Class of 2018
Southern College of Optometry
What began as a simple curiosity to learn more about how a stroke had affected my grandfather’s vision, turned into a fantastic shadowing opportunity that would not have been possible without a referral by Dr. Paul Harris and the amazing staff at Drs. Luckhardt and Maze. The perspective I gained was unique because I was able to see the process of beginning vision therapy with a patient from both the doctor and patient’s perspectives. Before shadowing, I knew I wanted to incorporate VT into my future practice because of its potential to help so many people. After seeing it first hand this summer, I saw just how large a part of a practice it could be.
The office of Drs. Sharon M. Luckhardt and David A. Maze is located in downtown Westmont, one of the many suburbs surrounding Chicago. The office is inside a converted store and apartment that offered enough space to have an office complete with exam lanes and optical shop on the main floor, and ample space on the second floor entirely devoted to vision therapy. Their office felt like a family with many generations. Dr. Luckhardt took over the practice from her father, and over the years Drs. Maze and Valarie Roché have joined her. Adding to the lineage-like scenario, they were hosting a 4th year extern and one of the staff members was going to be applying to optometry schools in the fall. A benefit I could see of being in a practice with doctors of many different ages would be the variety in perspective, experience, education, and specialties.
The office mainly focuses on pediatric VT and not having much previous exposure to it myself, I was eager to learn more. On my first day of shadowing, I observed multiple appointments, all very different in nature. Many of the vision therapy tools were common items used alongside more specialized ones. I was surprised at how many were inexpensive but still had a major impact, such as a chalk board and chalk, an egg carton, ping pong balls, hula hoops, string, a straw, a pen and cap, etc. Observing the one-on-one time between patient and assistants presented a great lesson in both the joys and challenges when working with the pediatric population. The children had to work through exercises for almost an hour and sometimes they would become distracted, but by encouraging them, challenging them, and having them use their creativity, the assistants helped them stayed engaged and complete their sessions. Being able to see the immediate sense of accomplishment, the boost of confidence, not to mention the smiles on their faces, were reminders of why I fell in love with optometry.
My experience with my grandfather was slightly different because of the nature of his issues and most of his therapy took place at home. Working with him, I realized how important proper communication between patient and doctor can be, but also between doctor and caretaker. Vision therapy is a long and time-consuming activity that, depending upon the patient, can take a lot of patience. Having a concise report for the doctor’s use is important, but by also giving one to the patient and caretaker, they have the opportunity to learn from and understand the issues they are facing and how the doctor is going to address each one. Walking patients through exercises in the office and then giving them supplemental information to take home is something I would definitely incorporate into a VT program. The additional information is helpful because the patient is doing a lot of ‘homework’ and when they have a better understanding, it provides a sense of purpose and motivation to complete all of the exercises.
For my final day of shadowing I was on the main floor in the exam rooms. A technique I had not seen in a practice before was having a scribe in the room to record information as the doctor performed the exam. I watched in awe as Dr. Roché completed nearly all of the skills I had learned in my first year in less than 15 minutes. I am glad the patient was behind the phoropter because I had to take moment to recompose myself as I came to the realization of how much practice and education goes into a few short minutes in an exam and how much practicing I still had to do. This particular exam impressed upon me the importance of efficiency in the office and finding the right balance between getting to know your patients and obtaining enough pertinent information from them to perform an exam in a reasonable amount of time. It was also on this day that the office was having photos taken as part of the celebration of their 65th year providing optometric care to the community and I was able to sit in as a patient (Photos seen below). This showed me that along with having a strong online presence, getting involved in one’s community by making connections with the local chamber of commerce or community members is a great way to stay rooted and be recognized in one’s area.
My experiences this summer were invaluable and showed me how much I was already getting out of my education at SCO. I know they will only be helpful to me as I continue to learn and determine how I would like to practice in the future. I am grateful to Mr. Hubbard and the Hayes Center for encouraging me and my class to get back into our communities and learn more about our profession. To Dr. Harris, for providing referrals and resources so that I could educate myself on topics that related to my grandfather’s condition. Finally, to Dr. Luckhardt, Dr. Maze, Dr. Roché, Irina, and the entire staff at Drs. Luckhardt and Maze, for being a great example of a successful practice, and for accommodating me throughout this past summer.
Photos by Captured Moments Photography by Cindy D.