Article Date: 4/1/2006

reflections: THE HUMAN SIDE OF OPTOMETRY
Sailing to Zihuatanejo
This voyage changed my life — and, I hope, the lives of others in search of better vision.
BY JEROME LEGERTON, O.D., M.S., M.B.A., F.A.A.O.

I've been drawn to sailing and vision as early as my junior high years. I started building my first sailboat in high school and enjoyed crewing in races on a Flying Dutchman. I also entered a comparative anatomy project in a Science Fair that compared the geometry of the crystalline lens in fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, rodents and primates. I knew I wanted to be a Doctor of Optometry and I knew I wanted to sail.

Inspiration came from my vision problems. I had what was considered a significant against-the-rule astigmatism, and enjoyed my experience of its treatment by our family optometrist. I was diagnosed with keratoconus more than a decade after I received my Doctor of Optometry degree.

Committing to a dream

I committed to the challenge of producing a contact lens that would correct my irregular astigmatism and that of others like me while on a six-month sail from San Diego to Zihuatanejo and back in 1997. My experience in practice and as an industry consultant and inventor put me in a unique position to develop such a product. This experience was complimented by three years in ophthalmic research and development and the design and execution of clinical trials.

The moment that I knew I wanted to develop a high-Dk hybrid lens for a diversity of corneal geometries came when I was standing watch on the boat at dawn. We were sailing in 25 to 35 knots of wind with an 8-foot trailing sea on my 46-foot ketch, "Mason de Sante." I'd had little sleep and had to re-apply my low-Dk hybrid lenses that I'd worn too long the day before. My eyes hurt and I knew I wasn't seeing all there was to see — an unsafe situation for any sailor.

Just like putting a crew together for a sail, I formed a team with diverse contact lens experience to develop the product. Members stood their watches and applied their expertise to keep us on course. Our passion for the profession and respect for patients helped us ride out the stormy seas of product development and business start-up.

In fact, respect for patients also factored in to my decision to create this new lens. I had a conversation with one of my keratoconus patients long before my sailing adventure. As I explained to him the limitations of spectacle lenses, GP and hydrogel lenses, I shared my frustration with my personal use of available technology. My patient looked at me and said, as an older man can to a younger one, "Physician, heal thyself."

Almost there

Now we're approaching our goal. A company that I co- founded has received FDA-market clearance for a high-Dk hybrid lens for keratoconus as well as for the majority of patients with regular ametropia, with and without presbyopia. It's been a challenging voyage full of meaning and purpose — one that I hope serves to improve the quality of life for practitioners and patients alike.

DO YOU HAVE A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE? DISCUSS YOUR STORY WITH RENé LUTHE, SENIOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR OF OPTOMETRIC MANAGEMENT, AT (215) 643-8132 OR LUTHER@LWWVISIONCARE.COM. OM OFFERS AN HONORARIUM FOR PUBLISHED SUBMISSIONS.



Optometric Management, Issue: April 2006