An introduction for Eric Singman, MD, PhD (Neuro-Ophthalmologist), upcoming speaker at the COVD 2019 Annual Meeting. Join us for his presentation of  “A Neuro-ophthalmology Perspective of Concussion and Neuro-visual Rehabilitation” next April in Kansas City, Missouri!

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By: Patrick Quaid, MCOptom, FCOVD, PhD

Let me introduce you to one of the most intelligent–yet one of the most humble–people I have ever met: Dr. Eric Singman. He is a true scholar and gentleman, who I am proud to also call a friend and trusted colleague. Dr. Singman follows where the research evidence leads, but (more importantly) he has a razor-sharp clinical acumen and a keen eye (excuse the pun) for therapy approaches that “just make sense”. He has no political agendas other than “just fix the patient,” and openly supports optometric vision therapy[1][2].

Eric and I met through a mutual occupational therapy colleague over six years ago (Elizabeth Rohrer, shout out!), and since that time, we have collaborated on several lectures and other projects with nothing but the greatest of ease. At my request, Eric has kindly contributed to a book I am working on. We have also worked together on a  collaborative care chapter in an upcoming medical textbook, hopefully to be in print within the span of a few months. [The chapter has been published! – Ed.] We hope the chapter will serve as a joint statement from both neuro-optometry and neuro-ophthalmology on the dire visual needs of concussion/mTBI patients. As Eric often states, “It takes a village to fix these patients, and there is nothing ‘mild’ about mTBI!”

A unifying approach

Last year, I requested that Eric write to the Ontario regulatory board in support of the notion that, in order to treat mTBI patients, optometrists simply require extra training–specifically in vision therapy. As is common for his personality,  you can see from his letter[2] that Eric went a step further and specifically mentioned the FCOVD designation as representing a process he whole-heartedly supports. What a breath of fresh air!

Always aiming to be inclusive, he also wisely states that, while there is nothing wrong with routine assessments, mTBI assessments need to go into much further detail in terms of vergence, accommodation, saccades, and peripheral awareness issues. Routine assessments are often “normal” otherwise, missing these problems altogether by adhering to the assumption that “20/20” means “good vision”. I have to say that I also love his use of the phrase “visual-spatial decoupling”–an excellent way to describe the peripheral awareness issues with which we all see our mTBI patients greatly struggle. He is, I think, the only neuro-ophthalmologist I have ever met who is genuinely intrigued by distance stereopsis and vergence facility! In fact, I really feel as though I am speaking to a VTOD when I speak to Eric. He is a true blessing to neuro-developmental optometry.

Join the collaboration!

Eric will be speaking at the COVD 2019 Annual Meeting in Kansas City, and I really hope that as many ODs as possible make it a point to attend his lecture. He is truly a friend of vision rehabilitation and optometry overall, and takes a unique approach to the unification of our professions. He has more qualifications that I can list here, including Department of Defense senior grant reviewer and Chief of Neuro-Ophthalmology at Johns Hopkins. Enough said.

Dr. Singman’s collaborative care approach and encouraging words for optometry are a refreshing change from the all-too-common opposition. As VTODs, we struggle enough just to treat this population of patents, and we all know that it is made a hundred-fold more difficult by the pervasive “doubting Thomas” mentality that surrounds VT. Like on so many fronts of society these days, Eric’s unification mentality is something that is sadly uncommon. He focuses on what makes us all the same, rather than what makes us different, and we often joke between us that “the mind is like a parachute – only of use when OPEN”. As PhDs, we are kindred spirits in our belief in peer-reviewed research, but we are also firmly grounded in the clinical-world understanding that, sometimes, doing certain interventions just makes sense. Yes, the level-one study will come in time for mTBI, just as it did for CITT, but patients need help in the interim.

Eric – we applaud you as a profession. As an Irishman (ok, Irish-Canadian), I will say to Eric “Go Dte tu Slan!” – Gaelic for “May God keep you safe”. Us Irish only say that to true warriors and patriots. Eric is loyal to the cause of appropriately treating mTBI and, most importantly, is a warrior with a mission to properly treat the patients we all ultimately serve!

Thank you to Dr. Patrick Quaid for introducing Dr. Eric Singman to us! The COVD Family is looking forward to his collaborative perspective and its future impact on the “village” of mTBI care.

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[1] Dr. Singman Statement on VT

[2] Dr. Singman letter to Ontario regulatory board

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