What drew you to optometry?
I was interested in the medical field at a young age. While other girls were dressing up their Baby Alive dolls, I was giving mine open-heart surgery (which, for the record, causes your doll to rot). My high school trigonometry teacher once mentioned that he wanted to be an optometrist but couldn’t handle the chemistry. I thought, “I got chemistry,” and I immediately started to research optometry as a possible profession. When I realized that blood makes me faint, feet are not my favorite body parts, and I can’t stay up all night, optometry won out among the disciplines.
A fun fact: I chose optometry without ever having had an eye exam. I got my first exam at the Indiana University School of Optometry when I could not read the board in my organic chemistry class. When I told my intern that I needed glasses to see the board so I could get an A in the class and get into optometry school, he laughed and then assisted me in a horrifying frame selection.
Please describe your current position.
I am a consultative optometrist at the Laser Eye Center in Huntsville, Alabama. I actually have a master’s degree with an emphasis in pediatrics and strabismus because I was fascinated by the students with dyslexia that I tutored at Indiana. I loved kids and vision therapy, but I hated working Saturdays, so I made the jump to surgical comanagement in 1999.
After moving to Nashville, Tennessee, I joined the Wang Vision Institute, where I learned to love anterior segment disease because we can actually fix things. This is also where I started to write. I have edited textbooks and a column for Modern Optometry’s sister publication, CRST, and I have contributed chapters to books. I also gained management experience, which I further developed in my next position at Eye Health Partners & VisionAmerica, also here in Huntsville. After 13 years in the referral setting, I stepped back so I could focus on motherhood. Writing is a great gig when you’re a mom, so I continued to blog and edit textbooks.
I returned to optometry part time for a few years and then joined the Laser Eye Center in 2015. Working here 4 days a week gives me time to write, consult for the industry, and be a mom.
My favorite part of my job is the puzzles—the diagnostic brain teasers that require investigation and communication with other disciplines.
What is a typical day in your life? What keeps you busy, fulfilled, and passionate?
My mornings are spent in clinic seeing postoperative patients and patients with dry eye disease and practicing comprehensive medical optometry. I no longer fit contact lenses, and I miss it. My clinic afternoons are often spent doing correspondence and performing intense pulsed light treatments and dry eye consults. I also continue to write books, blog, and provide consultations.
I have been working with Tracey Technologies for years and consider the small company’s staff my second family. I enjoy the flexibility of having some afternoons off so I can spend time with my high school–age daughters.
I have also been involved with the Optometric Cornea, Cataract, and Refractive Society for years as the educational chair, planning the annual symposium, and currently serve as the organization’s president, so I am definitely keeping busy!
What has been the most memorable experience of your career thus far?
I was invited by a laser company in Italy to learn how to program an excimer laser to perform topography-guided treatments in 2006. My surgeon at the time, Ming Wang, MD, PhD, was working on topography-guided treatments to correct corneal curvature problems causing visual dysfunction after LASIK and PRK. We flew first-class to Italy, and I worked with engineers to program laser treatments for deep anterior lamellar keratoplasty and transepithelial treatments based on elevation maps combined with refractive data. The next day, we flew from Taranto to Rome and performed surgeries all day. That evening, we toured Rome.
If you asked my husband this question, he’d say that my most memorable moment was having twins and publishing my first textbook in the same year. Corneal Topography: A Guide for Clinical Application in the Wavefront Era was the best-selling ophthalmology book published at the time.
You grew up in Wisconsin. Is there anything you miss about living there?
My family. End of list. I once nearly missed a college exam in May due to snow and promised myself I would never live in a place where I had to include snowblower equipment in a house sale.