Article Date: 7/1/2013

O.D. Scene

O.D. Scene



Jack Schaeffer, O.D.

This month, I continue with part two of our two-part series on the leaders of the schools of optometry by speaking with Barry Weisman, O.D., Ph.D., a professor of optometry at the Southern California College of Optometry, and Jennifer (“Jenny”) Smythe, O.D., M.S., Pacific University College of Optometry dean.

Dr. Weisman is a former professor of ophthalmology and director of the Contact Lens Service at the Jules Stein Eye institute, which is part of the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. His bailiwick is specialty contact lenses and corneal infection.

Dr. Smythe was a student and professor at the College of Optometry before becoming dean. She says the school has fostered her passion for discovery, knowledge and service within the profession.

Our key industry leader is Harvard “Harv” Sylvan, O.D., director of professional Relations at CooperVision, Inc. Harv is a fixture at all the major optometry meetings and has developed real friendships with most of the optometrists in our unique family. Prior to joining CooperVision, he was a contact lens specialist at a private practice in Connecticut.

Summer is just not summer without a vacation. So, Travel, Food & Wine columnist Kirk Smick, O.D., F.A.A.O., recommends you check out Quito, Ecuador and the Galapagos islands along with some special bottles of wine. Enjoy!

Key Opinion Leaders Weigh in…

Barry Weisman, O.D., Ph.D., a professor of optometry at the Southern California College of Optometry.

Q: Where do you practice, and please describe your practice.

B.W.: I retired from direct patient care almost a year ago, after 40 years of clinical practice: the past 33 years as Contact Lens Chief of Service and Professor of Ophthalmology at the Jules Stein Eye Institute and Dept of Ophthalmology, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in Los Angeles, Calif. While at UCLA, I spent approximately 70% of my time in direct patient care. (Plus, as my chairman told me, 50% teaching, 50% doing research and 50% in administration.)

I now only see patients half a day per week as a professor of optometry at the Southern California College of Optometry. At UCLA, and now at SCCO, most of the patients I see are “specialty” contact lens cases, many with keratoconus…

Q: Can you talk a little about your past experience with the Jules Stein Eye Institute?

B.W.: I feel fortunate to have had a very full and satisfying career at the JSEI. I came to UCLA in 1979 with a fresh-minted Ph.D. from the UC Berkeley School of Optometry (I received my O.D. in 1972) and was able to have a vigorous clinical career, with an almost full-time patient load of complex contact lens patients and active research and teaching careers as well. Not only were my patient care activities gratifying in many ways, but I also was blessed with good friendships and collegial relationships with my colleagues, both ophthalmologists and optometrists, in the community as well as within the faculty.

Q: What are the advantages and challenges of practicing and teaching in optometry?

B.W.: Having been an ophthalmology faculty member for several decades, I have aspired to be involved in optometric education for much of that time. Therefore, I am having a great time teaching now in my own profession. Optometry students today are very bright and must be, given they have so much knowledge to absorb. I think this is the main challenge.

Q: What is the latest research in which you are involved?

B.W.: I continue to try to understand oxygen delivery to the cornea under the bulk of a contact lens and to learn how to better diagnose, treat and avoid the various complications of contact lens wear.

Q: What changes have you seen in anterior segment treatment modalities and opportunities in optometry?

B.W.: The major diseases of the anterior segment include: dry eye of various forms, ocular allergy, hypersensitivity and infection. All are undergoing revolutions as well as evolutions in basic science, diagnosis and clinical management. I am pleased to see our profession deeply committed in most of these efforts, both in basic research and in clinical care.

Q: According to ASCO, almost 65% of the student body at optometry schools is female. Why do you think women now make up most of the student body, and what is your advice for this powerful demographic postgraduation?

B.W.: … We need to become members, and remain members, of our professional associations for life … For optometry students today, I know that their educations cost on the order of $200,000. But I hope they could understand the following analogy: If they each bought a car for this amount, would they drive it on the freeway without insurance? When all is said and done, the purpose of our professional associations is more than to provide services that support private practice, it is to protect and enhance our licenses, to provide the insurance for the license to practice optometry for which each of them paid dearly…


An Israel beach at sunset, taken by Dr. Weisman.

Q: What have you seen change through the last five years in the optometric profession?

B.W.: The trends that have been moving our profession for the past several decades have only intensified. Changes in the gender of our profession, in the mode of practice — from solo to groups to employed O.D.s, from providing vision care to providing medical eye care, additional optometry schools, etc. All continue at an increasing pace…

Q: What has being a “KOL” and the relationships with other colleagues meant to you?

B.W.: I believe our profession is notable not only for our accomplishments but also for the great people our field seems to attract. I certainly have many dear friends in our profession whom I believe represent the best, not of our profession, but of humanity. People who come instantly to mind are the Fellows I have trained, you [Jack Schaeffer, O.D.], Ed Bennett, O.D., M.S.E.D., many of my faculty colleagues at both UCLA and SCCO, and in the Academy. But there are many others as well.

Q: What do you do for fun?

B.W.: I enjoy exploring (travel), going on dog walks, listening to folk music, reading old science fiction (Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, etc.) and digital photography. My wife, Linda, and I have two grown children, both hard-working professionals, one a lawyer and the other a middle-school science teacher, plus two dogs. We enjoy many family get-togethers, but I most enjoy just an easy family dinner at home.

Q: If you could have dinner with anyone, living or deceased, who would it be and why?

B.W.: I recently tracked down my great grandfather’s name (Moses Aberbach) and locale. He was a merchant in the town of Czernowitz, then (1898) in the eastern Austro-Hungarian empire but now in the western Ukraine. I would very much enjoy speaking with him and learning more about his family and ancestors. Perhaps there is another O.D. who will read this and recognize a family connection?

Q: What kind of music do you have on your iPod or iPad?

B.W.: Mostly old folk music: early Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Sandy Denny, Phil Ochs, etc.

Q: What is the last book you read?

B.W.: I have recently read several biographies of science fiction authors, including Robert A. Heinlein, Eric Frank Russell, and L.Sprague de Camp, which I found fascinating on many levels.


Dr. Weisman at the Strauss Health Center in Israel.

Q: What is your prediction for the future of the profession?

B.W.: I would like to believe that optometry and ophthalmology will work together, rather than spending time bickering…

Jenny Smythe, O.D., M.S., Dean, Pacific University College of Optometry

Q: What is a distinguishing characteristic of your institution?

J.S.: Thanks to the dedication of my colleagues in the state, we have a very broad scope of practice bill in Oregon. That allows us to provide an excellent clinical education for our students. In every course, discipline and specialty area, we highlight the fundamental goal of our role in the overall health and welfare of every patient: Our responsibility is to make sure that an individual’s eyes and vision enhance their ability to behave, function, succeed and enjoy life. We provide a very full-scope curriculum in a nurturing academic environment as part of a larger diverse university in the beautiful northwest.

Q: What major research and/or capital project is shaping the future of optometry and your institution?

J.S.: We are building a new facility that is co-located with the other health professions at Pacific University in Hillsboro, Ore. We will move our entire academic and research program to a third building in an area of the city zoned as the only “Health and Education District” in the state. This site is next to a regional hospital and a federally funded community health center, along with our programs in OT, PT, PA, Pharmacy, Professional Psychology, Dental Hygiene, Audiology and Healthcare Administration. Our plan is to develop a full-scope interprofessional clinic that will be a required rotation for all healthcare students at Pacific.


Dr. Smythe and her 16 year-old daughter Katri.

Q: What differences do you see in the optometry applicants today?

J.S.: They enter with far more technology savvy than I did, and they expect that technology will be utilized to its maximum potential in the classroom as well as in our laboratories and clinics. They communicate quicker with each other, because social media and texting is now the way of life. I find them [applicants] more adaptable to change and less intimidated by new experiences, challenges and choices. I would even be bold enough to say that they embrace change readily.

Q: What challenges are facing the new graduates today?

J.S.: Graduating with $150,000 to $200,000 [in debt] is daunting. That level of debt puts a lot of pressure on the new graduates to work in multiple practices and multiple modes to survive financially.

Q: According to ASCO, almost 65% of the student body in optometry school is female. Why do you think women now make up most of the student body, and what is your advice for this powerful demographic postgraduation?

J.S.: …I know that many believe it is a great profession for women because we have the ability to immediately make a positive impact on an individual’s life through eye and vision care. At the same time, it is a career that can provide flexibility and a variety of options for practice… My best advice: never limit your self and “why not” should be a way of life… I also believe in the power of mentorship, so if the [career] path isn’t immediately visible, rely on a woman mentor.

Q: Where have you seen change through the last five years in the field of optometry?

J.S.: The embracement and advancement of technology is astounding. Our students enter the profession expecting an OCT and corneal topographer to be available wherever they choose to practice.


Dr. Smythe with friend and mentor Stan Yamane, O.D.

Q: What do you like to do for fun?

J.S.: … My son is pre-optometry at Pacific, and it is my great honor to cook for him whenever he comes home on a random Sunday and talk about optometry. My daughters and I love to watch movies and eat sushi. Also, I absolutely love yardwork. Pulling weeds and trimming shrubs is awesome — you instantly see the results.

Q: If you could have dinner with anyone, living or deceased, who would it be and why?

J.S.: My grandmothers. They were both an inspiration to me. I wish I could tell them that. And I’d like to cook for them.

Q: What kind of music do you have on your iPod or iPad?

J.S.: I am hooked on The Voice, so lately there has been a lot of Shakira on my iPad.

Q: What is the last book you read?

J.S.: I like historical fiction. I learn something and at the same time escape for a while. Right now I am in the middle of The Clifton Chronicles series by Jeffery Archer.

Q: What is your prediction for the future of the optometric profession?

J.S.: …I strongly believe we are poised to be integral members of interprofessional collaborative practice. Our students will be graduating with the expectation that they will be working with other healthcare providers as a team …

images Travel, Food&Wine

Kirk L. Smick, O.D., F.A.A.O., Morrow, Ga.

Visiting Ecuador and The Galapagos Islands

Standing on the equator and becoming a naturalist

My three friends and their wives, who had been planning the journey with me for the past 20 months, billed it as the “trip of a lifetime.” It definitely lived up to this billing.

Getting there

Several U.S. airlines have nonstop flights to Quito, the capital of Ecuador. We arrived in the late afternoon and spent the night at the JW Marriott Hotel Quito.

The next day, we had a full day of sightseeing and spent the afternoon on the Equator (Ecuador’s namesake). The Equator exhibition and monument are definitely a must see.

The next morning, we transferred by bus back to the new Aeropuerto Mariscal Sucre for our two-hour plane ride to the Galapagos Island of Baltra, which is the starting point for most all Island tours. From there, we boarded the Celebrity Xpedition. This is a small ship that requires reservations at least a year and-a-half ahead of time. The reason: The Ecuadorian Nacional Park Service prohibits more than 100 guests occupying any vessel in their waters. We chose the Celebrity Xpedition because it resembles a typical cruise ship, and it has an impeccable reputation for tourism.

The Galapagos Islands

The Islands are actually an archipelago some 600 miles off the West coast of Ecuador. Each day, for the next week, we visited two different ports of call, and each morning and afternoon, we had a choice of two different tours. We journeyed to the islands via Zodiak passenger boats and were accompanied by a well-educated naturalist. We went snorkeling with the local fishes, including eels, rays and sharks, remained in the Zodiak to explore the coastline and observed the local birds (including blue-footed boobies, pelicans, Darwin finches, flightless cormorants and colorful frigates) and the sea lions and iguanas. Further, we hiked the Islands’ trials.

The real attraction of the Galapagos Islands is that they lack predators, so the animals live with no fear and are, therefore, very approachable. This enabled us to take as many close-up photos of the birds, iguanas and land tortoises as we wanted.

SUMMER WINE As the summer heats up and you find yourself outside grilling more, try a bottle of Gruner Veltliner from Austria’s Wachau Valley. One of my favorites is Weingut Fred Loimer Lois ($14). Both are the ultimate green salad or grilled vegetable goto chilled white wines.


Key Industry Leader

Harvard Sylvan, O.D., Director, Professional Relations, CooperVision, Inc.

Q: Any comments about your company?

A: We do our best to be true partners with, and develop creative programs for, our customers while being a company with which it is easy to do business… . We are dedicated to providing doctors with a wide range of products and the necessary information about our designs and materials that will allow them to make informed decisions. In addition, we provide supporting patient communication and social media efforts.

Q: How is the Internet affecting the contact lens market?

A:While the online sales of contact lenses has captured a definite share of the market, they seem to have leveled off. However, the Internet also offers opportunities for O.D.s to market their practices and offer competitive and convenient online ordering …

Q: What is your prediction for the future of the profession, in terms of market share?

A: Optometry will continue to expand its scope of practice and in doing so will increase its overall share of the eyecare market. Optometry is well positioned to have a significant role in providing eye care in the future. Several factors suggest that the contact lens market will continue to expand: newer materials and designs that offer improved comfort and vision; an increase in patients being fit with 1 day lenses; population growth; the development of lenses that will be utilized for myopia control, drug delivery and biometric assessment (measurement of IOP, glucose levels, etc.).

Q: What do you like to do for fun?

A: I’ve been known to play golf once in a while. I play poker on Friday nights, and I have learned that there is no hand that I cannot lose. I like almost any sport in which a ball is involved, as well as fly fishing, chess, Sudoku, woodworking, gardening and the crossword in Friday’s The Wall Street Journal. In addition, I don’t mind singing, but I am not allowed to do so in any developed nation.


Success! Dr. Sylvan fly fishing in Michigan with the help of guide Steve Lutz.

Optometric Management, Volume: 48 , Issue: July 2013, page(s): 52 55