Article Date: 12/1/2008

Oh, How Far We've Come
reflections THE HUMAN SIDE OF OPTOMETRY

Oh, How Far We've Come

Our method of delivering education has evolved beyond our wildest dreams.

ANDREW S. GURWOOD, O.D., F.A.A.O. DOYLESTOWN, PA.

Arguably the most significant change in eye care through the last 20 years has been in presentation media. My epiphany came during a recent lecture.

A senior moment

A colleague and I were explaining the benefits of topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications used on a superficial corneal trauma, when I couldn't remember a drugs' generic name. So, I asked a laptop user in the lecture audience whether he had a wireless signal.

A glimpse of the not-so-distant past.

His reply: "Sure. In fact I'm online looking at one of your papers on this subject."

He happily supplied the generic name of the drug within 20 seconds.

Later, an audience member asked whether my colleague or I had a slide of eschar.

My reply: "I have five." My associate clicked the mouse six times, revealing the slides.

Back in my day …

Most instructors used the blackboard or static-electricity-prone transparencies, containing free-hand felt-tip marker diagrams and graphs to give lectures. To prevent each sheet from sticking together, they'd place a piece of tissue paper in between them.

Producing professional quality slides required great planning, money and a large buffer for turnaround, as practitioners had to hire companies to do it.

Further, because the bulky anterior segment or fundus camera contained 24 or 36 exposure film rolls, O.D.s wouldn't know whether they got the intended clinical shots of pathology until they got the developed film roll. Developed film often revealed a blinking patient or blurriness, among other mistakes.

If you didn't have access to an expensive anterior segment or fundus camera, you had to use textbook photos. This required using an opaque projector, having stacks of books on hand during the lecture or creating slides of the photos using a copystand. Photo cropping required cropping tape … fixed by hand.

A computer with an 80086 processor, 200MB of hard disk storage and 2MB of RAM cost $3,000 and could barely run word-processing programs. The primitive slide-making programs of the early 1990s were 35mm Express and Harvard Graphics.

Now, computers display presentations; provide access to the Internet for data, photo and video acquisition; and contain friendly, specialized programs to create and edit slides, among other visuals, on the spot.

Also, we have the ability to instantly see each photo we shoot and can immediately transfer selected photos or videos from the digital camera directly to the computer.

Gone are the bulky slide projectors, carousels, plastic sleeves and binders for 35mm slides. Now, we can keep all the necessary components of our lectures (photos, videos, etc.) on a storage device no bigger than the size of a thumb (thumb-drive).

Obviously, these are just snippets of the changes that have occurred. I would love to go on about "the good ’ol days," but space is limited. Anyway, if you're an old-timer like me, take some time to reminisce and tell a story. If you're a recent graduate, now you know that we had to "walk a mile in the snow with no shoes uphill both ways!" Some day you'll tell a similar story and make a similar claim. OM


DO YOU HAVE A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE? DISCUSS YOUR STORY WITH JENNIFER KIRBY, SENIOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR OF OPTOMETRIC MANAGEMENT, AT (215) 628-6595, OR JEN.KIRBY@WOLTERSKLUWER.COM. OM OFFERS AN HONORARIUM FOR PUBLISHED SUBMISSIONS.

Optometric Management, Issue: December 2008