Posted on June 13, 2017
Historical Perspective of Pediatric Ophthalmology at the Spokane Eye Clinic
Guest post by: Marilyn Westerman, CO
We are so thankful that Ms. Marilyn Westerman has shared with us her historical perspective of pediatric ophthlamology here at the Spokane Eye Clinic. Marilyn graced us with her experience and compassionate care for more than 4 decades! Thanks Marilyn!
"It has been 50 years since I was hired as a certified orthoptist at the Spokane Eye Clinic. At the time I arrived there were five ophthalmologists at the clinic. Three of the physicians were general ophthalmologists who examined most of the pediatric and adult strabismus cases and performed strabismus surgery.
I was the third certified orthoptist to work at the Spokane Eye Clinic arriving in 1967. Julie Jones and Jennifer Axtens preceded me. Julie worked in the 1950’s shortly after the clinic opened. Gladys Smith worked as an orthoptist in the early 1960’s followed by Jennifer who was employed from 1965 through 1966. My goal as an orthoptist, like the orthoptists before me, was to provide evaluation, treatment, and education to children and adults with visual movement and alignment problems. Because of the nature of their visual disorders, many of the patients were young children. In the orthoptic workup a series of diagnostic tests and measurements were done and through interpretation of the results the orthoptist provided treatment recommendations to the ophthalmologist. Many patients were referred to me to check and treat amblyopia, perform pre and post-op surgery measurements and to build good fusional control with orthoptic therapy. One physician required that I screen all new patients six and under before he checked them. As a result I kept busy with diagnostic and therapeutic orthoptics along with referrals from outside doctors.
While I was gone from June 1973 through September 1975, Dona Swenson was employed as the certified orthoptist at the clinic. During that time I was pursuing my undergraduate degree I volunteered part time teaching preschool vision screening. In late 1975 I returned to the clinic.
As time moved on, more ophthalmologists joined the clinic. When I wasn’t busy with orthoptics I did various allied health tasks for all of the ophthalmologists. Because of this demand I became dual certified with JCAHPO like many other orthoptists.
In 1982 Dr. Stephen Maher joined the clinic as its first fellowship trained pediatric ophthalmologist. All strabismus patients were referred to him at that time. Soon after, at Dr. Maher’s suggestion, I enrolled in Teller Acuity Card training. Teller Acuity testing was then incorporated into the orthoptic workup of infants and nonverbal patients. The B Vat 11 was another innovation that followed. It was so superior to the traditional vision projector. The troposcope (a major amblyoscope) was replaced in the clinic by a new synoptophore. It was a great diagnostic and therapeutic tool, particularly in measuring cyclo deviations and angle kappa.
Another pediatric ophthalmologist, Dr. Jeff Snow, joined the clinic when Valley Mission Eye clinic merged with Spokane Eye Clinic in 1990. He continued to center his practice in the valley.
Dr. Gates, senior ophthalmologist at the clinic, sponsored me into the Manito Lions Club in 1990. I immediately became involved in the sight committee. Throughout the years our sight committee has helped a large number of needy individuals including children with eye exams, glasses, and surgeries. Many of these services have been provided by the Spokane Eye clinic physicians at a discount.
The Spokane Eye Clinic began presenting spring seminars to technicians, assistants, opticians, and optometrists in 1990, 1993 and 1995. These presentations helped JCAHPO certified ophthalmic personnel gain CE credits. During these years many of the physicians and technicians gave lectures and workshops. I presented various topics including pediatric related subjects such as Basic Ocular Motility Lecture and Workshop and Introduction to Goldmann Perimetry.
In 2010 Dr. Jeffrey Colburn arrived at the Spokane Eye Clinic to start the next generation of pediatric ophthalmology. It was a great opportunity for me to check more adult strabismus patients, particularly double vision cases as well as children. In 2012, Dr. Colburn became involved in PEDIG, clinical research in pediatric ophthalmology. As a certified orthoptist I was privileged to participate as a masked examiner in most of these studies.
I retired from full time employment in January 2015. For a year I worked part time as a certified orthoptist for Dr. Colburn which was a fine way to transition into full retirement.
I’ll always have a special place in my heart for the patients, especially the pediatric and adult strabismus cases that I checked throughout the years.
Proud to be a longtime fusionista!!!
Marilyn M Westerman"