Cultivating a New Generation of Compassionate Low Vision Optometrists

Although more than 7 million people in the U.S. have low vision, it is estimated that there are only 1,000 low vision specialists in the country. With the need for low vision services projected to dramatically increase over the next 20 years, The Chicago Lighthouse Low Vision Clinic has been offering training opportunities for optometry students and residents so that they can understand the importance of specialized, holistic and compassionate low-vision care.

This year, Andjela Bursac, an extern, and Dr. Steven Sargent, a resident, have been learning how to conduct comprehensive low vision exams in our clinic. In contrast to typical eye exams, these exams explore the patient’s day-to-day life, assessing their holistic needs, which may require additional support such as assistive technology or occupational therapy. These interactions help these budding optometrists see their patients in different ways.

Dr. Steven Sargent tests a patient’s 3D perception.Dr. Steven Sargent tests a patient’s 3D perception.

“I’ve learned how to be more compassionate,” says Dr. Sargent. “I love that I get to spend more time with each patient, to get to know them on a personal level and figure out how we can help them with our services. You’re not just delivering a diagnosis; you’re giving them ways to continue living their life and providing hope and independence.”

Andjela Bursac examines a patient.Andjela Bursac examines a patient.

“This externship has made me a better person and a better future optometrist,” says Andjela. “I learned to see a patient as an entire person instead of a pair of eyes.”

Through these initiatives, our hope is these doctors will take this extra level of knowledge and compassion into their practices where they can make meaningful differences in their patients’ lives.


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