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On Friday night, SCO hosted an amazing event for InfantSee. InfantSee is a program that originated from a discussion between two SCO graduates at SECO several years ago. It provides children under the age of 1 with a free eye exam. The idea is to catch eye conditions early before they permanently affect vision. The keynote speaker was Tom Sullivan and his presentation blew me away. I decided to go last minute and actually didn't have very high expectations. Even with all the emails, postcards, and visits to class about the event, I still wasn't convinced. I attended mostly expecting a lecture from a smart person who had accomplished a lot. I was pleasantly surprised.
While Tom Sullivan is a smart and accomplished man, what really impressed me was his ability to connect with my emotions and not just my intellect. Tom developed a blinding disease due to complications from his premature birth. Yet that didn't stop him from achieving. Tom golfs, writes music, plays the piano, sings....the list goes on and on? Throughout the night he sang a number of songs and told stories that made me laugh until my sides hurt. By the end, I felt like I knew him. That made his message so much more meaningful.
He praised optometry for the work we are doing to save vision. At the same time, his message felt like a call to arms for us to go out and eradicate blindness from the face of the earth. As we do that, will we just find and diagnose sight-threatening diseases, then write a prescription and leave? No. Dr. Glen Steele noted in the opening remarks "I Will Walk With You Every Step of the Way" and Tom repeated this phrase throughout his presentation. He was diagnosed by one of the best ophthalmologists in the field at the time. When that doctor presented the situation to Tom's parents, he coldly stated, "Your child is blind. I would institutionalize him"....and then walked out of the room. That is not the kind of doctor anyone wants to have involved in their child's life.
At a moment such as that, we all want a doctor who cares. To illustrate the kind of care that can take place, they played an audio recording of a mother that really touched me. The recording was just a voice mail left at the American Optometric Association office, but it was significant. She had seen commercials for InfantSee and decided to take her healthy 8 month old baby in for a checkup. What the optometrist found was Retinoblastoma which is a cancer of the eye. The cancer was treated her baby's life was saved. Her thank you was so simple, and yet so profound.
After the program, I felt a greater perspective on my mission as an optometrist. I chose optometry because I wanted to help preserve vision, yet between all my tests, quizzes, and practicals it's easy to forget that ultimate goal. Thanks for the reminder. 1 more month and I'll be in clinic helping people. If you're my patient, my hope is that "I Will Walk with You Every Step of the Way."