I am currently in-house for my last semester of optometry school. My in-house semester consists of rotations through Bowden Eye Care and Health Center, CommuniCare Health Centers on Callaghan and in Kyle, San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind, and the contact lens clinic and the vision therapy/electrodiagnostic clinic at the University of the Incarnate Word Eye Institute.
My first and current rotation is at the Low Vision Rehabilitation Center at the San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind. The center is in a new building that was unveiled this past fall.
The new building also has a low vision store, library, playroom, technology room, conference room, other Lighthouse program rooms, and a production facility.
The Lighthouse employs legally blind or visually impaired individuals at the production facility who manufacture and assemble items such as mechanical pencils, rollerball pens, highlighters, aerospace insulation blankets, and other textile apparel items.
Every morning, my clinic group and I walk through the manufacturing and assembly plant to get to the Low Vision Rehabilitation Center, and it is really inspiring to see the employees hard at work.
Some employees have multiple impairments, such as visual and hearing, yet they do not let their impairments hold them back from working and being self-sufficient. It is great to see these individuals enjoy and succeed at their jobs.
As interns, my classmates and I are able to provide comprehensive eye exams and low vision evaluations for patients at the Low Vision Rehabilitation Center, many whom are Lighthouse employees. The Low Vision Rehabilitation Center has very friendly staff members. Daniel Espinosa, the Low Vision Clinic Manager, and Meloney Castro, the medical receptionist, are great to work with, and they both love working at the Lighthouse.
We are also fortunate to have four different low vision specialists who we get to work with during our rotation at the Lighthouse: Dr. Nancy Amir, Dr. Christopher Choat, Dr. Stephanie Schmiedecke, and Dr. Matt Valdes.
Each doctor has many years of experience in low vision, and I find it very helpful to learn from each doctor’s different style of practicing and teaching.
Low vision is often an overlooked specialty of optometry, but it can definitely be a rewarding field of practice. My classmate and I recently saw a patient who was diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration several decades ago.
He had canceled his newspaper subscription since he was no longer able to read it. After a low vision evaluation, my classmate and I were able to prescribe the patient a pair of spectacle microscopes in order to read newspaper print comfortably again. The patient was so ecstatic when he was able to read a newspaper that he thanked us profusely. This was definitely one of my highlights as an optometry student.
One important thing that I have learned is that although optometrists may not be interested in providing low vision services, they should be aware of the benefits of such services and refer to low vision specialists when appropriate. I have heard several patients remark on how they wish someone had told them about low vision services sooner and how happy they are to find that such services exist.
The San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind is a great organization, and I am glad that I get to rotate through the Low Vision Rehabilitation Center.