The San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind Partnership with UIWRSO

As a fourth year intern, students at UIWRSO get the chance to have their low vision rotation through the San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind (SALB). The organization has been around for more than 80 years in the city of San Antonio, and has spread to many other cities, not only in Texas, but also to New Mexico and Oklahoma. I attended a Low Vision Club meeting where the SALB was able to show the students some of the various services they provide to the blind and visually impaired, so that before we go to our rotation, we have a good idea of all the incredible things the organization does.

UIWRSO students get very familiar with the SALB’s Low Vision Clinic, which has seven state-of-the-art exam lanes. The speakers explained that the eye exams actually used to take place in a much smaller location, which is now part of the Lighthouse Rehabilitation Center for the blind or visually impaired, where they learn to live independently and do daily chores and tasks on their own. Not only do they provide these services, but they also help in teaching people new skills or help in assisting them in continuing their work (with or without the use of visual aids), so that they can become successfully employed.

The SALB is unique in that it employs close to 425 people, which nearly half of whom are blind. The products that these employees make are distributed and sold in over 14 stores throughout a few states. Employees get competitive pay, and also medical and retirement benefits. They manufacture various supplies, including those for offices, as well as those for the military. The speakers showed us some of these supplies, and the craftsmanship on the products was impeccable.

The organization also has a shop for the blind here in San Antonio. They are able to purchase products such as braille materials, large print items, canes, magnifiers, etc. They showed us some of the items that the blind or visually impaired can buy. One of the most interesting products was a little remote-control looking item. The speakers explained that the blind and visually impaired need help in determining colors for the clothes they wear, which is something I think people take advantage of everyday. The remote control is pressed up against the clothing in question. You push a button and the device tells you what color the clothing is!

Not only does the organization have all of these great programs and devices, but they also have the Blind Children’s Education Program, which is the only one of its kind in Texas. It helps children from birth to the age of 14 with the use of enrichment programs and several activities throughout the year. One of the speakers explained how their annual Easter egg hunt is a huge success and is getting bigger each year. They told us a story of how one mother of a visually impaired child had “never seen her child happier” than when they found one of the eggs during the Easter egg hunt this past year.

Learning more about the San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind made me realize the importance that UIWRSO plays in the community. The San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind is doing amazing things in our city, and it’s great to know that we can have a small part in their mission to improve and empower the lives of the blind and visually impaired.SALB SALB 2 SALB 3 SALB 4 SALB 5 SALB 6 SALB 7 SALB 8 SALB 9 SALB 10 SALB 11 SALB 12 SALB 13

AAO Pinning Ceremony at UIWRSO!

The American Academy of Optometry (AAO) Student chapter at the Rosenberg School of Optometry (RSO) held their Annual Student Fellowship Pinning Ceremony. During this past AAO national meeting in Denver, Colorado, 26 students from the RSO received their Student Fellowship. This is a record amount at RSO and we are excited to have so many students interested in learning. The Academy’s annual meeting provides the highest quality continuing education and the most current vision science research, which includes nearly 300 hours of Lectures & Workshops, symposia, and scientific lecture and poster presentations over 4 days. The students loved the experience and best of all, thought the Academy was so much FUN!

The AAO has a special program for students to go through in order to receive the title of student fellow. After the requirements are fulfilled, the student is awarded an AAO pin at the school’s pinning ceremony. Each student completed a series of continuing education courses, symposiums, poster sessions, and paper presentations throughout the weekend, as well as representing RSO at the AAO national meeting.

The following students were recognized for this year at the pinning ceremony:
Amanda Achilles, Amy Belloli, Samantha Bohl, Timothy Bradshaw, Alicia Chacon, Wiliam Cluff, Amy Cuevas, Caroline Dang, Minati Desai, Sheyda Durig, Amanda Estrada, Kimberly Kim, Kyler Knobbe, Daniel Lam, Paul Lau, Denisse Lopez, Susan Ly, Jason Ngo, Jenny Nguyen, Monali Patel, Lisa Prejean, Ashley Pylant, Jennifer Ramey, Rebecca Sheeder, Anthony Vanrachack, and Beatriz Villegas.

Guest speakers included Dr. Valdes, an RSO professor who recently earned AAO Fellowship or F.A.A.O., and Mr. Terry Peterson of Zeiss. Both gave amazing speeches and the students enjoyed a delicious dessert reception sponsored by Zeiss.

Lastly, the event was put together by the AAO student chapter officers:
Ashley Pylant – President
Susan Ly – Vice President
Linh Nguyen – Secretary
Minati Desai – Treasurer
Faculty Advisor – Dr. Rick Trevino

Tour de Optometry with the ​National COVD’s President Dr. Ida Chung

covd tour

The College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD) club at UIWRSO hosted the Annual Tour de Optometry and Residency Forum. COVD created the Tour de Optometry to educate and excite optometry students about behavioral and developmental vision and vision therapy. The COVD Board of Directors and some Past Presidents visit each of the schools of optometry, and the attending Board Member works with the COVD Faculty, Resident, and Student Liaisons to coordinate the Tour visit.

This year the ​National COVD’s President Dr. Ida Chung visited RSO on Wednesday March 4th to talk about her practice and how vision therapy (VT) impacted her patients. She was also glad to see her past students who are now teaching vision therapy at RSO. Dr. Maki was a student of Dr. Chung before coming to RSO as a faculty member. Following Dr. Chung, the club held a Residency Q&A with RSO faculty, Drs. Coates, Maki, Tison, and Nicklas. The students asked a lot of questions about how to get more involved with VT after graduation and why the faculty decided to pursue this path in optometry. I had a great time listening to the speakers and enjoyed some zesty Olive Garden at the same time.

From left to right: Dr. Chung, guest speaker and COVD President, Desirae Brinkley, COVD RSO Student President.
Student members who wore their shirts for the event!

Helping the Community Through FCO

This past week I was privileged enough to follow our school’s FCO (Fellowship of Christian Optometrists) club while they went to a local church to give full eye exams to those in need. Every few weeks, members of FCO, in addition to many professors, volunteer their time and skills to check the eye health of several members of our community in churches, clubhouses, etc. I want to take you through my journey of what I was able to witness during one of these sessions.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect; the President of our school’s FCO, Melissa Gonzales, told me that the exams were going to take place in a church basement downtown. One of the first things I noticed when I showed up was that she pulled out her equipment from her car trunk, but also pizzas from Little Caesar’s. Once we went into the basement, I saw a few people occupying seats waiting for our arrival. She put the pizzas on a table, and mentioned that the pizza was for the patients waiting. This was the first of many selfless acts I saw by the members of FCO.

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Then we ventured into another series of back rooms to the actual “exam room.” It was nothing like what I expected. I anticipated seeing something like our equipment at school, with private lanes, and brand new equipment. It was small, dark, and full of older equipment. The appearance didn’t fool me though; the students and doctors made full use of this equipment, and in a timely fashion. I followed Melissa with her first patient to a private, quiet area. He was an older man, complaining of not being able to see that well at distance and near. When prompted with how old his current glasses were, he told us 3 years old, that they weren’t even his, and that his last eye exam was in 2005. This shocked me! As students, we encourage patients come in every year for their exam and have up-to-date prescriptions; but recognize that this is not always possible for everyone. This goes to show what a great service these students are providing to people who normally would not get this kind of eye care.

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After doing a quick case history, patients are led back into the other room with the equipment, and the eye exam begins. They get all kinds of services, including getting their eyes dilated, refracted, and examined with the slit lamp. They also get their eye pressures checked. Students from all years get the chance to participate and the professors also helped. Dr. Maki manned the tonometer, which was clearly dated, with ease. Colonel Cleland, a preceptor for UIWRSO’s clinics, oversaw the whole operation, helping out wherever needed. The patients also have access to glasses, and the church pays for the cost of the glasses and lenses. They even get to pick from a small assortment of glasses, so it’s not just a one pair for everyone.

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The best part of the whole experience, as I am sure it is for the volunteers also, is hearing how grateful and happy the patients are when they leave. One man left and said, “I really appreciate what you all did for me; thank you so much.” You could tell he was genuinely thankful for these services. It brought me to tears. Sometimes the patients had to wait for a station to open for a while, but none of them complained. They were all very cooperative and helped things run smoothly.

I am really proud to come from a school where students help those who are less fortunate. Not only are these students getting great experience using a wide variety of equipment, but they are also helping their communities. Ms. Gonzales told me that “The only thing I would want people to know about FCO is that we serve people to show Christ’s love. The Lord has blessed us with the opportunity to be in school and learn these skills and we only want to give back to others what The Lord has given us.”

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How are tablets and smartphone​s affecting your eyes?

20141103_193511UIWRSO students are motivated to learn even outside of the classrooms! The private practice club invited Dr. Thomas Gosling, a successful private practice doctor, to teach students about how current technology affect our eyes and how future doctors can address this issue. As the current president of this club, I strive to invite speakers from different part of the United States so that our members can have a diverse education outside of school, as well as hearing about our profession from multiple perspectives.

Dr.  Gosling flew in from Colorado with Mr. Mike Elton, HOYA representative, to our campus. Mr. Elton was kind enough to sponsor dinner and donate an iPad Air as a door prize. Over 60 students and 20141103_184649a table of professors attended the event. Dr. Gosling has spoken at other colleges of optometry, but this was his first visit to the Rosenberg School of Optometry. He talked to our students about the hazards of blue light emitted from our electronic devices such as smart phones, tablets, and other hand held devices. Dr. Gosling reviewed some vision science and ocular anatomy topics by prompting students to recall the different types of photoreceptors in our eyesight. There are three type of cone photoreceptors, red, green, and blue. Research suggests that the blue photoreceptor are linked to melanin levels. Melanin hormone helps the body sleep, so when blue light activates the blue photoreceptor, our body thinks we are outside in the sun and wakes us up by inhibiting melanin. However with an influx of bright led phones and gadgets within such a short time period, 20141103_184658how do we protect our eyes that are constantly exposed emitted blue light? I am guilty of browsing my phone in class, at work, and at night before I sleep. Dr. Gosling brought to my attention that my circadian rhythm may be disrupted.

Dr. Gosling also noted how younger and younger children are using LED devices, and he was concerned with the extremely close working distance due to their shorter arm span. Eye strain may arise from this but even worse is that the young crystalline lens is exposed to more blue light. Since led screens are a relatively new technology, we do not know how long exposure will impact humans, but we do know some cataracts are formed from too much time outside without sunglasses and a hat!

Dr. Gosling presented many ways to protect against blue light, but the best way was incorporating blue light protection in the lens of glasses. He talked about the line of lenses that the HOYA company is producing. I actually got to try the lenses myself, courtesy of Mr. Elton.  My frames had the HOYA lens that blocks blue light and a small prescription change at the bottom of the lens to adjust for up close work on my smartphone. I can feel the difference! My eyes do not feel as strained up close and the optics are just so clear.

I absolutely enjoyed this talk and it reminded me of a continuing education course (CE) for students. Our profession is looking forward and taking steps to protect our patients eyes from something most of us may deem harmless.