Murray Fingeret, O.D., has dedicated more than 30 years to building a glaucoma-centric focus in the Big Apple.
Chief of Optometry at the Department of Veterans Affairs New York Harbor Healthcare System (VA NYHHS) in Brooklyn, Dr. Fingeret became the first and only optometrist appointed to the board of directors of The Glaucoma Foundation where he continues his life's work of research and collaboration into finding a cure.
In an excerpt from a Q&A with AOA Focus, Dr. Fingeret discusses how he became intertwined in glaucoma research, and the challenges practitioners face today in managing the condition.
What drove you to become so involved in glaucoma care and research?
When I first came to the St. Albans campus (of the VA NYHHS)—located in a predominately African American community in New York City—there was a preponderance of glaucoma in the population and that became a great deal of what I was doing.
At about the same time, Humphrey Instruments—now Zeiss Meditech—was developing new devices and looking for sites to be involved in validation testing. That became a conduit for me to work with industry, and through that, I ended up meeting a host of ophthalmologists in glaucoma care across the New York area.
How did those connections set the stage for your level of involvement today?
One of the first organizations that I really became involved with was The Glaucoma Foundation. Twenty years ago, they were looking to be involved in glaucoma screenings and how to go into indigent communities and perform glaucoma screenings by measuring intraocular pressure (IOP). Working with the other doctors on the foundation's board, we were able to utilize new technologies to incorporate into these screenings. We figured out a way to perform screenings that were better able to detect glaucoma.
How do you build awareness for glaucoma in a high-risk population?
In African Americans, the incidence of glaucoma is about double if not triple that of what we see in the Caucasian community. What we try to do is get a message to all of our veterans that they should get an eye exam regularly. It's a question of how you educate a broad population, and it's very difficult. We no longer do glaucoma screenings per se, but we continually try to educate patients about the importance of the eye exam. And more importantly, we educate the caregivers, not just for glaucoma, but diabetes and macular degeneration, as well.
Are there any promising advances for glaucoma care on the horizon?
New diagnostic devices—OCT in particular—can improve optometrists' ability to recognize glaucoma. Advances on the treatment side include the recognition that there are new surgical modalities available that have fewer complications involved. And finally, over the next two to three years, there will be several new drops, such as ROCK Inhibitors, that will allow a new modality to reduce the IOP. Further out we'll see new drug delivery devices, as well.
Photograph by Matt Furman