Optometry through Bubba’s eyes

March 22, 2023
What Glen “Bubba” Steele, O.D., has seen in his long career—and what he hopes to see in optometry’s future.
Headshot of Glen “Bubba” Steele, O.D.

Excerpted from page 56 of the January/February 2023 edition of AOA Focus

Across 53 years of service at Southern College of Optometry (SCO), Glen Steele, O.D., has not only seen a lot, but also has contributed a lot to the profession of optometry.

The doctor affectionately known as “Bubba” has taught more than 6,000 optometry students and has become a lifelong champion for pediatric vision and vision therapy. Although he announced his retirement in 2022, Dr. Steele still enthusiastically lectures and actively serves optometry.

Here are five takeaways from his career and the road ahead for optometry.

I have seen…

  1. Change in practice scope. When I graduated, neither I nor most of my instructors could place an anesthetic drop in a patient’s eye prior to doing Schiotz Tonometry. However, one instructor could instill a drop because he was a registered nurse. Now we have states not only providing laser procedures but also with autonomy in determining the scope of optometric practice. This is a huge change.
  2. Optometry taking on the role of providing care for infants. When I graduated, it was very rare even for a developmental optometrist to take responsibility for the care of babies. InfantSEE® changed that mindset and provided many patients the opportunity and access for care and critical intervention. It provided relief to the parents of babies who had no problems.
  3. Growth in the quality and dedication of entering students. They are smart, they are prepared and they are eager. There is so much more to grasp about providing optometric care, and students are ready and willing to accept this role.

I would like to see…

  1. Greater emphasis placed on care/management of all children. Children are reaching school or even to driver license stages of life and have never had a comprehensive examination. InfantSEE is a good start, but there are children falling through the cracks and those numbers are increasing every year. Earlier identification and intervention would allow children to achieve with less effort and less feeling of failure.
  2. More doctors of optometry involved in local and national organizations that provide health care. There are many places where we should be at the table helping in decision-making, but it requires individuals to step up. We have a rich history of improving access to optometric care, but we too often miss the value of optometric services in broader health connections. This is especially true in the care and management of children, where intervention can be most valuable throughout life.

Photography by Kevin Garrett

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