Today’s guest blogger is Dr Siva Meiyeppen.  She recently graduated from the Illinois College of Optometry and is currently doing a residency in Pediatrics and Binocular Vision at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry. In her free time she likes to read, write short stories, and paint.

This week marks many firsts for me—first time I attended a COVD conference, first time I traveled to San Diego, and the first time I learned how to make a life-size stereoscope out of felt fabric and a mirror.

Every lecture, every poster, and every exhibitor offered new and exciting things to challenge my paradigm of thinking abut binocular vision and developing my optometric mindset—from practice management, networking with doctors, and of course addressing new theories about our patient’s comprehensive needs beyond a Brock String. Ultimately that is what this year’s COVD meeting represented—a new way to think about things after merely scratching the surface in optometry school, and beginning new paths to new knowledge in so many directions.

The opportunities included learning from the top minds that have shaped and developed binocular vision, developmental optometry, and neuro-optometry. There were so many lectures that had me scribbling notes in the margins about things I can apply to patient care tomorrow, in particular vision therapy techniques. Have you ever had the feeling of a million light bulbs going off in your brain at the same time? That’s what some of these lecture felt like to me. I had so many clinical pearls being presented to me in that ballroom that I could make every one I know a pearl necklace that strings from San Diego back to Philadelphia.

Vestibular therapy combined with vision therapy was one of the pearls. From Dr. Baxstrom I learned how the vestibular system is the 1st myelinated system in the body, and that each semi-circular canals is primed to respond to each extra-ocular muscle. Quick things like beanbag catch and gaze stabilization techniques can be incorporated into traditional vision therapy techniques to lead to more successful outcomes.

From Dr. Bateman, I learned how to build a stereoscope using red and yellow felt draped on walls in conjunction with a mirror. Beginning with an awareness of luster and then adding more complex targets and contours to the felt it is possible to build 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree fusion in strabismic patients.

With the increased awareness of vision therapy in terms of rehabilitation after traumatic brain injuries, Dr. Padula reignited the importance and value that clear, comfortable, stable binocular vision can have on patient’s lives.

And this meeting marked another first for all those at the conference—the first time a pediatric ophthalmologist, Dr. Thomas Lenart, came to COVD to talk about collaborations with optometry and particularly those who specialize in developmental optometry and vision therapy. Multiple rounds of applause and a standing ovation at the end of his presentation with Dr. Nancy Torgerson marked the changing tides when your primary objective is changing lives.

An optometrist prescribing yoked prism for a patient with a pronounced visual midline shift and dramatically changing his ability to function in less than a minute?  An optometrist using vestibular therapy in conjunction with vision therapy to essentially cure a constant exotropia secondary to brain surgery?  A strabismus surgeon suggesting that sometimes “it is better not to cut?”  All three happened! And all three prove just how far optometry as a profession has come, and a reminder of the myriad of ways our patients benefit from developmental vision care.

As a resident, everything seemed like a luxury. From the stunning view of San Diego’s skyline beaming out at us from the hotel room to the free pens, everything was exciting. Networking and meeting residents from other schools was another wonderful facet of this meeting. New and familiar faces make any conference fun, and even more so when it is a conference chock-full of people who are excited to use every opportunity to learn.

It is always hard to leave a city as fun as San Diego and this trip was no exception. But luckily I have many new pearl necklaces to share with my colleagues back home.