Friday, May 19, 2017

Busy Time Leading up to Commencement: Week of May 19th

Students, Faculty, Residents, Alumni, Board of Trustee members and Friends,

Progress continues with the construction work at The Eye Institute (TEI). The parking lot and outside of the building is nearly complete. There is also updated signage with our new logo on both Spencer Street and Godfrey Avenue. The CityLife Clinic has officially taken possession of their clinic with a “soft opening” to happen in a couple of weeks and a more formal opening to happen in July.  

The Clinical Procedures Lab now has computers installed in each of our 32 eye lanes that will allow students to learn how to integrate our Nextgen EMR while in the lab, which will be ready for use in the upcoming semester. The VR Magic virtual reality training equipment should arrive on campus in early June. I think everyone will be very pleased with the results of this project. 

A week ago, Kerry Lueders and three Low Vision Rehabilitation students Lindsay Johnson, Grace Fontanez and Christian D’Angelis presented the poster “Nighttime Glare: A Case Study” and conducted a presentation at the Penn Del AER conference in Harrisburg, Pa., describing their upcoming research study. At the same conference, Lachelle Smith, Director of the Vision Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT) Program, and Dawn Ciccarone, Occupational Therapy (OT) clinical instructor, conducted an inter-professional presentation: "VRT and OT Practice: Bridging the Gap in Adapted ADL Service Delivery.”

Speaking of conferences, on Tuesday, Dr. Scharre and I headed out to Las Vegas to participate in the annual meeting of the American Association of Physician Assistants to host a reception for students, faculty and alumni of our program.  It was great to see so many alumni and current students at the event.  Thanks to everyone for making this such a successful meeting for everyone!

Community service is another important part of the work we do at Salus. This week, Drs. Kelly Malloy and Erin Draper presented a lecture entitled, "Increase Your Understanding of Stroke,” to older, active adults at the Ambler YMCA. Their lecture was part of a monthly Lunch and Learn series Salus has participated in since January where faculty from various programs present topics aimed to keep our neighbors healthy and informed. 

If you have not had the chance to visit the D’Arrigo Family Art Gallery located in the Hafter Center recently, I invite you to check out the new mosaic art collection that curator Elynne Rosenfeld has obtained for viewing. The current collection from the Mosaic Society of Philadelphia showcases a wide variety of mosaic stylistic artwork using an array of conventional and unconventional materials.  It’s a very interesting and beautiful collection!

I’d like to share with you that I was recently inducted as a Fellow of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia at their annual College Night. The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, which is also the home of the Mutter Museum, was founded in 1787 and is one of the oldest professional medical organizations in the country.  One of the memorable parts of the evening was, as a new inductee, was getting to sign my name in a ledger that dated back to the establishment of the College and actually has Benjamin Rush’s signature in it.  Now, there’s a little history for you!  Also of note, Salus Board of Trustee member, Dr. Thomas Beeman has been a Fellow of the College for many years and he was one of my sponsors. Tanis and I were honored to have Dr. Beeman and his wife Betty join us for the evening’s festivities. 

It’s going to be an action-packed week starting with our quarterly Board of Trustees meeting on Monday, followed by the annual commencement awards lunch on Wednesday and culminating with commencement on Thursday afternoon.  I cannot tell you how proud I am of each and every one of our students on the completion of this significant professional milestone in your lives. I especially want to thank our faculty and all those who helped to support our graduating students.  

Friday, May 12, 2017

Getting Ready for Commencement: Week of May 12th

Students, Faculty, Residents, Staff, Alumni, Board of Trustees and Friends,

I hope everyone has had a productive week. Ours has been filled with students finishing finals and getting ready for break or commencement. I started out my week in Harrisburg, Pa. where I spent the day meeting with state legislators and many of their staff members to educate them about what we do here at Salus. I also provided support for the optometric scope of practice legislation (SB 688) introduced by Senator John R. Gordner (R-27) a few weeks ago. I wanted to let all of the legislators and staff members be aware of everything requested in the bill was taught here at Salus as well as other optometric programs around the country. I stressed the importance of our students being permitted to practice at the level at which they are being trained. I also explained the significant access to care and public health implications of moving forward with this and even more progressive legislation. We’ll keep our fingers crossed this will have a positive effect on the legislative process.  

On Wednesday evening, the University’s director of Institutional Advancement, Lynne Corboy, and I flew down to Palm Beach, Fla. to honor Dr. Morey X. Powell, who is one of our oldest living alumni. Dr. Powell graduated from PCO in 1936 and was one of 49 members of his class who helped to pave the way for how optometry as a profession is practiced today.  Dr. Powell was a pioneer in fitting contact lenses (glass and plastic) and was one of the first doctors to actually fenestrate (make holes in) lenses to allow oxygen to reach the cornea. We spent two hours talking about his time at PCO and beyond. The high point of the day was conducting a virtual dedication ceremony over FaceTime. We named the classroom in the new Clinical Procedures Lab suite after Dr. and Mrs. Powell in honor of their service to the profession and philanthropic support to PCO. I’ve attached a photo of Dr. Powell being virtually "walked through" the classroom and new lab on my iPad by Dr. Melissa Trego, our interim dean of PCO.  It was truly a memorable morning!  I also had the opportunity to catch up with one of my classmates, Dr. Michael Hecht, who is currently the medical director for Premier Eye Care in Boca Raton, Fla.  

Speaking of our Clinical Procedures Lab, the majority of the clinical equipment was delivered and put together this week. Our staff did a fantastic job of having everything put together in the span of two days. It was great to walk through the lab to see all of the new equipment filling the spaces we arduously planned for so long. The next step will be installing computers with electronic health records that will allow our students to transition seamlessly from lab to clinic. VRmagic, a virtual reality ophthalmoscopy suite, will be installed early next month while the Powell Classroom is waiting for some finishing touches to make it complete.  

The exterior of The Eye Institute is basically as complete as the interior construction of the primary care clinical suite.  Ampersand/CityLife Neighborhood Health Clinic will hold a “soft” opening in June with a larger grand opening in July as they finish hiring staff and getting things set up. 

As you can imagine, it’s an exciting time to see these projects finally come to completion. At the same time all of this is happening, we’re also preparing for commencement on May 25. That being said, we have already started planning for the White Coat Ceremony, which will be held in conjunction with orientation week this summer at the Kimmel Center. 


Friday, May 5, 2017

Rainy Philadelphia: Week of May 5th

Students, Faculty, Residents, Staff, Alumni, Board members and Friends,

Greetings from a rainy Philadelphia!  We just got back from our whirlwind trip to Bangkok and Singapore earlier this week where we participated in both an international optometric meeting in Thailand and celebrated the graduation of 14 Master of Science in Clinical Optometry professionals in Singapore.  It was fantastic to officiate over the ceremony along with Dr. Melissa Vitek. It was also great to enjoy the camaraderie of many of our Singapore alumni - of which we have over 100! The great trip was a wonderful way to recognize the accomplishments of many of our international Salus colleagues.

On the home front, our Clinical Procedures Lab is almost complete - furniture and audio-visual equipment are being installed with the optometric equipment coming soon. Along the same lines, the primary care clinical facility housed at The Eye Institute (TEI) is complete with the plan to start seeing patients in a few weeks. It was an amazing transformation of TEI’s old clinical modules into a modern primary care facility. You’ll also notice the outside of the building is finally complete to include a new entrance vestibule and updated signage clearly making everyone aware TEI is a clinical facility of Salus.  

This week we also completed our second Board of Trustees orientation and training session. Mr. Jerry Kline and Dr. Adrienne Rogers were welcomed to the Board whereas Ms. Michelle Palos-Samsi and Ms. Terri Albertson joined our Board committees. It’s always great to have Board members on campus to keep them updated on what’s going on both on and off campus. We greatly appreciate their time and energy and know they’ll help build on the legacy we’ve created while also moving us forward.

On Sunday, we will be hosting the annual Joseph C. Toland Excellence in Education program on campus followed by a tribute to Dr. Toland from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in the Hafter Student Center. We hope to fill the room – please join us!

As we enter May, it’s the perfect time to start to think about commencement, which is later this month. We’re excited about our guest speaker and honorary degree recipient, Dr. David Nash. As the director of the Thomas Jefferson University School of Population Health, I’m sure given all of the recent discussions surrounding healthcare, Dr. Nash’s comments will be very timely.

Here’s wishing everyone a safe and restful weekend.


Friday, April 28, 2017

Greetings from Bangkok: Week of April 28th

Greetings from Bangkok, Thailand where Dr. Melissa Vitek and I have been participating in Rangsit University’s International Research Conference.  Both Dr. Vitek and I had the opportunity to lecture to an extremely diverse group of optometry students, faculty and local providers.  It’s been a great experience to see the evolution of Rangsit’s optometry program leading the way in Thailand very similar to the way PCO did in the US. It was also fun to see how one of our alumni, Dr. Christopher Rugaber (OD ’84) has had an impact on how optometry is being taught in Bangkok as a Rangsit faculty member.  Not only did we have the opportunity to meet with my counterpart, Dr. Arthit Ourairot, who is an extremely accomplished statesman and diplomate in addition to being a visionary president, but we also have met several prospective students who are very excited about having the opportunity to study at Salus. Tomorrow morning we’re off to Singapore to celebrate the commencement of 14 of our Master of Science in Clinical Optometry students.  It will be a busy couple of days.

On the home front, I want to congratulate Drs. Audrey Smith and Fabiana Perla who both received very prestigious awards.  Dr. Smith received the Richard L. Welsh Service Award, which recognizes a professional who has demonstrated outstanding contributions and performance to the field serving the education and/or rehabilitation needs of individuals with visual impairment.  Dr. Perla received the Elinor Long Educator of the Year Award, which recognizes an educator who has demonstrated outstanding contributions and performance in the field.  Those were the only two awards given during the Penn-Del AER Conference and our Salus faculty earned both!  Congratulations to Audrey and Fabiana on your accomplishments!

For those of you who come in through the front of the Elkins Park campus every morning, you've probably seen Wayne Pancza, our director of Security sitting at his desk helping to greet folks. After several years at Salus, Wayne has decided to relocate to Florida where he can enjoy his boat and the warmer weather.  Please join me in wishing Wayne and his wife fair winds and following seas as they begin their new adventure in the south.

As you all are beginning your Friday, I am ending mine, so I’m going to keep this short as we have an early departure tomorrow morning.  I would like to wish everyone a safe and restful weekend.


Friday, April 21, 2017

April Showers: Week of April 21st

Students, Faculty, Residents, Alumni, Staff, Board of Trustees and Friends,

Dr. Carlo Pelino - Ambler YMCA Presentation
Greetings from a rainy Philadelphia - April showers are here to help with our spring flowers, many of which are already in bloom!  

I’d like to thank Dr. Carlo Pelino for taking the time to present a lecture entitled, "Diabetic Changes and the Eye: Age Related Macular Degeneration” at the Ambler YMCA yesterday afternoon. We have been participating in the YMCA’s health education series over the past few months and all of our lectures have been extremely well-received. Thanks to everyone who has taken the time and effort to make these important outreach opportunities successful.

Salus Speech Language Pathology Students

Congratulations to our inaugural SLP class on a very successful and impressive Capstone poster event last Thursday. The scope, depth and quality of each of the posters were impressive, to say the least. I would like to thank our faculty and staff for mentoring our fantastic students. Everyone enjoyed seeing all of the great work our students spent so much time and effort developing. Thank you for your efforts – it makes me SALUS PROUD!

Yesterday the University’s Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) hosted Dr. Steve Loomis, past president of the American Optometric Association for a visit.  I had the opportunity to take Dr. Loomis around campus to see our new Learning Resource Center and Clinical Procedures Lab updates. During his visit, he met with both students and faculty in addition to touring The Eye Institute (TEI), which included the new primary care clinical facility on the upper level. In talking with Dr. Loomis, he agreed PCO is continuing to lead the way in teaching and innovation through our new virtual reality lab and state of the art clinical procedures lab.  Additionally, Dr. Loomis shares our view that optometrists need to be taking on a greater role in the delivery of primary medical care to include the management of chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. Having the new primary care clinic at TEI, combined with updates to the program’s curriculum, will pave the road for all of that to happen over time. This doesn’t mean we will lose sight of teaching more “traditional” topics such as contact lenses, lasers, binocular vision, etc. We just have to vigorously expand our portfolio to stay ahead of the changes occurring in our national healthcare arena. Salus is well positioned to take this on! We greatly appreciate Dr. Loomis’ time and effort!

This wouldn’t be complete without an update on the University’s construction projects. First and foremost, I invite everyone to check out the new mural at the entrance to the Learning Resource Center. The mural takes you through time from PCO’s original location on Spring Garden Street in Philadelphia to today’s vibrant University campus here in Elkins Park.

Furniture and equipment for the Clinical Procedures Lab have arrived - it’s fun to watch the progress! At TEI, work is nearly completion on the second floor with our primary care partners hoping to see patients in mid-May. Work on the parking lot will also begin shortly. It’s very rewarding to see all of the moving parts come together!  

Finally, I’m on the road again this coming week. I will be traveling with Dr. Vitek to an optometry meeting in Thailand where both of us will be lecturing and conducting meetings to discuss greater collaborations between Salus and Rangsit University, located right outside Bangkok. From there we’ll head to Singapore to conduct a graduation ceremony for our Singapore students who have completed their Master of Science Degree in Clinical Optometry. We will also hold an alumni reception concurrently to honor Singapore optometrists who have previously completed our program.  

Have a great weekend. Be safe and have fun!


Friday, April 14, 2017

Spring Has Sprung: Week of April 13th

Students, Faculty, Residents, Staff, Alumni, Board of Trustees and Friends,

Spring has really popped on our Elkins Park campus with cherry, pear and other colorful trees and shrubs coming into full bloom. It’s a great time for both students and faculty as they start to think about commencement and the end of the academic year. It remains a very busy time on campus as well with students preparing for finals, construction and renovation projects moving closer to completion and ultimately prepping for the beginning of the University’s subsequent projects. Additionally, searches are in full swing for both of the University’s Osborne College of Audiology and Pennsylvania College of Optometry deans. We are hopeful these will be completed by summer’s end.

The American Academy of Audiology’s (AAA) annual meeting – AudiologyNOW! – was last week. The University’s Osborne College of Audiology (OCA) was well represented at the conference with several presentations and posters from Drs. Aravamudhan, Bondurant, Bray, Lindley, Myers, Owen, Rajan, Sedunov and Sundar. OCA also held an open house and alumni reunion during the conference, which was well attended by alumni, faculty, students, college advisory board members and friends. During the festivities, Drs. Aravamudhan and Sundar awarded the certificates of completion for the first China cohort in Advanced Studies Cochlear Implant Program organized in collaboration with AIER China, to Dr. Qi Liang. The annual Audiology Alumni Association Award was also presented to Dr. Sherman Lord.

Congratulations are in order for Dr. Barbara Schwartz-Bechet associate dean of the University’s College of Education and Rehabilitation on her selection at the US Alumni Thematic International Exchange Seminar (Alumni TIES) entitled “Education for All: Inclusion and Access as Pathways to Peace.”  Sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the US Department of State, this seminar will convene thirty innovative alumni of US government-sponsored exchange programs in education and conflict resolution fields from across the country. Alumni participants will join subject matter experts and government officials to share best practices and challenges related to inclusive and accessible education systems. It will also introduce participants to continuing education challenges while examining innovative technological and practical advances in the field. Participants will address barriers to education for marginalized groups based on gender, disability, ethnic/racial background, religion, sexual orientation, or socio-economic status, as well as ways in which inclusive education practices can intersect with local and global development and stability. We look forward to hearing what Dr. Schwartz-Bechet brings back to campus after attending this very timely and interesting seminar.

Recently, a team of speakers across the University’s programs brought their expertise in Interprofessional Education (IPE) to the Green Tree School and Services. Located just a few short miles from campus, Green Tree is a non-profit agency that provides education, therapeutic and clinical support to individuals ranging from age five to twenty-one years old with autism spectrum disorder and severe emotional disabilities. The presentation highlighted the value of patient-centered, team-based care provided by the University’s various disciplines.  Approximately 100 Green Tree staff attended this well planned event.  Special thanks to Drs. Casser, Shoge, Appel, Silverman, Gregory, Schwartz-Bechet, Ms. Lueders and Mr. Knight for participating in this important event.

The primary care clinical facility is nearing completion at The Eye Institute, and we’re extremely excited about this addition to the University. Additionally, the renovation on our Clinical Procedures Lab is in the end stages as well – furniture is ready to be installed. The equipment is scheduled to be delivered soon with the intent that our students will start using the lab sometime in early May.

I wanted to take the opportunity if you are on campus to remind everyone to check out the wonderful artwork at the Hafter Center - produced by our very own Salus Community. It’s really neat to see all of the talent we have on campus as well as to be able to display and celebrate it in such a nice environment.  Special thanks to all of the University’s artists and our resident curator, Elynne Rosenfeld, for bringing this creativity to campus.

Finally, with all that’s going on in the world it’s very easy to get distracted by watching the news and reading the paper. I wanted to take this time to remind anyone who’s reading this message that there is MUCH to be thankful for and MUCH to be optimistic about as we live through these interesting times. The fact that you have chosen to work in an environment that revolves around helping people improve their lives and achieving your desired success, whether it be in direct patient care or completing a difficult semester, puts a positive spin on everything we do. I want you to be proud of your accomplishments and even prouder that you’ve chosen professions placing others above yourselves. The world is a better place because of the work you do and the people you help. Don’t get distracted by all of the “noise” around us.

Have a wonderful holiday. Be safe, have fun and keep your eye on your goals.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Another Reason Why it’s Great to be an Optometrist

I’m going to start this entry by freely admitting that I was never a model student when I was going through my low vision rotations with Dr. Feinbloom many years ago. I actually remember getting yelled at by him several times during my rotation for not totally getting it! Guess this is why I gravitated to primary care! Well, with that said, I’ve come to realize the importance of low vision work over the years, and the great benefit it brings to millions of patients. 

Thus, my story:

I was honored to be introduced to a 91-year-old World War II Navy veteran who is the father of one of my graduate school instructors.  Knowing my history in the Navy, my instructor asked if I would take the time to talk to his dad about the Navy and share some stories. Well, his dad and I quickly struck up a friendship over the phone where he shared some of the experiences he had on a Navy destroyer during the war in the Pacific. His stories were an amazing documentary of bravery, adventure, and modesty. During the course of our discussions (and I’m not really sure how we got to this) he mentioned that he had age-related macular degeneration and had not read a newspaper in a couple of years; watching television was becoming increasingly more difficult. I asked if he was being seen by anyone and he told me that he was seeing an ophthalmologist and optometrist, both of whom had told him that there was nothing more that could be done to help. At that point I thought, “how can that be?”, with all the great low vision aids and interventions that are out there today. He didn’t have any advanced optical aids nor was he aware that they existed. So, with the help of our staff at the Feinbloom Center at The Eye Institute, I was able to connect him with a Salus graduate who happened to be a low vision specialist working in the VA center near his home. 
At last week's Harvard Program

Let me fast forward a few weeks to when I was recently attending my graduate program at Harvard. When I ran into my instructor, instead of greeting me with just a traditional hello, he grabbed my hand and almost hugged me saying that we had changed his dad’s life! Because of the interventions he received from our former student, his dad, a huge NY Times fan, was able to read the newspaper for the first time in two years! It turns out that our former student evaluated him at the VA and he arranged for him to receive a CRT and other associated low vision aids. Additionally, my instructor told me that the doctor told him to replace his dad’s outdated 27-inch TV with a modern LCD flat screen. It turns out he was quite a sports fan and couldn’t enjoy the games on TV. Now that has also changed.

These are relatively simple fixes that significantly improved the quality of life of a person who, without our intervention, would not have realized these improvements. So, once again, it’s great to be an optometrist – even if I didn’t exactly excel in low vision when I was a student! Positively affecting the lives of those we care for is the centerpiece of what we all do as clinicians. I’m glad this worked out so well.