Doctor Spotlight: Dan Novak, OD
Even as a boy, Dan Novak always knew he wanted to be in the medical field. There was something about the combination of equipment and helping people that made him excited about the opportunity. He got his first pair of glasses when he was about 10 years old and discovered how much better life was with clearer vision.
He can’t wait to come to work each day so that he can engage with his patients. Of course, he loves helping them take care of their eyes and helping them see clearly, but he actually enjoys getting to know everyone. He also gets a kick out of the rest of the ECS team.
He is a member of the St. Peter’s Knights of Columbus in Lincoln and works with the many charities they support. He also spends time with his wife and young family, reading to his children and taking them to the park.
Dr. Novak wants patients to know how important it is to get regular exams and protect your eyes from the sun or when playing sports or working around potentially dangerous equipment. “You only get one set,” he says. “Treat them as such.”
3 Things to do Today for Healthy Vision
2. Rock some shades.
Here’s the great thing about sunglasses. Okay three great things. 1. They come in every shape and color. 2. They make you look like a rock star. 3. They protect your eyes from the damaging UV rays of the sun, even in cloudy or overcast weather. UV damage to the eyes is cumulative. Which means if you start getting in the habit of wearing your sunglasses every day starting today, you will already begin to reduce the damage. If you have kids, it’s even more important to get them to start wearing their shades when they go outside as most of our lifetime sun exposure happens before the age of 18. Look for lenses that block 100% of UV rays and look into sunglasses with polarized lenses as they will help you see clearly and eliminate glare.
3. Put your phone down.
If you find yourself barely able to keep your eyes open and you notice your eyes feeling tired after staring at a screen all day, chances are you may be experiencing Computer Fatigue Syndrome. Add to that staring at a small screen and you can suffer headaches, eye strain, blurred vision and dry eye. Your eyes need a break.We recommend the 20/20/20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This will allow your eyes to switch focus and prevent strain.
Keep in mind that smart phones and computers also emit blue light which can cause additional strain as well as interrupt your natural sleep cycle. It’s a good idea to make sure to put digital devices away a few hours before bedtime and include a blue light filter in your eyewear.
Doctor Spotlight: Mikaela Betka, OD
ECS’s newest optometrist fell in love with optometry by accident. Literally. She was playing basketball in 4th grade when her glasses broke and she suffered an eye injury. Her mother took her to EyeCare Specialties, and Mikaela became aware of how precious and delicate our eyes truly are. Her fascination with the exam and technology sealed the deal and set her on the path to optometry.
Her passion led her to working at EyeCare Specialties during college as a clinic technician where she could really see people being helped to use their dominant sense. She also had the opportunity to work with pediatric patients as a vision therapist and realized how much she enjoyed helping children learn to enjoy the world around them visually.
During optometry school, she traveled to Honduras with SVOSH (Student Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity) and looks forward to helping more organizations in the future provide exams and vision assistance to those domestically and internationally.
A newlywed and recent transplant back to the area, Dr. Betka has been spending much of her time settling into her new home in the Beatrice area with her husband. Her motto, “No matter how you feel get up, dress up, show up and never give up.” is fueled by coffee and the support of her family. It’s no accident that she has dedicated her life and her passion to helping the people of southeast Nebraska realize their best vision.
Doctor Spotlight: Kim Tucker, OD
Family is at the root of everything Dr. Kim Tucker does. Even before she began her own family, she knew she wanted to help others. When she was a senior in college, she was at EyeCare Specialties for an exam when Dr. James Kirchner asked her if she had ever thought about optometry as a profession. She shadowed him the next day and became so impressed by the work he did for families all over Lincoln that she knew she found her direction.
Dr. Tucker knows that helping a person with their vision and the health of their eyes not only helps the patient, but improves their relationships with their families. She’s also proud of having been a part of the EyeCare Specialties team for enough time that she’s been able to watch entire families grow up before her eyes.
In her free time, Dr. Tucker continues to support families in Lincoln. She just recently finished a six-year term on the board for the Lincoln Children’s Museum and serves on the Medical Advisory Board for Lincoln Public Schools.
She shares her personal motto, “Just keep moving” with her own family as she participates in many activities with her husband and two children. You can often find Dr. Tucker and her crew at many sporting events or traveling around the state. Always on the move and being together as a family.
Meet Vision Therapy Grad: Stella
Recent Vision Therapy graduate Stella’s mother shares her experience with the Center for Vision Development:
“In first grade, I noticed Stella complaining of headaches when she was reading, skipping lines or words and sometimes struggling with easy words that I was sure she knew. I made her an appointment with the eye doctor because I thought perhaps she needed glasses. It was then that we found out she had 20/20 vision but was diagnosed with something called convergence insufficiency. Our eye doctor recommended pencil pushups, but a quick internet search told me vision therapy would be more effective. I was thrilled to learn there was a vision therapy office in Lincoln so close to our home, so we made an appointment.
When we brought her in she had a complete evaluation and was diagnosed with a few other issues in addition to the convergence insufficiency/. She was set up with a therapist and a custom therapy program to follow.
The therapy was definitely hard work. I will never forget at the beginning, Stella would cry during therapy at home because it was just so hard. But we kept working at it, and it was amazing to see by the end of each week, she could do it. We had just the sweetest, most caring therapist who worked so hard with Stella and made sure there was always something fun for her to do each night. Stella really loved working with Ashlie and always looked forward to going.
We just completed our program and the change we have seen in Stella is amazing. She continues to advance multiple levels in her reading when tested by her teacher. Her hand-eye coordination in sports has improved. And she has developed a love for reading. I love catching her reading in her room before bed or before school or whenever she has a spare minute. And she has developed such confidence – it really and truly has changed her life.
I wish everyone knew about vision therapy and the effect it can have on your child’s life. It was definitely hard work, but worth every minute. I have shared Stella’s story with so many of my friends and will continue sharing it, in the hopes that even more kids can have the same success that she has!”
Find out more about our Vision Therapy program here.
Doctor Spotlight: Brian Brightman, OD
Dr. Brian Brightman is all about creating an experience. His goal is to “wow” his patients. He comes to the office every day with the goal of giving each patient a memorable experience knowing that their eye appointment is such a small part of their day. He wants to make it a good one.
This motivation started when he was young in Fort Dodge, IA and was impressed by a family friend who was an optometrist. Dr. Brightman realized that he could combine his love of science and his desire to interact with people. A future optometrist was born.
His commitment to helping people as much as he can extends from the exam room to his charity work. Dr. Brightman assists Clinic With a Heart, VSP’s mobile clinic and when LPS nurses refer students unable to afford vision correction, helps local students as well at EyeCare Specialties.
Dr. Brightman’s motto, “Surround yourself with good people that you can learn from and make you better,” is evident in the staff he surrounds himself with as EyeCare’s CEO. He enjoys being a part of such a talented group of individuals and is proud of the experience they can provide every day for their patients.
Doctor Spotlight: Brian Hinkley, OD
Over 30 years ago, a young man accompanied his girlfriend to her eye appointment. For Dr. Brian Hinkley, it was love at first sight. His sweetheart eventually became his wife and favorite companion. But he also fell in love with the field of optometry. Dr. Hinkley, who had always imagined an occupation in the medical field, was now excited about the idea of helping people realize their best possible vision.
Dr. Hinkley loves seeing the smiles on patient’s faces when he can help restore their vision or help them with a medical need. And he looks forward to seeing entire families of children, parents and grandparents who he has been treating over those past 30 years.
In 1998, Dr. Hinkley helped start a free eye clinic in a small closet at the People’s City Mission and has had the pleasure of watching it grow ever since. He still volunteers there once a month, helping Lincoln’s homeless and uninsured with their eye care.
Dr. Hinkley’s personal motto, “To find joy in everything I do,” is apparent in every aspect of his life. Whether treating patients, volunteering for the homeless or enjoying time with this family, Dr. Hinkley’s bright optimism influences everyone he meets.
Virtual Reality and Vision
If it’s not on every kid’s Christmas list this year, it will be soon enough. Virtual Reality (VR) is the next big thing in gaming and, with Google having released the Daydream View phone recently, VR will really start to change how people get their entertainment.
While Virtual Reality headsets have seen some slow and expensive development over the years (Oculus Rift), Google is really changing the landscape by offering Virtual Reality viewers made out of cardboard for mobile phones that when paired with a VR app can offer the viewer a 360-degree, 3D interactive experience.
How it Works
VR works by presenting a slightly different image to each eye, so that when the brain puts both images together, it creates a 3D effect. The apps in the phone then additionally track your head movements to put you in a simulated environment.
The most common side effects so far with VR are nausea and disorientation which can be even worse if the experience is poorly rendered. Looking at any object for too long of a time can create eye strain. Doctors also worry about the development of myopia in youth which many of these games are targeting. As a matter of fact, some people feel that children shouldn’t use the VR technology at all, since we aren’t sure of what the negative effects might be.
Something else that can be a concern with VR technology is the exposure to too much blue light. Too much blue light exposure can interfere with circadian rhythms making restful sleep difficult, and there are concerns that it could be responsible for retinal damage.
Some of the negative effects depend upon the brightness of the VR screen, the contrast of light vs. dark, and both the frequency and duration of play. As with any digital viewing, we recommend the 20/20/20 rule. After 20 minutes of any activity, look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds just to break things up and give your eyes a break.
Another negative effect with VR is called past-pointing which happens after use. Your brain becomes used to viewing objects in the virtual world which can be slightly off from reality. After taking the headset off, the gamer can have a difficult time adequately estimating distance (for example try to grab something when it appears closer or further away.) This can really impede hand eye coordination and make moving around a bit dangerous.
Believe it or not, there are some great benefits to this technology. Because each eye needs to work with the other eye, and the brain has to interpret what is being seen, the visual system has a self-correcting property. The eyes and brain learn to work together. This self-correcting property is what is currently being used in some Vision Therapy clinics through Vivid Vision. Vivid Vision has developed some programming specifically designed to help people overcome such visual processing issues such as amblyopia and strabismus.
As VR tech continues to take off and find its way into homes, it will be more and more important to study its effects. Hopefully as it becomes more sophisticated, the negative effects will become less significant and the positive ones will create a viewing experience that can be beneficial for the eyes as well as entertaining.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Mindy’s Story
Mindy McCormick is not the kind of person that relishes attention. She’s kind, intuitive and hardworking. She’s a great leader because she knows that the strength of any organization is in the team and encourages all of her team members to do their best for the entire unit. One person is not above the group.
If it weren’t for the cancer, she wouldn’t want an article written about her.
Mindy McCormick is the Retail Coordinator and Frame Buyer for EyeCare Specialties. She has been helping patients find the perfect eyewear solution for 13 years. Mindy also trains and educates opticians to do the same.
It was a summer day at the beginning of June. Mindy had gone in for a routine mammogram. Because she had an aunt who had been recently diagnosed with advanced breast cancer, she knew the importance of having a thorough exam. She insisted on the 3D mammogram to make sure her doctor had the complete picture. The technicians requested more tests. They did an ultrasound and then brought Mindy back in for an ultrasound biopsy.
A few weeks later while she was at work, her doctors left a message, but Mindy was so busy taking care of her own patients that she didn’t get a chance to call them back until after hours. They returned her phone call right away. Mindy had tested positive for stage 1 breast cancer.
The next few days were a whirlwind. They were immediately scheduled to visit with a surgeon who specializes in breast cancer and an oncologist. In a two-week span, Mindy had her appointments scheduled and started right away on chemotherapy.
According to Mindy, chemotherapy is a roller coaster. She is currently 2/3 of the way done with her six treatments. Her last session is scheduled for the end of October after which she will undergo surgery. She typically feels not too bad for the day or two after treatment, but then hits a wall. Because the type of chemo her doctor has prescribed is such an aggressive one, the treatment leaves Mindy feeling very weak, tired and achy.
Mindy’s family has been incredibly supportive throughout her entire experience. Her husband and children pitch in and do the cleaning and housework. Friends and neighbors have been offering meals and gift cards to area restaurants. Mindy says the outpouring of support has been overwhelming and gratefully appreciated.
At her first visit with her oncologist, Mindy found out that her particular type of breast cancer is the most common and can be easily treated when detected early. That was when the lightbulb went off over Mindy’s head. She knew it was her mission to promote early detection and spread the word to women how important it is to have regular screenings.
Even though she tends to shy from the spotlight, Mindy wants to become an advocate for women to stand up for their health and insist on proper screenings. She encourages everyone she knows that even if they have a hint of family history of breast cancer to get regular mammograms. Because her own cancer was only discovered through the 3D mammogram, she advocates for the most comprehensive technology for anyone who feels that they may be at risk.
Optimism can be hard to come by when fighting breast cancer. But Mindy sees hope every day. She finds hope in coming to work and being able to help EyeCare’s patients. She finds hope in interacting and proving to herself what she’s capable of. And she finds hope in being able to help other women and advocate for early detection.
This October, we are so proud of Mindy and the other women who fight for their health and for that optimism. EyeCare Specialties will once again be participating in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk on October 23 and will be raising money in various forms to help the cause. If you’d like to support our team and raise money for the American Cancer Society, please click here.
Aging and Your Eyes
It’s inevitable, as we age, so do our eyes. There are several age-related conditions that can happen no matter how healthy of lives we live or whether or not we’ve got a fantastic set of DNA handed down to us by our relatives.
Presbyopia. Presbyopia occurs typically after the age of 40. This can be noticed as blurred vision when doing up-close work. People start to notice it when they need to hold books, menus, etc. farther and farther away in order to see clearly. Presbyopia occurs because of a hardening of the natural lens inside your eye, and it is very common. Almost everyone will experience it in various forms. Optical treatment is usually the best remedy via reading glasses, progressive lenses or bifocals. There are also options for contact lens wearers as well.
Reduced pupil size. As we age, our pupil size starts to gradually become smaller and makes us less responsive to changes in lighting. Older individuals might find themselves needing more light to read and have difficulty moving in between light and dark environments quickly (from a dark theater to sunlight). This is also one of the causes for difficulty driving at night. Adjusting from darkness to bright oncoming traffic can make driving at night difficult. There are many optical products that can help this situation. A photochromic lens (like Transitions™) or anti-glare coatings on lenses can help older drivers adjust to differing light conditions more easily.
Dry Eyes. As we age, we may experience itchy, dry eyes. The condition affects many people, especially women after menopause. They may experience scratchy burning sensations in various conditions and may find that traditional over-the-counter eye drops don’t seem to remedy the problem. There are actually several different types of Dry Eye Disease, and your optometrist could help you determine which one you suffer from by examining the quality of your tears. Treatment for Dry Eye Disease can include prescription eye drops or in-office procedures like LipiFlow that can provide relief.
Loss of peripheral vision. On average, as you age your field of vision decreases by one to three percent every decade. Peripheral vision loss can also be a sign of glaucoma and serious ocular disease, so it important to have it checked out. This type of loss can make driving dangerous as it can be difficult to see objects not in your direct vision. Whether your peripheral vision loss is gradual or sudden, it is important to bring up your concerns with your eye doctor to see if there is a serious underlying medical issue.