Article Date: 9/1/2010


Remembering an O.D. Who Became the Authority on Eye Care in Afghanistan


■ Optometrist Tom Little of Delmar, N.Y., and nine other mission workers (five of whom were fellow Americans), were gunned down by the Taliban in early August as the group was returning to Kabul, Afghanistan after a two-week stint of providing eye care to impoverished villagers in Nuristan province, a remote area in the northeastern area of the country. The workers were part of International Assistance Mission (IAM), an international, non-profit Christian organization that serves Afghanistan.

A fervor for altruism

Dr. Little, the son of an ophthalmologist, studied optics at Tufts University and worked as an optician, according to a 2007 article on the O.D., which ran in the New England College of Optometry's alumni magazine Optometry. He knew basic testing techniques and how to fit spectacles — something that would come in handy when he moved with his wife, Libby and then two young daughters to Afghanistan in the 1970s to work with an international Christian aid agency.

Dr. and Mrs. Little went to Afghanistan "to serve for perhaps a couple of years, with no idea that such service would dominate the rest of their lives," wrote family friend Henry Heintz, in the Albany, N.Y. newspaper, the Times Union.

"No matter what regime was in power, Tom loved the Afghan people," wrote Mr. Heintz, a pastor at the Brunswick Church in Troy, N.Y. "… Afghanistan kept allowing Tom to return because that nation knew he loved the people and served their practical needs."

Back to school

Initially, Dr. Little's job with the group was to help his fellow transplants adapt to the country's rough conditions. But, before long, he began working at the National Organization for Ophthalmic Rehabilitation (NOOR) Eye Hospital in Kabul, where he maintained employment for roughly 30 years. He returned to the United States in 2006 to obtain an official optometric degree from the New England College of Optometry.

Dr. Little spent roughly 30 years delivering eye care in Afghanistan. PHOTO COURTESY: IAM

"Believe it or not, I'm probably still considered the authority on eye care in Afghanistan," Dr. Little told the alumni magazine.

He enrolled in the College's Advanced Standing International Program, which affords an optometric degree in two years to foreign-educated eye professionals or to those who work in eye care overseas, like Dr. Little. He wanted the degree to train others in Afghanistan and establish an infrastructure of clinics and eye doctors. He "is irreplaceable," Dirk R. Frans, IAM's executive director told Christian Today.

According to The New York Times, Dr. Little and his wife Libby raised three daughters in Afghanistan during the Russian occupation of the country and subsequent civil war. In fact, the family hid in their basement while the Taliban ruled the country, and he continued to provide eye care to the Afghan people even after a rocket demolished one of the NOOR Hospitals at which he worked.


In the article "Optimizing Your Glaucoma Practice" (OM August), the CPT code for fundus photography was listed incorrectly. The correct code is CPT code 92250.
In the article "Simplify IOP Testing" (OM August), the price of the NT-510 Non-Contact Tonometer was listed incorrectly. For correct pricing, please contact Marco at (800) 874-5274.

Beer Goggles Are Real, Research Reveals


■ Pablo Picasso once said, "Doesn't everyone look at himself in his own particular way? Deformations simply do not exist." The soused would agree.

The reason: Acute alcohol consumption appears to reduce one's ability to detect asymmetry in faces and, thus, decreases one's preference for symmetrical faces vs. asymmetrical faces, says a study in June's Alcohol, an international journal devoted solely to biomedical research on alcohol and alcoholism.

Study participants were shown 20 images of a pair of faces and then 20 images of a single face, one at a time. They were asked to state which face of each of the pairs was attractive and then whether the single face was symmetrical. Those participants who were sober had a greater preference for symmetrical faces than inebriated participants and were better at identifying whether a face was symmetrical or otherwise. Further, male subjects made fewer mistakes than female subjects in identifying asymmetry.

Researchers collected data from 64 self-selecting students at bars near Roehampton University in London. Students were identified as either sober or drunk via a breathalyzer test.

Due to the study's results, the researchers conclude that the decreased ability of the inebriated to perceive asymmetry may be an important mechanism underlying the high ratings of facial attractiveness they give for members of the opposite sex and, therefore, their increased frequency of mate choice during intoxication.

Vision and intoxication

In explaining the effects of intoxication on vision, optometrist Paul Karpecki, who practices in Lexington, KY and is also a first level sommelier, says that alcohol consumption causes central nervous system (CNS) depression, which can slow down accommodation "and other focusing mechanisms."

"Further consumption eventually affects the cerebrum, resulting in enough of an effect on the muscles of the eye that diplopia can even occur," he says. "Other theories suggest that since cell membranes are permeable to alcohol, it can affect any membrane from blood vessels to ocular structures. But I believe the primary effect is on the CNS."

International Vision Expo West Adds Tech Upgrades


International Vision Expo West, which will take place at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas from October 7th to the 9th, offers both attendees and exhibitors technological advances to enhance their show experience.
These advances include:

Show website upgrade. International Vision Expo West has redesigned its website into five distinct "Areas of Interest." These include business solutions, continuing education, fashion trends, lens technology and medical eye care. Each area provides you with related information regarding conference sessions, exhibitors with products and services, exhibitor show specials and discounts and "What's New."

My show planner. This is an online tool that enables you to customize an agenda with exhibitors of your choice, e-mail exhibitors directly, load appointments in your Outlook Express and employ the "My Events" calendar, so you can plan the remainder of each day. All you have to do is visit, and create an account with the online tool.

Vision mobile. This technology enables you to experience Vision Expo West via your cell phone. Specifically, it allows you to plan your show, make appointments with exhibitors, explore exhibitor show specials and navigate the show floor via interactive maps. (Visit for further information.)

E-Technology courses and panel. The show's conference program now includes new courses that address understanding and utilizing new technology in your practice. In addition, a panel discussion will be held on whether optometrists should consider selling eyewear online.

Research Notes

● Despite the possibility of repeat intraocular pressure fluctuations, post-intravitreal injections and known neurotrophic properties of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in age-related macular degeneration patients' eyes, chronic intravitreal anti-VEGF drugs don't appear to negatively affect retinal nerve fiber layer thickness, says July's American Journal of Ophthalmology.
High body mass index (BMI) appears to be significantly associated with a decreased risk for normal tension glaucoma (NTG) in women, says August's Ophthalmology. Most subjects were European-Caucasian, so these findings may be limited to similar patient populations.
Contact lens wear appears to improve vision-related quality of life in children compared with glasses, particularly with regard to appearance and athletics, says the latest data from the Adolescent and Child Health Initiative to Encourage Vision Empowerment (ACHIEVE) Study, published in August's Optometry & Vision Science. The biggest improvements appeared in children older than age 10.
Topical azithromycin therapy appears to relieve the signs and symptoms of meibomian gland dysfunction and restore the meibomian gland's lipid properties toward normal. Also, it appears to provide significant improvement in blepharitis signs (plugging, eyelid margin redness, swollen/heavy eyelids, palpebral conjunctival redness and discharge) and symptoms (eyelid itching, foreign body sensation, etc.) post four weeks of treatment compared with baseline and persists four weeks later, say two studies, respectively, in July and August's Cornea.

Eye Camera Prototype Revealed


A workable, clear prosthetic eye that contains a mini wireless webcam made its debut at the Other Film Festival — an event by, with and about people who have disabilities — in Melbourne, Australia, at the end of August. The eye, named Eyeborg (yes, Star Trek-inspired) transmits images analogous to "early, slightly blurry, cameraphone images," with a battery life of two hours, according to the Toronto Star.

Rob Spence, a 38-year-old filmmaker, who as a boy lost vision in his right eye due to the backfiring of a gun and later had the eye removed, leads the team of inventors. His ultimate goal: To wear a version of the device that resembles the human eye, so he can use it to create a documentary on the implications of surveillance cameras.

"Sometimes I run a little experiment. I tell people around me, ‘Did you know there are 11,000 new video cameras being installed in our country every day?’ Then I will exaggerate and say there are 50,000 new video cameras going in everyday," Spence told Wired magazine. "Most of the times I get the same answer: ‘That's interesting. Now what's for lunch?’ or ‘The Practice pulse weather is nice today.’ I wonder what those people will say when they are staring back into the video camera in my eye?"

To follow Eyeborg's progress, visit

"Fuzzy Fiber," a carbon material developed at the University of Dayton Research Institute, shown above, will be used to create biocompatible, non-clogging drainage tubes to relieve excess fluid and intraocular pressure in the eyes of glaucoma patients. Specifically, the tubes will be comprised of a scaffold of carbon covered with surfacetreated carbon nanotubes, preventing the formation and build-up of fibroblasts, which can inhibit the draining process.


◻ It's official: Novartis has completed the purchase of approximately 156 million shares of Alcon, valued at $28.3 billion, from Nestlé. Novartis is now Alcon's majority shareholder and controls approximately 77% of Alcon's outstanding shares.
Professional Eye Care Associates hosted its third annual meeting earlier this summer where Mark Michael, O.D. delivered a keynote presentation on the "medical model" of optometry. The business-focused network of independent eye care professionals located throughout the Pacific Northwest continues year-to-year double-digit growth. For more information, e-mail Karen Phillips at
Kowa Optimed appointed Ronald Kaiser as the company's vice president of Medical Sales. Mr. Kaiser has over 36 years experience in the medical/ophthalmic field. Most recently he served as national sales and marketing manager at Canon U.S.A.
Optos provided its P200 ultra-widefield digital retinal imaging system to screen athletes at the recent 2010 Special Olympics USA National Games, which took place in Lincoln, Neb. Of the more than 400 athletes screened, 178 had suspect eye conditions detected by the imaging system.
◻ Recently, 1∙Day Acuvue TrueEye brand contact lenses received the Seal of Acceptance for Ultraviolet Absorbing Contact Lenses from the American Optometric Association's (AOA) Commission on Ophthalmic Standards.
Alden Optical has announced its Phoenix Program, developed to provide practitioners with custom-manufactured contact lenses (CLs) for discontinued brands of soft spherical CLs. For more information, visit
The American Board of Clinical Optometry named Leonid Skorin, Jr., O.D., D.O., and, public member, Mary Kate Scott, M.B.A. to its board of directors. Visit for more information.
◻ Contact lens manufacturer Menicon has appointed Mark Allen as vice president of manufacturing for Lagado Corporation, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Menicon America.
◻ Winners of the Optical Laboratories of America 2010 Award of Excellence will be announced during the annual OLA meeting on October 8 in Las Vegas.
Topcon announced an agreement to purchase the glaucoma- and retina-related assets of Optimedica. The assets will be managed by the newly established Topcon Medical Laser Systems, a division of Topcon America.
ABB Concise now distributes PolyVue's high definition multifocal progressive and high definition aspheric contact lenses.
Dr. Eli Peli, senior scientist and vision rehabilitation researcher at Schepens Eye Research Institute, has won the 2010 Edwin H. Land Medal, presented to an individual who best exemplifies the creative spirit of Dr. Land. Currently, Dr. Peli is developing a telescopic device embedded in a spectacle lens to help people with central vision loss continue to drive.
Eyefinity/OfficeMate announced a partnership with Optical Distributor Group (ODG), to provide Eyefinity users access to ODG's full catalog of soft contact lenses for ordering through eBuy, Eyefinity/OfficeMate's integrated online ordering engine. For information, visit
◻ Do you plan to develop online spectacle sales capabilities on your practice's website? Let us know by taking the Optometric Management Quick Poll, which can be found by logging onto

Optometric Management, Issue: September 2010