Article Date: 12/1/2012

Practice pulse

Optometric Practices in the Eye of Hurricane Sandy


Zack Tertel, assistant editor

■ Robert Snyder, O.D., of Snyder Eye Group in Long Beach Island (LBI), N.J., had always been lucky when it came to threats of storms and hurricanes.

“The weather reports were always wrong — 100 mile per hour winds would actually be 40 mile per hour winds,” Dr. Snyder says. “So you ‘cry wolf,’ and you think it [storm destruction] will never happen.”

Despite his fortunate past, Dr. Snyder bought 100 sand bags and covered the door to his Ship Bottom location with plastic sheeting to prepare for Hurricane Sandy in late October. Once he was finally able to return to LBI almost three weeks after the storm, the squishing of a wet carpet under his feet, the smell of a musty, moldy office, a nine-inch water line and the sight of a small fish that washed onto the floor brought the unfortunate realization that this time he would be forced to rebuild.

“ …They [the weather reports] were dead on this time,” he says.

In addition to the loss of income from his practice being closed until approximately February 2013, Dr. Snyder says he anticipates the costs of the damage to be more than $140,000, which includes flooring, furniture and equipment.

He says he learned that unforseen problems can arise. The sewers backed up in the office’s bathroom, which made for a messy cleanup. Also, files that were close to the ground became wet, so Dr. Snyder says he has sent them to an outside company in an effort to restore what is left.

He says he has attempted to operate out of his other office in Tuckerton, N.J., which is located about 20 miles from LBI, while the Ship Bottom location is renovated and rebuilt. But cramming two practices into one office has been a challenge for the staff, and not all patients have been able to travel to the other location, Dr. Snyder says.


Dr. Snyder’s gutted reception room post-Hurricane Sandy.

The hurricane also brought eight inches of water into Newport Vision Center in Jersey City, N.J., located near the Hudson River, which is close to downtown Manhattan, N.Y. The practice was only about four years old, and Bruce Meyer, O.D., F.C.O.V.D., says he never anticipated having to remodel his office so soon.

“We had to rip out all the carpet, remove the sheet rock from about four feet down and disinfect,” he says. “After environmental safety testing, we have resealed the walls but will be painting and re-carpeting.”

Dr. Meyer says his insurance does not cover the costs of the damage, including computers and a topographer. Also, the practice has been forced out of business for at least seven weeks, but will receive an insurance reimbursement for only two weeks of income, he says.

At press time, the American Optometry Association (AOA) and its Optometry’s Fund for Disaster Relief has received 15 applications for disaster relief grants from multiple states on the east coast of the United States and was working to process these as quickly as possible, according to Susan Thomas, associate director, AOA public relations.

The AOA has also received a $25,000 donation from Essilor of America, and a $2,500 donation from Omni Eye Services in Iselin, N.J., Ms. Thomas says.

Optometrists who were affected by Hurricane Sandy have received aid from many sources. Newport Vision Center received a $2,000 check from Optometry Cares, a charity sponsored by the AOA.

Dr. Meyer says he credits the work by VSP Vision Care following the storm. He says the company has provided representatives in New Jersey and New York with mobile examination vans, which are providing eyecare to hard-hit areas while employing doctors who lost their places of employment as well.

Dr. Snyder says he’s also received assistance from many, including FEMA, the Red Cross and The Salvation Army, as well as a grant from Vision Source to cover some of the damage.

The New Jersey Society of Optometric Physicians lists those who have opened their offices to displaced doctors ( Also, Gary Gerber, O.D., of The Power Practice, and an OM columnist, has offered his consulting services at no cost ( to those affected.

To prepare for storms and other disasters, The AOA’s website ( contains information on risk management and assessing office safety, including Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards for the health and safety of employees.

Dr. Snyder says he used to be among the crowd who thought it could never happen to them, and for 32 years he was lucky enough to avoid storm damage. Now, after seeing the potential of a storm of this magnitude, he cautions to know exactly how much you are covered by your insurance policy and to be as prepared as possible.

“Think of the worst case scenario, what could possibly happen that could wreck your entire office,” he says. “Think of that, and plan for that, because even though this was a once every 100-year storm, it could happen again soon.”

Those affected and looking for financial assistance can contact their state association or Optometry Cares ( or 800-365-2219).


Digital Tablets Improve Reading Speeds in Low Vision Patients

■ Use of the iPad2 (Apple, Inc.) and Kindle (Amazon, Inc.) increased low vision patients’ reading speed, reported Robert Wood Johnson Medical School researchers at the American Academy of Ophthalmology annual meeting held in Chicago last month.

“We often recommend the use of tablets to our low vision patients. People today want to read so many different things — books, newspapers, textbooks, magazines — it is inconvenient and impossible to find all of these in large print …” explains low vision specialist Bethany Fishbein, O.D., who owns the Low Vision Center at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, N.J., and Somerset Eye Care in Somerset, N.J. “Tablets provide variable print size on any reading material, enhanced contrast and even audio for people who are unable to read at all or who fatigue easily…”


Specifically, the study reveals low vision patients (e.g. those who have evidence of retinal disease) read a newspaper faster using the iPad2 vs. reading the printed version. In addition, when reading a book chapter on the iPad2 in 18 point-font, the low vision patients bettered their reading speed by 42 words-per-minute (WPM) vs. reading the printed chapter. And when reading the chapter on the Kindle in 18 point-font, the low vision patients bettered their reading speed by 12 WPM. Finally, it’s worth noting that those who had modest vision loss bettered their reading speed by 15 WPM overall on average when using the digital tablets.

“Many people with low vision have not even considered the idea that they could use something like this, and are surprised to see how much more effortless their reading becomes,” Dr. Fishbein explains. “We demonstrate a Kindle or iPad in the office, and patients are hesitant to give it back.”

The first part of the study was comprised of 62 patients, and the second was made up of 100 patients. More than half of the subjects had low vision. Further, the iPad2 was at maximum backlight, while the version of the Kindle used in the study did not have a backlight.

The study’s researchers acknowledge that the magnified font and backlit screens are likely responsible for the reading speed improvements, given their ability to improve contrast and, therefore, make the words easily distinguishable.


CooperVision Announces Website to Service U.S. Military Community

■ CooperVision, Inc. and the Armed Forces Optometric Society (AFOS) have partnered to create a website aimed at assisting U.S. military personnel and their families, says a CooperVision press release.

“As a former member of the U.S. Armed Services, I understand and appreciate the unique demands placed on our military personnel and their families,” John Weber, president, CooperVision said in the press release. “It is important we support our service members and their families…”

Among the services provided by the website, the military can purchase CooperVision’s contact lenses at an affordable rate with guaranteed delivery anywhere worldwide, the company says. Also, the website promises to educate the military about CooperVision’s products. Finally, the contact lens company will give patients the opportunity to donate $1 per carton of its contact lenses to the Wounded Warrior Project, which serves the military community and their families.

“The Armed Forces Optometric Society’s primary mission is to serve our nation’s military personnel and veterans,” AFOS Executive Director Anthony Borgognoni, O.D., F.A.A.O., said in the press release. “Since we have the highest vision standards in the world, we are dedicated to preserving vision and eradicating blindness. This opportunity with CooperVision serves our military community in pursuing these goals.”

Guy Sherman, CL Trailblazer 1927-2012

■ Guy Sherman, 85, died Oct. 30 in Lacombe, La. He was a trailblazer in the contact lens industry.

“He was a hard worker, a great salesman, and he came up with really innovative products,” says Glenn Young, O.D., of Mandeville, La. — a friend of Mr. Sherman’s for more than 50 years,

Mr. Sherman operated Sherman Pharmaceuticals, which created the rigid contact lens solutions Stay-Wet and De-Stat. Both solutions were among the first to provide a more wettable contact lens surface, while also removing contact lens surface proteins and lipids. Further, Sherman Pharmaceuticals decreased or eliminated contact lens case biofilm.

“He was really the first one to come up with a product that kept gas perms clean,” Dr. Young explains.

He is survived by his wife Sara, sons Guy G. Sherman and Scott A. Sherman and his three grandchildren Alexander, Matthew and Samantha.


Glaucoma Drug May Cure Baldness

■ Research reveals bimatoprost (Lumigan, Allergan), used to treat high IOP in open-angle glaucoma or ocular hypertension and hypotrichosis (Latisse, Allergan) may cure baldness, says the Nov. 14 issue of the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

“This highlights a new follicular signaling system and confirms that bimatoprost offers a novel, low-risk therapeutic approach for scalp alopecias,” the study’s researchers say.

Specifically, at pharmacologically selective concentrations, the drug increased hair growth in human scalp follicles growing in an organ culture and in mouse hair in vivo.

Incidentally, Allergan has thus far sponsored the following clinical trials on Bimatoprost and hair loss:

Safety and Pharmokinetics Study of a New Formulation of Bimatoprost in Patients with Alopecia (

Safety and Efficacy Study of Bimatoprost in the Treatment of Men With Androgenic Alopecia (

Safety and Efficacy Study of Bimatoprost in the Treatment of Women With Female Pattern Hair Loss (

Will Latisse soon be joined by another sibling? Only time will tell.


● When using a driving simulator, advanced glaucoma patients had twice as many car accidents vs. those with normal vision, says a study presented at last month’s American Academy of Ophthalmology meeting in Chicago.

● Patients who listen to binaural beat audio therapy, or hearing two separate tones at slightly different frequencies, mixed with soothing music and nature sounds before, during and post-cataract surgery experienced less anxiety and a slower heart rate, says a study presented at last month’s American Academy of Ophthalmology meeting in Chicago.

● Cataract surgery reduces IOP by 17% in untreated ocular hypertension patients, and the mean reduction in IOP lasts for more than three years, reported Steven L. Mansberger, M.D., M.P.H., at last month’s American Academy of Ophthalmology meeting in Chicago. Dr. Mansberger and colleagues arrived at this conclusion after assessing IOP reduction in the retrospective Ocular Hypertension Treatment Study. In patients who have high glaucoma risk, you’ll likely still need to perform surgery, he added.

● The Hydrus stent (Ivantis, Inc.), a minidrainage device no bigger than an eyelash, appears to successfully control IOP in mild to moderate open-angle glaucoma patients, potentially enabling some glaucoma patients to no longer use eye drops, say results of a clinical trial on the device, reported at the American Academy of Ophthalmology meeting held last month in Chicago. Also, IOP decreases were consistent among all patients and remained stable at the one year follow-up.

● U.S. veterans who have sustained traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder/depression also have convergence insufficiency, photophobia, decreased accommodation, double vision, floaters, and are more likely to develop dry eye disease, respectively, say two separate studies presented at last month’s American Academy of Ophthalmology Meeting held in Chicago.

● A survey of primary care doctors in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States reveals an increase in the use of health information technology, especially in the United States, though substantial gaps in communication with specialists and hospitals in the United States exist, says a study in the November online version of Health Affairs.

Optometric Management, Volume: 47 , Issue: December 2012, page(s): 10 - 13