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Our clinic, Louisiana Family Eyecare, is located in Covington, Louisiana. We have two locations: our flagship location and a smaller satellite clinic with all equipment to practice full scope optometry in Louisiana, including testing equipment and surgical equipment to perform all surgical procedures allowed by Louisiana law.
We have four optometrists on staff: myself, Shelly Anastasio, Amy Puerto and our new resident, Evalin Zhao. We also have two ophthalmologists on a part-time basis: Dr. Tere Vives specializing in neuro ophthalmology and pediatrics, and Marilu O’Byrne performing general ophthalmology procedures that our law doesn’t allow us to perform. While not on staff, we also have a retinal specialist across the parking lot from us, which is a wonderful thing for our clinic and our patients. Our clinical experiences include all aspects of primary care optometry and provide a lot of contact lens experience, including RGP and scleral lenses (one of my favorite parts of optometry). Of course, we also do a lot of ocular disease and optometric surgery.
I began taking externs around 2015, shortly after our surgery bill was passed in the Louisiana legislature in 2014. I had always held an interest in having externs and once we had such a wonderful scope of practice, I wanted to share that with as many students as possible. I wanted to show students that what we do here in our office is something that students at SCO can do and that they are more than adequately prepared with the educational program at SCO to perform the procedures themselves. I also strongly believe in the externship program because optometry has been a true gift to me, my family, and my career. It has given me more than I ever dreamed and I wanted to give back to a profession that has served me so well.
Seeing students excel and learn how to practice in a high-paced, efficient clinic is very rewarding. I enjoy seeing the look on externs' faces on their first day when they see my schedule with anywhere between 35-50 patients on it—a total deer in the headlights look. Then, by the time they leave my office they realize that with proper delegation they can focus on just being a doctor and not having to do extra steps all themselves, and that a high-paced clinic schedule can be very fun and very rewarding. It is also very important to me that when students arrive at our practice they understand they are NOT a technician, they are a doctor. We expect them to do doctor skills and it’s great to see students build confidence in their skillsets and know when they leave our office they are ready to become colleagues, not students.
The biggest challenge I have found having students is getting them to “unlock” their brains. They have all of the knowledge of optometry; however they don’t always have the ability to access that knowledge quickly in clinic. They also are sometimes slow to make their own decisions on patient management, and they often require a push to remind them they are student doctors, not just students. My most common comment to my externs is “Ok, so what would YOU do?” Getting the externs to rely on their own clinical skills and make a diagnosis and treatment, even if wrong, is a big step for them. In most cases, externs want to rely on their staff doctors to guide, which is expected. I want to get externs to go down their own path of diagnosis and treatment first to build those skills, and if their path differs from mine, we can work on whose ideas are best for the patient and why.
I have thoroughly enjoyed every extern I have had at our clinic over the years. I would encourage more ODs to become involved and give back to the profession. The students keep you on your toes, keep you focused, and keep you learning more. All of us as practicing OD’s have so much to offer students—even if we don’t realize it. You don’t have to have graduated at the top of your class to have a profound effect on externs. I am certainly living proof of that! We can create an experience that shows them they aren’t techs and they aren’t students, they are DOCTORS! We have the ability to mold students into doctors whot are prepared to move into the real world and be functioning, practicing optometrists. There is very little extra work required of a practicing OD, it’s simply rewarding and a lot of fun!
"This site is located in a rural town. The site offers an opportunity to see a solo practitioner that enjoys taking care of people from 0-99.
I have been in practice for 25 years. The clinical experience here will include but not be limited to: fitting of soft, toric, multi-focal and scleral lens; management of cataract pre- and post operative care; glaucoma and MIGS management, diabetic and macular degeneration care, application of amniotic membranes, injections for removal of neoplasms, and managing other ocular diseases. Learning how to implement and use technology: OCT, Optos, visual field, tear lab, low light therapy, Adaptdx, topography, IOL Master, automated refractive systems, etc.
The practice management experience includes understanding billing and coding, understanding the vision plans, Medicare, Medicaid plans, designing an office, buying equipment for your practice, developing a budget for a practice, accounting practices, learning to manage and develop a staff. Develop practice (and personal) goals and strategies for lifelong learning.
Each extern has an opportunity to attend local meetings and be involved in the community while here in Martin. The student will attend a Vision Source local meeting where they have an opportunity to meet other local optometrists and discuss optometry office challenges and solutions. Also, the student will participate in staff meetings and learn to develop a presentation for doctors and staff."
"After much "arm-twisting" from Dr. Al Spivey, I joined SCO's extern program about 5 years ago. I have a passion for optometry and enjoy teaching. I have a motto "learn something new every day". Hopefully students (myself included) are challenged daily in patient care and practice management.
It is rewarding to see students grow, not only professionally but personally. It is a pleasure seeing others succeed!
I would challenge other optometrists to open their practices to externs. Each of us have a responsibility to give back to the profession that has made us successful. Hopefully, I will leave the profession better than I found it!
“Work hard, Play hard, Pray hard!”"