The 2017 Annual Meeting may be over, but there’s still so much to talk about! For the newest Fellows and COVTs who earned their certifications this year, this past Meeting in Jacksonville, Florida, is sure to be one that they never forget.
In order to continue to honor their outstanding effort and commitment, we reached out to each of these newly-certified optometrists and vision therapists to bring you the “WHY” (and how and where!) of their certification process. This week, we bring you Dr. Valerie Lam, FCOVD’s story!
Where are you now?
- Where do you practice/work?
Two years ago, a classmate and I opened a cold start private practice called Insight Vision Center Optometry, focusing on vision therapy and specialty contact lenses. We are a very modern, fun, and patient- centered office—a great place to work!
How did you get involved with VT?
In 2012, I was honored to be chosen as one of the two peds/VT residents at SCCO. When I was in optometry school and in my residency, I came to love VT because it allows me to use my avenues of creativity! For instance, if I had a patient who needed to improve convergence and the typical Brock string wasn’t engaging enough to keep them motivated, I love to come up with other ways to make the exercise interesting yet still effective- for example using fun shaped beads or adding in spelling challenges while fixating. The kids think they are just playing fun games, when in reality, they are doing hard work to improve their vision without even knowing it!
- How did you grow that interest/practice?
From the very beginning, we started our practice with the goal of establishing a reputation as a VT office. We didn’t want to just dabble in VT, we wanted to be all about it! We knew that it was not only the best way to differentiate ourselves from the other OD down the street, but also and more importantly, it’s what we love doing. We want our patients to know that and to see it reflected in everything we do.
- What made you decide to pursue certification through COVD?
There were so many reasons—first and most importantly, I wanted to learn and be the best VT doc that I could be! I wanted to learn from the best VT docs out there, and I knew that would be through the COVD family. Secondly, I wanted to get my fellowship accomplished while I still have the momentum to learn carried over from my residency. While I plan to never lose my learner’s mentality, I know that life running a practice and a family will just get busier, so I wanted to invest as much time toward my education while I still have the opportuity.
- What was your biggest hurdle in the certification process?
It was definitely a challenge to find patients that were the perfect fit for my case reports. You see so many patients throughout the day but it’s the really tough ones that you want to write about because those are the patients that teach you the most.
- How did you overcome that hurdle?
My residency helped a great deal because I got to see such a wide variety of patients. My mentor, Dr. Albert Chun was an incredible resource and one of the most valuable mentors in my life. I was so grateful for his emails and the countless hours he spent over the phone, challenging my way of thinking and getting me to think outside the box of traditional optometry.
What have you learned?
Oh wow, where do I start?! Possibly the most important thing I learned through the certification process was how to practice developmental optometry. While I was classically trained through my residency, I’ve come to realize that there could be more than one right answer to a problem, and that multiple roads can lead to a successful outcome. I’ve learned that it’s important to consider all aspects of the patient and their condition before deciding on a strategy, and not to discount any treatment option. Some of the techniques used in developmental optometry may seem unfamiliar or even “out there,” but I believe that when the traditional approach isn’t working, we owe it to the patient to try whatever we can in order to give them the best outcome. The human body isn’t black and white, so sometimes the treatments aren’t either. Ultimately at the heart of every behavioral optometrist is the deep desire to care for our patients’ vision and I’ve seen evidence of that in every COVD member I’ve encountered.
- How have you grown?
I have definitely become more open-minded in my treatment approach and also a lot more observational in my diagnostic techniques.
- What will you bring back to your patients?
I now have so many ideas for new things to try when the conventional approach isn’t working, as well as treatment options that are easier and more pleasant to comply with. One prime example is that I can recommend binocular games and MFBF activities that are much more engaging and fun than forcing a patient to exclusively patch for two hours a day.
It’s not just about patient care, what else matters most to you in your practice/career?
When the time comes, I want to be able to end my career knowing that I did everything I could to be the best doctor possible for my patients, to use all the talents that God gave me and the opportunities that he set before me, to bring Him glory and to serve those around me.
I want my patients to be able to feel that this is an office that truly cares about them, from the moment they step through the front door. I want my staff to know how much I care about them, too, and how much I want what’s best for them and their own lives. I want to show love to others through vision care.
What’s next for you?
We want Insight Vision Center to be the best VT practice in Southern California–we have big dreams and we’re excited to see the practice grow! I have the best business partner and staff ever so I know together we are going to do amazing things in Orange County!
There’s more to life than vision care…
- What other things are important to you?
My most precious thing in life is my family!My husband – my best friend and greatest encourager, my daughter- my little bundle of joy, and my family and friends who have loved and supported me through this entire journey.
Thank you, Dr. Lam, for sharing your certification story with us!
Our certification programs are always accepting new applicants and you could be next!