Integral integration

OT  speaks to Justin Schweitzer about his working day and his belief in a more holistic eye care model

Justin Schweitzer

What is a typical working day like for you?

I work at Vance Thompson Vision, which is a referral or tertiary eye care centre in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I manage a clinic for a cornea and glaucoma specialist. I perform clinical evaluations, manage and treat glaucoma, cataract, refractive, and anterior pathology patients. A majority of these patients come to our centre because they are in need of surgical intervention, so I also perform pre and post-operative care. Finally, a portion of my week is spent in clinic working with our MD fellow and medical students. We have an amazing team, and every single day it is a pleasure working with them. Which aspect of your current role inspires you the most?

The fact that patients place so much trust in me and all of our doctors is amazing. It inspires me to make sure that I am always doing the right thing for our patients.

Where do you see the direction of optometry heading in the next five years?

My belief is that optometry and ophthalmology will need to continue to embrace an integrated eye care model. With the advanced ageing of the population and the increased need for medical eye care, this model will be imperative for excellent patient care. 

What do you regard as being the most influential development to impact upon the clinical role of practitioners in recent years?

This is a great question, but also a difficult one to answer. I think what clinical role or what type of practice setting an optometrist is in will dictate the answer that is given. One development that sticks out in my mind is the emergence of online spectacle lens companies, online eye examinations and online contact lens companies. This has caused many optometrists to focus more than ever on the medical eye care model involving diagnostics, and so on, to generate income and continue to move their practices forward. 

"I would encourage my fellow optometrists to always remember to do the right thing for the patient sitting in the chair, as they are placing so much trust in us"

What and who has been most influential in steering your career path to date?

A few have been influential in steering my career path. Dr John Berdahl at Vance Thompson Vision has been extremely influential. I did a one-year fellowship with him, managing anterior segment pathology, advanced glaucoma, refractive surgery cases and cataract surgery cases. I not only learned how to care for these patients at a high level, but the friendship that we formed throughout that year caring for those patients is priceless. I also can’t forget optometrists Scot Morris and Walt Whitely. Both have been mentors and friends, and have had a major influence in steering my career path. 

If you had the power to change any aspect of the current remit of optometrists what would it be?

I wouldn’t say that I would change an aspect, but more remind or encourage my fellow optometrists on a couple of topics, and thankfully the vast majority of optometrists are already doing these. I would encourage my fellow optometrists to always remember to do the right thing for the patient sitting in the chair, as they are placing so much trust in us. This, at times, can be hard with busy schedules and time constraints in today’s world of eye care. I would encourage my fellow optometrists to stay up to date on all the cutting-edge technologies, and embrace integrative care that can improve care for our patients.