COVD Annual Golf Tournament

On Saturday, October 17th, UIWRSO’s student chapter of COVD (College of Optometrists in Vision Development) held their annual Golf Tournament at the beautiful Silverhorn Golf Club. This event is held to raise awareness and fundraise money to offer scholarships to children who are in need of vision therapy or comprehensive binocular vision evaluations. Even though I occasionally play golf, I have never participated in this event before, but decided this was the year I attempted an 18-hole course with my classmates!

The event started early with lunch and free balls to use at the range until the actual tournament started. Every team had a group of four, and every two people were supplied with a golf cart. Everyone also received bags that included balls, tees, a towel, among other goodies to help us through the day. Once we had warmed up on the range, the tournament was ready to start! All teams were sent to different holes, so that everyone would continuously play and finish around the same time. In addition to having prizes for first, second, and third place, there were also two other prizes up for grabs: one for the player with the closest to the pin, and another for the player with the longest drive, which our teammate happened to receive! The rules for this game of golf included a “scramble” which means everyone takes a shot, but the team starts playing from the best or furthest ball on each stroke. Teams wrote down their scores and then met at the end of the day to see who won! The winner’s of this year tournament included Kyle Thaxton, Sarah Flanagan, Scott Gorton, and Dr. Mervyn Bloom with 52 strokes throughout the 18-hole course.

Besides raising money through the golf tournament itself, COVD also raised money by raffling off prizes that included everything from a TV to gift cards, to hotel rooms. I, actually won a prize this year and got a month’s membership to a gym! This raffle is one of the biggest of the year throughout our school, so it was a great time to see who won all the prizes. I have to admit that this was one of the best school events I have ever gone to. It was great having a sun-filled day with my classmates while contributing to the UIW Eye Institute Vision Therapy Clinic.

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Listening in and learning at the COVD Convention

Thank you OEP for the student travel grant!  From Left to right: Maggie Fransisco, Susan Ly, Kory Botelho, Nikolai Perez, Current OEP Resident - Sandy Tran, OD, Kelin Kushin, Optometrists Change Lives Writing Competition student winner - Katie Davis, OD.
Thank you OEP for the student travel grant! From Left to right: Maggie Fransisco, Susan Ly, Kory Botelho, Nikolai Perez, Current OEP Resident – Sandy Tran, OD, OEP Executive Director – Kelin Kushin, Optometrists Change Lives Writing Competition student winner – Katie Davis, OD.

The Optometric Extension Program (OEP) helped me travel to the 2014 COVD (College of Optometrists in Vision Development) Convention through a travel grant. I am very grateful for this opportunity because I have been interested in attending since my first year in optometry school. I know that each optometry convention that I attend has their interests and specific courses of continuing education, but what I liked most about COVD was the community’s passion to help their patients. In all the CEs and sessions that I attended, one theme resonated, how can optometrists educate parents and other health professionals about what we do, so that we can give better patient care. I really enjoyed hearing about case studies of co-management of pediatric patients with ophthalmologists and neurologists because I plan to practice progressively to give my patients holistic, inter-professional, health care. COVD focuses on many other topics, for example, below are the COVD statements; you can read more here.

COVD Mission Statement

Improving lives by advancing excellence in optometric vision therapy through education and board certification.

COVD Vision Statement

To facilitate ongoing progress in developmental vision care, advocate for wider adoption of optometric vision therapy, and increase recognition of its integral role in enhancing learning, rehabilitation, productivity, and overall quality of life.

The exhibit hall was like none that I have ever seen before! Due to the specific instruments and equipment needed to practice Vision Therapy (VT) and rehabilitation, I was able to talk to vendors who sell to this specialty and learn more about their products. As a great appreciator of technology, I was drawn to the G-lab booth because they had a stereoscope for an iPad and an app that allows for interactive vision evaluation and therapy. My good friend, Nikolai Perez, the current OEP national student liaison, was a vision therapist before attending the Inter American University of Puerto Rico, School of Optometry. He saw the potential in this instrument and purchased one at the convention. I was really glad that I was able to travel the exhibition hall with someone that has prior experience as a therapist because it contributed to my understanding of vision therapy patients and clinically working with VT equipment in preparation for my fourth year in optometry school. 

Mrs. Benoit and Mrs. Kushin at the OEP Table
Mrs. Benoit and Mrs. Kushin at the OEP Table

Kelin Kushin, Executive Director of the Optometric Extension Program Foundation, gave every student a Brock’s String. Mrs. Kushin has expanded OEP, especially within the optometry student community; she has also helped organized many events with our school, such as a Skype meeting with Dr. Susan Barry, author of Fixing My Gaze, and a Skype meeting with Mrs. Benoit, author of Jillian’s Story. It was also a great pleasure to finally meet Mrs. Robin Benoit in person at the OEP table; she is very friendly and has been conducting Skype meetings with our school for the past two years! The Brock’s String was a thoughtful gift and I was really happy because we have just learned in RSO’s Vision Therapy course the clinical uses for the Brock’s String. In fact, one of our VT professors, Dr. Yukata Maki, Chief of the Vision Therapy and Binocular Vision Service, has just received his fellowship with COVD, under the following rigorous requirements. It is a great honor and Dr. Maki is now board certified in Vision Development and Vision Therapy. The UIWRSO student COVD chapter celebrated his new achievement with a group meeting and a chocolate cake!

Impact of InfantSEE Event on “Future Eye Doctors”

UIWRSO students, faculty, staff, friends and family came to enjoy the InfantSEE event on Friday, September 26. It was in a beautiful venue on main campus, and everyone was dressed for the occasion. It was a great event to bring awareness to the InfantSEE program and see how blindness has affected one talented individual, Mr. Tom Sullivan. As I sat in the crowd and listened to the InfantSEE statistics from Dr. Glen Steele, I was amazed by the stories of children whose lives were saved from this program. Tons of “awws” came from the crowd as we saw pictures of children who participated in the program and were essentially saved by it. Tom Sullivan was next, and he was an amazing performer. He called all of the students in the crowd “future eye doctors” and addressed us as such for the remainder of the event. He made everyone laugh, cry, and just feel great about the program. It is so wonderful to see someone make the best of a situation and share their experiences.

I asked several of the students what they felt about the InfantSEE program and event, and if they believe they will be involved in the program after they graduate from UIWRSO. Here were some of the comments I heard throughout the night:

“I had heard about InfantSEE in my undergrad program, but this event helped me to get more details about it, and now I am pledging to participate in InfantSEE when I graduate.”

“Tom Sullivan is an inspiration for us all. We, as students, can make a difference and prevent blindness from happening.”

“This was a great way for faculty and students to come together. I can personally say that it was incredible to see our professors promote this kind of program because we look up to them. Watching them be involved in something so important makes me realize how important it is, as well.”

“I never thought of myself as such an integral part in someone’s overall health. Most people just think we check their eyes, and that’s the end of it. We need to raise more awareness of this program, and the easiest way to do that is be providers ourselves.”

“I am privileged to be part of a school that believes in and promotes such an amazing program.”

When asked the question “Will you be an InfantSEE provider when you graduate?” 100% of the students I asked said, “Yes.” You could not have asked for a better outcome from the event. The program and the event personally moved me, as well. I pledge to be an InfantSEE provider when I graduate and have my own practice. To know that you could prevent blindness and even save a child’s life just by giving a pediatric eye exam moves me beyond words.


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Last photo courtesy of James DeMarco.


Leadership and Entrepreneurial Pearls for Private Practice

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Guest speaker:  Dean of UIWRSO, Dr. Andrew Buzzelli.

The Private Practice Club at UIWRSO was very excited to host a lunch for their members. This was a special lunch about leadership and entrepreneurship in optometry private practice. The reason that the Private Practice Club chose to have Dr. Buzzelli speak is due to his dedication to our school and vast accomplishments in all that he does.

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Dr. Buzzelli has held many positions in all aspects of optometry prior to his position as our Dean. He taught at several accredited schools (SUNY, Georgian Court University, and Salus University) and the RSO second years have him for Peds. In 2012, the Texas Optometric Association (TOA) named Dr. Buzzelli “Educator of the year.” Professor Buzzelli is also one of only thirty-six optometrists in the world recognized as a diplomat in Binocular Vision, Perception and Pediatric Optometry” by the American Academy of Optometry. In addition to Dr. Buzzelli’s prolific teaching career, he has published an Ophthalmic Textbook and numerous papers for optometry and the military. Dr. Buzzelli also served in the military as the Assistant to the Air Force Surgeon General and eventually earned the title “Outstanding Liaison Officer of the year.” Today we have the pleasure of hearing about his “Leadership and Entrepreneurial Pearls for Private Practice.” Dr. Buzzelli served as a private practitioner specializing in “Vision Therapy, dysfunctions of Binocular Vision, Visual Information Processing disorders and Traumatic Brain Injury.” It was a great experience and an honor to hear from a man of diverse experience in the field that has proven to be valuable to the Incarnate Word and the field of optometry.

Dr. Buzzelli exposed us to the difficult situations faced in leadership roles, and revealed key characteristics that an Incarnate Word intern should follow. For example, some characteristics of leadership includes

  • photo 1Character is doing right, not being right
  • Loyal to the absent
  • Open to the brutal truth and maintains a spirit of hope
  • Ask yourself, how did I contribute to the problem
  • Cultivates an attitude of gratitude
  • Accepts that leadership is something lonely

What I took away from the meeting was that our optometry program reflects many of Dr. Buzzelli’s highlights in being a leader. During the course of the meeting, I remember previous courses that I have taken and how they have impacted me to think more about others and how to do so ethically (Read about those courses here).  I’m glad to know that this optometry program also prepares me to be a leader of leaders, with the support of our faculty and student organizations.


Patients Teach Students about Optometric Vision Therapy over Skype!

I use Skype to chat with my friends from Los Angeles to Anchorage!

I’d tell them all about San Antonio and of course my exciting adventures at RSO! It wasn’t until I became the RSO student chapter President that I conducted a professional Skype Presentation/meeting.  To my surprise, I didn’t feel a barrier between the speaker and me.  The audience listened and were captivated by the speaker on the large projector and laughed at all their jokes. I’ve only heard about Skype interviews and webinars being quick and  fun, but now I also see how cost effective and interactive they can be!

Here are some tips for your next Skype Event!

Steps to take before any Skype Meeting:

  1. Have an alternative contact with the speaker, cellphone is best.
  2. Get a webcam! make sure the microphone, and camera is working. I try calling my friends on Skype to test out the webcam. Make sure the webcam can face the audience and still pick up your voice.
  3. Have a portable microphone, so the audience can ask questions and the speaker can hear them.
  4. Maintain a steady internet connection. I would use a LAN line rather than WIFI, but this depends on your network.
  5. Run a test prior to meeting. I find myself usually doing 2 test runs. Something can go wrong with the first test run, for example, my speaker was not installed properly or the other party can’t hear me. At the second test run we usually have a successful connection, I write down the camera, audio, speaker, and microphone settings.

The COVD student chapter had 2 Skype speakers this year.

On October 10, 2013, Dr. Sue Barry gave an interactive presentation in the evening. We had nearly the entire school come and hear this amazing speaker talk about her journey of regaining stereopsis via optometric vision therapy. “Dubbed ‘Stereo Sue’ by neurologist Oliver Sacks in a New Yorker article by that name, Sue Barry has gone on to write her own book Fixing My Gaze which describes the astonishing experience of gaining 3D stereovision after a lifetime of seeing in only two dimensions. Intensive vision therapy created new neural connections, and with them, a new view of the world. Challenging conventional wisdom that the brain is programmed for life during a critical period in childhood, Barry offers a poignant and revelatory account of our capacity for change.” (Source,

On November 15, 2013, Mrs. Robin Benoit, author of “Jillian’s Story: How Vision Therapy Changed My Daughter’s Life” and “Dear Jillian: Vision Therapy Changed My Life Too,”  visited UIWRSO for a second time.  Last year, she and her daughter, Jillian, were here in person.

In her books, she details the life-changing journeys of her daughter, Jillian, and 22 other vision therapy patients.  Although vision therapy helped Jillian overcome struggles with amblyopia, which is described in “Jillian’s Story,” she is proud to share, in her new book, the stories of those with autism, traumatic brain injury, stroke, anxiety, polyneuritis and vision problems such as strabismus and convergence insufficiency.

Robin and Jillian have made presentations to 17 optometry colleges in the United States.  UIWRSO is the only one to be visited twice!

Jillian couldn’t join us on this occasion because of school, but wanted to remind us of this:

—  “You may not offer vision therapy in your practice when you graduate, but please know what it is and what it can do.  You hold the key to changing someone’s life in your hand.”

I did not undergo vision therapy, but the meetings have helped me understand what a VT patient feels. I learned something that clinic cannot teach me! I hope after viewing the clips you find something positive to take away from these phenomenal speakers! Stereo Sue and Jillian’s Story are part of the Optometrists Change Lives™ program from OEP Foundation and HOYA Vision Care. OEP also offers other programs such as King-Devick (which is in person) and Going Blind (which is a film screening) as well as speakers on special topics.

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