Photography by Steve Craft
Excerpted from page 56 of the October 2023 edition of AOA Focus.
Renee Reeder, O.D., is the assistant dean of curriculum and assessment for the University of Pikeville Kentucky College of Optometry and chair-elect of the AOA Contact Lens and Cornea Section (CLCS). She teaches on contact lenses and anterior segment disease and is a published author in both areas.
AOA Focus caught up with Dr. Reeder to ask why and how future doctors can see themselves as cornea and contact lens leaders.
1) Make a difference in patients’ lives.
I was a first-year optometry student spending my summer working in an incredible specialty lens practice when we had a patient fly to Orlando from Brazil for a keratoconus fitting. She was in the United States for two weeks and during that time we were able to successfully fit her with lenses. The tears of joy as she saw her children clearly changed my path and her life. My encounter with her set me on my path of specialty lens fitting. It has not always been about restoring vision either; sometimes it has been about quality of life. I had a patient with graft-versus-host disease with what seemed like moderate dry-eye complaints. Then one day I convinced her to let me put a scleral lens on her and she cried so hard my staff person was alarmed that something was wrong. But the patient said her eyes had not felt that good in years. Another patient had severe Sjogren’s, and we had to use an amnion to heal her cornea, then we got her on a judicious regimen of tears and anti-inflammatory drops along with some high-powered reading glasses, which let her read and play the piano again. It goes without saying that I was drawn to cornea and contact lenses because of the difference you can make in patients’ health and wellbeing. You can and will make a difference.
2) Incorporate the latest technologies and advances.
Often, making a difference in patients’ lives stems from offering a solution that might not have been available even a few years ago. Advances in technology—materials, equipment, and designs—have made contact lenses a viable option for more patients than ever before. Instrument-driven and molded fittings provide efficient and effective options for your patients. And technology continues to evolve. If you have a rising star student out there, be sure to introduce them to the possibilities available with new lens technologies.
3) Get involved in professional organizations.
There are so many great organizations to get involved with professionally for those interested in contact lenses and cornea, from the AOA CLCS to Academy’s CCLRT section, the Gas Permeable Lens Institute, the Scleral Lens Education Society or the International Association of Contact Lens Educators—just to name a few. All these groups are committed to enhancing patient care and education surrounding contact lenses.
4) Taking advantage of education opportunities.
Advanced clinical training and application can be had through the numerous contact lens and cornea residencies nationwide. I encourage those motivated, driven candidates to pursue a residency to truly become our next generation of leaders in the field. Once you complete your residency or if you choose to go straight into practice, keep learning and stay engaged with your colleagues. National meetings also offer wonderful opportunities to continue to grow as a cornea and contact lens clinician.
5) Give back.
Optometry will give you many opportunities. Take the opportunity to share those with others. Put together a grand rounds case or a rapid fire with some colleagues that you can share at Optometry’s Meeting® or another meeting. Bring externs into your practice. Be a part of growing this profession. Share your story.