class at orientation and ask them to make sure they take full advantage of the institution and all it offers, whether their interests are in the arts, politics, public health or sports, there are daily events featuring some of the world’s most accomplished and talented people.
I also want the profession of Optometry to understand just how outstanding some of our Schools and Colleges are, both clinically and from a research perspective. Berkeley Optometry has one of the biggest clinical operations in the country, which includes a pioneering telehealth screening service for diabetic retinopathy and a digital health clinic serving over 40,000 patients a year, the country’s first academic myopia control clinic, a sports vision clinic integrated within the intercollegiate sports teams, a pioneering neurorehabilitation and TBI clinic, along with our many other specialty and primary care services. Our Vision Science program is amongst the biggest and most successful research groups dedicated to eye and vision. Our 42-year-old NEI-NIH doctoral student training grant is the largest in the country, and as large as the rest of the top 10 combined, we have more NIH funding than all of US Optometry combined. This is something we should all be proud of, not just Berkeley, and I can still boast on their behalf having only arrived six years ago!
However, what I am most excited about for our future is our faculty renewal over the last 5 years, both clinical and senate. We have recruited 4 brilliant young assistant professors, 2 of whom are PhD optometrists, a further 2 outstanding OD, PhD clinician scientists, and 10 new clinical assistant professors. Our future looks bright!
ASCO: We like to ask everyone we speak with to say something about the field of optometry that people may not know.
JF: There are two areas of interest I would like to highlight, neither of which are particularly unknown but both of which I believe are underestimated and underserved. The first is glaucoma, for which some in our profession have developed exceptional skills and expertise. Many of us treat glaucoma, and work well in partnership with ophthalmologists who are glaucoma specialists, but others are committed at a higher level. Every year, my meeting highlight is sitting with around 100 members of the Optometric Glaucoma Society discussing and debating the latest in glaucoma research and management. Amongst that group are ODs who are pioneers in all aspects of the disease with the exception of incisional surgery. They are educators, researchers, but most of all clinicians, dedicated to the care of patients with glaucoma, both simple and complex. They inspire and humble me. I will always be grateful to my friend Murray Fingeret for proposing the idea, and along with Michael Patella and Tom Lewis, it has been a privilege to form the OGS and watch it grow. However, I believe that more optometrists need the opportunity and encouragement to practice to the full scope of their training, including the management of glaucoma.
The second area is a more recent passion, uncorrected refractive error. In partnership with Kovin Naidoo and Hasan Minto, Berkeley Optometry is in the process of establishing the Berkeley Vision CURE (Children’s Uncorrected Refractive Error) initiative, a service and research organization with the simple but ambitious goal of ensuring that every child has access to eye care and vision correction by the year 2050. There are approximately 2.7 billion people living with uncorrected refractive error (URE), making URE the world’s most widespread unaddressed disability (World Report on Vision. WHO, 2019), and children are carrying much of this burden. Of the 2.7 billion people with URE, approximately 1 billion are aged 18 years or younger. By the year 2050 there will be more than 1.3 billion children with myopia alone. Of the 1 billion children with URE, over 90% will live in countries with developing economies. Along with colleagues Sarah Kochik, Ian Bailey, Luigi Bilotto and others, it is time to organize and serve.
ASCO: Please tell us a little about your life outside of the workplace. What do you like to do outside of work?
JF: Kathy and I love to hike, and there are few places better than the Bay Area for access to stunning parks, mountains and seascapes. I’m never happier than being out on a trail and seeing the wildlife and beauty around me, whether it be whales, elephants or a soaring eagle. I’m passionate about football, the soccer variety, and have always had an interest in music. The Greek has become our favorite live music venue and I still love to play when I can. I had a great run with the Lost Faculties, 14 years of friendship, madness and mayhem, and some of the best fun a grown up could have. Looks like Orlando in 2019 will be our last and final gig, having played our first, “final” concert at the AAO’s Australia Party in Denver in 2014.
However, the most important thing in my life is family. Kathy and I have been married for 35 years and have been blessed with two wonderful daughters and a granddaughter. My daughters are both health care professionals and have been working in high stress environments throughout the pandemic. I am proud of their achievements and commitment, but relieved they have been safe so far. We were recently able to gather for a carefully coordinated, socially distanced, appropriately quarantined, bubble controlled and wonderfully intimate wedding. It was a beautiful afternoon filled with love and happiness, but please, not the “new normal”.
Thank you for your time Dr. Flanagan! We look forward to having a very productive and interesting year!
In many ways, vision is our most valued sense. Much of our physiological design, such as skull shape, is based around interpreting and enhancing the immense amount of information our eyes give us. Our eyes are some of the most complicated structures in nature.
People with impaired vision often don’t realize what they’ve been missing until their vision is corrected. Vision allows us to enjoy the detail of individual leaves in treetops from the sidewalk or the distinct smile lines on loved ones’ faces during laughter. All the little details that make life so rich and wonderful.
Doctors of Optometry are primary health care providers and are responsible for providing more than two-thirds of the primary eye care in the US. The career of an eye doctor is so much more than just, “One, or two?”
Optometrists change lives each and every day. We diagnose and treat injuries and disease, administer visual rehabilitation and therapy. We restore long-lost hobbies by aiding in the detection and treatment of glaucoma, or help ensure a pain-free life by recognizing the signs of a brain tumor pressing on an eye. It is even possible for Doctors of Optometry to add 100 points to a baseball player’s batting average by improving attention and optimizing their visual processing system.
Optometrists benefit from being able to work directly and compassionately with their patients, receiving the satisfaction of knowing the work they did made someone’s life better.
During the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, optometrists have been caring for fellow essential workers, watching for warning signs and treating eye strain that can occur after long hours and little sleep. With so many jobs and classes being brought online, small text and blue light from electronic devices can cause fatigue and headaches.
Because the eyes are an orifice and produce tears, there is an increased risk of transmission or contamination that optometrists have needed to prepare for, intensifying sanitation and carefully selecting which patients to meet with in person. Many offices have implemented virtual patient visits and telehealth services for immediate concerns in order to help reduce the burden on emergency rooms.
Private and corporate practice dominate most optometry careers, but there are a wide variety of options. Eye doctors can enter the profession as an officer and provide care to our armed forces or join a research facility to improve our understanding of eye health. They can join academia to instruct rising professionals, train to perform minor surgical procedures, and so much more.
But in all of these paths, optometrists are able to enhance quality of life and assist everyone, young and old, in living as completely and richly as possible. We offer expertise in all matters of eyecare, always seeking to advance the care that we give to our communities.
This is why I’m proud to be an optometrist. I am able to stand by my fellow eyecare professionals. We help bring smiles each day, and open people’s eyes (sometimes literally) to the small beauties of the world.
written by Dr. Sha’Mia Stinson
KYCO 2020 Graduate
Hi! I’m Sha’Mia Stinson and I am a recent graduate from the Kentucky College of Optometry from South Carolina.
I decided to pursue a career in optometry because I enjoy helping improve patient’s quality of life through vision services by diagnosing and treating eye related diseases, identifying possibly life threatening conditions, performing specific surgical procedures, and providing pre- and post-operative care for eye surgery patients.
Additionally, a career in optometry would provide me with the flexibility and freedoms I desire as it pertains to work life balance, flexible work schedules, different practice modalities and specific areas of interest. The past four years have been challenging yet rewarding in many different ways.
One experience that will stick with me is while attending KYCO, I had the opportunity to present a poster at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology’s annual meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii. During this conference I was able to make connections that will assist me throughout my career as an optometrist to achieve my desired level of success. It also emphasized the importance of research in the profession. The more we continue to learn about ocular conditions, medications, optical devices etc. the better we will be able to treat our patients.
While attending KYCO, we received in-depth training regarding injections and laser procedures to remove lumps/bumps, treat different types of glaucoma and issues that may arise after cataract surgery. Becoming proficient in these additional services will make primary eye care more accessible to the medically underserved rural populations. I had the opportunity to treat patients in a very rural area, encountering many conditions that will lead to blindness and poor quality of life. In large part this is due to patient’s inaccessibility to proper eye care and/or distrust of health care providers. These are two areas that I want to work to correct. The program is rigorous between exams and national boards however, being able to apply your knowledge in clinic and improve your patients’ quality of life makes it all worth it.
I’ve learned about advocating for the profession as it pertains to expanding the scope of practices to allow optometrisst to deliver a greater level of patient care. Before attending Optometry school, I was unaware of how important it is to be involved in advocacy work. It was a surprise to me but a very welcomed surprise. As my optometry school journey has come to an end, it looks very different than what I imagined with the current COVID-19 pandemic. Although, I have developed a strong interest in ocular disease and geriatrics, I feel prepared to work in any type of optometry setting as I have been exposed to a number of different ways to practice and how to be effective in each setting.
Hi there! My name is Nitya Murthy and I’m a very recent graduate of the Kentucky College of Optometry. As I look back on my last 4 years in optometry school, I feel immense gratitude. I feel so lucky to be in this profession, for having attended my school, and to be living in the great state of Kentucky.
As members of the inaugural class, we had our ups and downs throughout our schooling. A lot of things had to be figured out for the first time, and that definitely brought some challenges. However, the advantages were that we could really play an active role in sculpting our vision of what we wanted our school to stand for. I loved that I had the opportunity to start the clubs I wanted at our school. I founded the Cornea and Contact Lens Society, the Pikeville Lions Club chapter, our NOSA chapter and the KYCO Journal Club. Within these organizations we set precedents and laid the foundation for the future. Looking back on all this as a 4th year, I couldn’t be more proud of what the younger classes have done with these organizations. It feels really good to see the seeds we planted grow.
I have graduated from optometry school and it sure isn’t what I imagined! Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, all of our spring clinics and activities have been canceled. I never thought graduating in 2020, the Year of the Optometrist, would mean a virtual graduation with all my dearest friends and family scattered across the country. Walking across the graduation stage was supposed to be the day that I became a doctor, but looking back, I think that day has been coming together in bits and pieces for a while now. The first day I saw a Hollenhorst plaque in my patient’s eye and referred her out for a carotid doppler, when my preceptors introduced me to patients as Doctor, when I did a trend analysis and figured out a patient’s visual field defects were progression and they needed to start glaucoma medication…and the first time I had to deliver the news that a patient’s traumatic injury meant they had lost that eye for good- it was then I felt like a doctor. It was the mentors, friends, patients, and our families that got us here and we are deeply honored to be newly inducted members of this great profession. The Class of 2020 may not have a graduation ceremony, but we still feel proud to be the doctors of the future!
blog post submitted by Diopsys, ASCO Corporate Contributor
Many ophthalmologists and optometrists have an outdated view of electroretinography (ERG)—one that associates the use and function of older ERG technology rather than the modern visual electrophysiology tools used by eye care professionals today. This means that common myths still making their way around the eye care ecosystem are preventing doctors from exploring the potential value that ERG could bring to both their practice and their patients.
Over decades, ERG vision testing equipment—how it is used in the office, how it impacts the patient experience, how results are read, how it supports treatments—has evolved in big ways to become an essential part of a high-performing eye care environment. But a recent survey reveals that 28% of practicing eye care specialists fail to consider adding electrophysiology to their practice because they feel that they don’t know enough about it.1
What have you heard about ERG testing? Let’s look at the myths that might be leading you to overlook this technology.
Get up to speed with ERG innovation below and read a free eBook for more information in one convenient package.
What is an ERG Test?
ERG is a type of light induced visual-response (LIV) testing that measures retina function. A functional test conducted with ERG technology can support a specialist’s treatment recommendations in a way that structural tests like the OCT cannot. In fact, both types of tests can be leveraged at various points throughout a patient’s course of care. This ideal application can be seen in a variety of case studies, like this one about a retina specialist’s experience treating a patient on anti-VEGF medication.
Common Myth: Length & Patient-Friendliness
A common belief held by those unfamiliar with modern electroretinography is that that ERG tests are time-consuming endeavors that negatively impact the patient experience. This is no longer true. While testing technology many years ago may have been intrusive to patients, ERG tests today use easy to apply disposable sensors that are placed on the lower lid and forehead for a simple, noninvasive testing experience. Patient set-up and testing is also faster and easier for technicians to perform, which means the current flow of an office won’t be drastically affected by introducing ERG. Eye care practices can easily integrate electroretinography into their everyday schedules and processes.
Common Myth: Interpretation of Results
ERG results of the past were difficult to interpret, and at the time, university researchers were the only people who had the means of performing tests and reviewing the results for others. Now, ERG results are laid out in a way that’s intuitive and contains relevant information specialists need—at their own offices—to make diagnostic and treatment decisions. Many include color-coded reference ranges for straightforward interpretation.
What have you heard about ERG? Take the time to learn more about modern electroretinography solutions to get up to speed on advancements in technology and see if it’s right for your practice.
Interested in discovering the truth behind more common ERG myths? Download this free resource.
Read the eBook Dispelling the Myths of ERG: Discovering Modern Electroretinography to:
- Catch up with the innovation occurring in electroretinography
- Discover the truth behind five of the most common ERG myths
- Learn what to look for in today’s ERG products and providers
Download your free eBook here: https://info.diopsys.com/dispelling-the-myths-of-erg-modern-electroretinography
See the original blog post here https://info.diopsys.com/blog/get-up-to-speed-with-erg-dispelling-common-myths
- Visual Electrophysiology Survey, Diopsys, Inc.
Can you think of a common eyesight “fun fact” that you’ve never actually heard a doctor say? Those are what we’d call “eyesight myths” — old wives’ tales for your eyes.
Most of us have probably wondered how true they are. So today, we are going to break down some common eyesight myths and separate fact from fiction, in our first of a three-part series.
Myth 1: You can’t sneeze with your eyes open.
Fact: You actually can sneeze with your eyes open, but your local Doctor of Optometry is going to tell you that this isn’t something you should try and practice. There are a few theories why we naturally close our eyes when we sneeze:
- The face has many, many muscles. When we sneeze, a lot of the muscles in our faces contract forcefully, with some of those muscles being around the eye, which forces our eyes to also contract.
- Typically, a sneeze is forcing out irritants or nasty stuff (e.g. upper respiratory infections). Sneezing with our eyes closed may be an evolutionary adaptive protective mechanism to prevent all that nasty stuff our body wants out from going back into our eyes.
Myth 2: We see everything in our field of vision.
Fact: We actually have a blind spot in each eye. It is located at the back of the eye and is called the “optic disk.” This structure is extremely important to our vision. It is responsible for collecting all the fibers (called axons) from the retina and forming the beginning of the optic nerve. The optic nerve then transmits the fibers carrying the visual information from the eye to the brain.
Fortunately, we have two eyes.
The brain is able to process a tremendous amount of data and uses both eyes’ visual cues to fill the gap in our vision without us even knowing.
Most people are also unaware that we see upside down! Impressively, our own personal supercomputers (a.k.a. our brains) are also able to invert the images from the retina so that we can see things right side up.
Myth 3: Color blindness means you can’t see any colors.
Fact: A more appropriate term for “color blindness” is “color vision deficiency.” It’s actually very rare for people labeled as color blind to only see shades of white, gray, or black.
Both men and women can be color blind. Statistically, males are far more likely to be color blind than females.
Interestingly enough, I, Dr. Lewis, have a color vision deficiency. My color blindness is called “Deutan color blindness” (also known as deuteranomaly).
Deuteranomaly is a type of red-green color blindness in which the green cones in the eye detect too much red light and not enough green light. As a result, red, yellow, green, and brown can all appear similar, especially in low light. It’s often very difficult for me to tell the difference between blues and purples or pinks and grays.
There are different types of color blindness, but the red-green color blindness that I have is the most common inherited form of color deficiency.
Some statistics suggest that red-green color blindness make up to 4% of the world’s population, and among the color-blind population, 75% people diagnosed with color blindness have Deutan color blindness like me.
Did you know the truth about these myths before reading? Or was I able to shed some light (ha!) on how our eyes work?
Share this article with someone who doesn’t know that we see upside down! And stay tuned for the next part in our three-part series.
Jeffrey Lewis, O.D.
Your eyes are one of the most important sensory organs in your body. In fact, there’s a very high chance that you are using your eyes to read this right now! However, most people, when asked, won’t know what 20/20 vision is or what it means for them. On top of that, they often ask if they can have “better than perfect” vision.
What is 20/20 Vision?
No, it’s not talking about your new 2020 New Year’s glasses. 20/20 vision is a term that simply states “average” eyesight. Let’s break it down. The first 20 is how far, in feet, someone stands from an eye chat to take a test. In this case, we’re talking about those old eye charts you’ve seen in movies. However, they’re not often used anymore.
The second number, in this case, another 20, represents what you see in comparison to the average person when you stand at 20 feet. That’s why numbers like 20/20, 20/10, and 20/50 can exist.
How is 20/10 different than 20/50?
Let’s start with 20/10 – this number means that when you stand at 20 feet, you see what the average person could see when standing at ten feet. This is what “better than perfect” vision means. While the average person could see some at 20 feet, you can see much more.
On the other hand, if you have 20/50 vision, that means you have much worse than normal vision. If you are standing at 20 feet with 20/50 vision, then what you see is what an average person would see standing at 50 feet from the poster.
What is “Perfect” Vision?
While 20/20 vision is considered to be perfect, it’s not actually what we think of as perfect. Many people, mostly children, have better than 20/20 vision. Healthy eyes can easily go down to the 20/15 level with some accuracy. So then, what is perfect?
In truth, nothing that the human eye can achieve – and possibly nothing at all. Though it might sound strange, we have perfectly average eyes, and some people have a bit better than average.
On top of this, eyes have evolved to serve the purpose that the animal needs. For example, hawks, cats, dragonflies, goats, and even mantis shrimp can all see “better” than humans can in some way.
However, we can also see better than them in other ways. For example, cats can see long distances but not very short distances. All this is to say, your vision, based on genetics and environmental factors, can be better than 20/20 without a problem, it’s just not “better than perfect” or even “perfect.”
Don’t Forget Regular Checkups!
No matter what your vision, your eyes should still be checked on a regular basis. Though many wait to see a Doctor of Optometry until they think something is wrong, you should actually be going to the doctor at least once a year!
Borrowing at least some of the money needed to pay tuition and other expenses is a fact of life for just about anyone who pursues higher education. However, while borrowing isn’t something to take lightly, fear of student loan debt needn’t derail the desire to attend optometry school. Many sources of need-based or merit-based scholarships and grants can be found, and a couple of key dynamics work in optometry students’ favor. “In general, optometry students can use federal loans to cover what they need, which means they can avoid private loans, which tend to have higher interest rates and fewer options in repayment terms,” says Rob Bertman, CFA, CFP, a senior consultant with Student Loan Planner, a company that provides personalized strategies for tackling debt. Also, Bertman says, “Optometrists have six-figure income potential.”
According to the latest numbers reported by ASCO, across the U.S. schools and colleges of optometry, the percentage of graduates with debt ranges from 67.9% to 100.0%, and average indebtedness is $178,922 (graduate and professional school debt, not including undergraduate debt). And according to the American Optometric Association, the median annual wage for optometrists is $143,520. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a favorable job availability outlook for ODs, projecting that employment of optometrists will increase 10% from 2018 to 2028, which is faster than the average for all occupations. The numbers constitute a manageable scenario with regard to student loan debt, Bertman says, as long as graduates approach it wisely, including borrowing as little as possible; keeping cost of living low while in school; starting repayment immediately after graduation; and, should they happen to marry someone with their own student loan debt, getting a cohesive plan for dealing with both debts at once. He also advises graduates to commit to either paying off their loans aggressively or choosing income-driven repayment to keep payments as low as possible and maximize forgiveness.
Sarah Huff, MS, OD, FAAO, a 2016 graduate of the Midwestern University Arizona College of Optometry (AZCOPT), where she’s now an assistant professor, is a good example of how it can work smoothly. Dr. Huff considers herself fortunate that she had no student loan debt from undergraduate school to carry over to optometry school. “I knew my optometry education would be costly as is any medical degree,” she says, “however, I knew it would be a wise investment because a career in optometry would allow me to pay back my student loans in a reasonable amount of time.”
Prior to starting optometry school Dr. Huff applied for and was chosen to receive funding from the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). The organization’s Professional Student Exchange Program enables students in 10 western states to pay reduced tuition to attend out-of-state professional healthcare programs when the desired fields of study aren’t offered at public institutions in their home states. In exchange, students agree to practice in the state of the program they attended for four years after graduation. In addition to the WICHE funding, Dr. Huff made use of federal student loans. “My plan during optometry school was to be frugal and return any student loan money that I did not need following disbursement,” she explains. “I also had a timeline of when I wanted my loans to be paid off following graduation.”
After graduation from AZCOPT, Dr. Huff completed a residency in primary care and ocular disease at the New Mexico VA Medical Center in Albuquerque. During residency, rather than postponing loan payments with deferment, she used the income-based repayment option to begin paying on her loans. After residency, she changed to the standard repayment option that would allow her to pay off the debt in 10 years. “I also currently have a mortgage so I am cognizant of how I spend money,” she says. “However, my financial situation has not impacted my quality of life or my future career goals.” When asked what advice she would give to optometry students about student loans, Dr. Huff says at the top of the list is to return any extra funds following loan disbursement. “It may be tempting to use your extra disbursement on a new car, a wedding, a trip, etc., but the interest will compound and the final cost could be exponential,” she notes. “Even now, when I have extra funds I make an additional payment on my loan.”
The biggest mistake graduates can make, Student Loan Planner’s Bertman says, is to not have a strategy for repaying their student loans. “It can be easy to become indecisive about what to do because there’s a lot of information and advice out there, some of it seemingly conflicting,” he says. “But no matter what an individual’s situation is regarding school debt, there’s a path forward that makes sense.”
written by ASCO intern Brooke Weiner
Most students entering college have no idea what they want to do, and once they decide what they want to do, they change it. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 80% of college students change their major at least once. This was not the case, however, for University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) student, Ciara Knapp.
Knapp is a first-generation college student who entered with a passion for science and a desire to be a Doctor of Optometry, and she is now in the process of choosing an optometry institution. Thus far, she has been accepted to several schools, and has been offered scholarships as well.
According to Knapp, the interview process was more laid-back than she had expected, lasting only 4-5 hours. The interview can either be open-file, meaning that the interviewers know everything on your application, or closed-file, meaning that they know nothing about you yet.
“I also enjoyed the tour section of the interview day, and it was very nice getting to know the administrators. It helped me get an idea of what the school was like.”
Due to the close-knit nature of many optometry schools and colleges, applicants also get the unique opportunity to speak with current students. According to Knapp, this was very helpful in giving her an overview of what her study schedule would look like. There are additional benefits to the size of optometry programs.
“Since optometry schools tend to be small, it is located all in one building versus most other medical programs which are spread across several buildings. This makes it a very convenient option. Also, every interview provided lunch,” added Knapp.
Knapp’s interest in the field of optometry was first sparked after contracting a severe eye infection as a child. Receiving treatment prompted Knapp to want to go into the specialty of ocular disease so that she could help people in similar situations.
“I plan on specializing in ocular disease, because I believe that is how I would make the best contribution as a Doctor of Optometry. I’m also thinking of doing a residency in pediatric optometry because I enjoy working with kids,” said Knapp.
Knapp is a hardworking biology major, and she loves science in general. In fact, she further found her passion for optometry in a physics class.
“It [the physics class] made me really excited to be a Doctor of Optometry. Everything about your vision is physics, such as finding the strength of a prescription for glasses. I am really looking forward to the next three-to-four years,” said Knapp.
Knapp is very focused on her academics, and her friends even joke that she never leaves the library. In addition to being a dedicated student, Knapp is Ole Miss’s Homecoming Queen, a show choir national champion, a student ambassador, and an active member of Ole Miss’s Pre-Optometry club.
“The club helps guide undergraduate students who are interested in optometry. We talk about strategies for the OAT, and the club helps prepare students for their optometry school applications,” said Knapp.
She also helps to plan fun, inclusive student activities and special events at Ole Miss that provide students with a break from classes. According to Knapp, she considers her extracurricular involvement to be her free time.
“These aren’t resume builders to me. They’re genuinely fun activities, such as laser tag,” explained Knapp.
Knapp is a very involved student, both inside and outside of the classroom. She is an Ole Miss Tour Guide, and says orientations are always fun because incoming freshmen never know what to expect, but being an orientation leader allows her to show them how great Ole Miss is and guide them along the way.
“I love Ole Miss, and giving tours still gives me an adrenaline rush,” said Knapp.
As a first-generation college student, Knapp has a lot of firsthand wisdom to share with these incoming students. While at times being a first-generation student can be frustrating when she asks her parents for college-related advice and they can’t help, she has maneuvered her studies largely on her own, and her Ole Miss advisors were very helpful.
“Even though it was intimidating to leave home and go so far, my parents are very proud. It can be difficult when they can’t help me prepare for optometry school interviews, but it is so rewarding. One of my professors who is also a first-generation college student actually wrote one of my letters of recommendation,” said Knapp.
Knapp’s aspirations for her future include a residency in either ocular disease or pediatric optometry. She then hopes to open her own private practice and work there for several years.
“I’d also eventually like to go back and teach somewhere, because I enjoy teaching and I love that mentor-mentee relationship. I want to give back to the school I attend through sharing what I’ve learned,” added Knapp.
Good luck Ciara! We hope you will stay in touch with us once you begin school!