West Virginia doctor of optometry named Sullins Award winner
Each day, Martin Carpenter, O.D., sets out to his Fairmont, West Virginia, office with one goal in mind: helping improve his patients' quality of life.
"I have always enjoyed helping people," Dr. Carpenter says. "It's what gets me into the office every day."
That motivation carries over especially into the eye health and vision care that Dr. Carpenter provides his community's littlest patients. An InfantSEE® provider since 2007, Dr. Carpenter has provided over 300 infant assessments, including a stint touring with the InfantSEE mobile bus, all the while emphasizing the important role visual development plays in overall child development.
A champion of pediatric vision, Dr. Carpenter works diligently to educate not only local primary care providers but also fellow colleagues at West Virginia Association of Optometric Physicians (WVAOP) meetings on the importance of early detection of children's vision problems. It's this commitment that distinguished Dr. Carpenter as the 2019 Dr. W. David Sullins Jr. InfantSEE Award winner.
Awarded at Optometry's Meeting® in St. Louis, June 19-23, the Sullins Award annually recognizes a doctor of optometry who makes a significant contribution to optometry or to their communities through the InfantSEE program. A public health program of Optometry Cares®—The AOA Foundation, InfantSEE works to ensure eye and vision care become an integral part of infant wellness care to improve a child's quality of life. InfantSEE and its nearly 4,000 volunteer doctors of optometry have provided no-cost, comprehensive eye and vision assessments to more than 145,000 infants since the program's inception, changing countless lives in the process.
In this Q&A, Dr. Carpenter discusses what motivates him to continue providing pediatric eye care, and why InfantSEE has been a boon for his practice and community.
Since graduation, you've practiced full-scope optometry with an emphasis on infant and children's eye care. Why did you decide to dedicate so much of your focus to pediatric care?
I always enjoyed my clinic days at Southern College of Optometry, especially the time spent in the pediatric clinic. It was nice to see children's faces light up when I was able to help them. When I began practicing optometry, I sought a practice that worked closely with its community and provided attentive service to those in need of treatment.
The practice that I joined was well established and treated patients of all ages with a variety of needs. However, I noticed that we saw less infants and children, and that not many doctors in the community even offered a pediatric service. Our practice attended SECO and signed up for the InfantSEE program as a way help increase awareness of the importance of early eye examinations. Fortunately, one of the local pediatricians was a patient at our practice, as were his family members and work staff. I met with the pediatrician and his staff to explain what the InfantSEE program involved.
With the support of our practice's senior doctor, I was able to market both the practice and myself as one of the area's options for pediatric optometry. I quickly began receiving direct referrals from other practices and patients, and my patient base grew vastly. I was able to explain to more patients the importance of administering eye examinations to their children and grandchildren. I have been able to raise awareness within the community that correcting problems with the visual system early in life can improve cognitive, motor and social development.
How do you work with other providers in your community to emphasize the role good vision plays in overall child development?
I work with other providers by sending them copies of my exams, and by being available to field their questions. I have close working relationships with local pediatricians, general practitioners, vision therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech therapists. I always provide them with my phone number so that they can call to ask questions. I also allow them to accompany their clients to the office. I value the ability to listen and to provide feedback. If you effectively communicate your concerns and listen to the concerns of your patient, then you gain a better understanding of the patient's needs.
You've been an InfantSEE provider since 2007. What value do you see in the program and what would you say to encourage other doctors of optometry to participate?
Like many doctors of optometry throughout my career, I have encountered many children and adults who would have a much higher quality of life, had they only found treatment for their vision problems at a younger age. The rewards of seeing young patients, and knowing that you are helping them overcome the difficulties that arise from poor vision, should motivate us all to treat infants and children. The benefit of treating young patients is also felt by the practice itself, as family members who accompany their children and grandchildren could potentially become patients themselves.
Access AOA's pediatric resources
Learn more about becoming an InfantSEE provider. Find children's eye health and vision care resources in the Pediatrics & Binocular Vision Toolkit, and access the provider-to-provider letter for outreach to local pediatricians.
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