Optometry team helps keep vision in focus

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Olufemi Owolabi
  • 65th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
The 65th Medical Group's Optometry Clinic is a crucial unit at Lajes -- it takes care of about 70-90 ocular problems and appointments at Lajes every month, fulfilling its mission to provide clearer vision for Lajes customers.

Within the 65th Medical Group, the optometry clinic is the primary eye-care provider for base members, and is operated by a two-member team, led by Capt. Robert Carlsen, Lajes Optometry Clinic flight commander. Also on the team is a certified para-optometric technician, Tech. Sgt. Latoaya Cason, NCO in charge.

The captain is the sole optometrist at Lajes, and according to him, the job gives him a sense of accomplishment every day.

"I love to see when someone's quality of life is improved by correcting their vision deficiencies," said Captain Carlsen.

The optometry clinic takes care of active duty and dependents, civilians, contractors and DoDDEA teachers and their families.

"We provide pre-operative visits and paperwork for the PRK/LASIK refractive surgery for active duty members," the optometrist said. "We do color vision testing, as well as frame repairs/adjustments on a walk-in basis for all Lajes beneficiaries."

These are just a few of the services provided by the team.

According to Captain Carlsen, his team recently had several children, who had been in desperate need of glasses, come through the clinic.

"Their parents came in to give me feedback on the overall improvement that the child and parent noticed in the child's quality of life," the captain said. "I get to make an impact on things like that, and that's why I love my job."

The team said the favorite part of the job is being able to give their patients clear sight.

The maintenance of ocular health and correction of eye problems are two missions of the team. In order to get the job done, the optometry clinic works with an array of tools. Some of them include pressure reading and automated visual field equipment, and digital retinal photographing machines.

"We are a full scope optometry practice with tools to do everything a private practice could do," Captain Carlsen said. "We are also fully capable of treating basic ocular trauma, such as superficial ocular foreign bodies."

The clinic also provides services, such as color vision testing and surgical screening. The team helps prescribe, dispense and repair spectacles, fit soft contact lenses, refractive surgery pre and post operative care, and driver's license renewals. It also manages ocular disease with pressure readings, automated visual fields, and digital retinal photographs.

When an emergency situation arises, if Captain Carlsen and Sergeant Cason are not available at Lajes, the member has to go to a local provider or be transferred to either Germany or England for treatment.

"Having optometry here saves the Air Force the expense and hassle of having to send all active duty Air Force (members) to local providers or off island to accomplish the required vision testing for their jobs," Captain Carlsen said. "It also provides a convenience for those requiring spectacle or contact lens correction to get their annual exams and prescription updates."

While the team of experts at the optometry clinic is on Terceira Island working 24-7, Team Lajes rests assured the health of their vision will be properly maintained. The optometry clinic staff does not work alone when it comes to treating patients at Lajes. They work closely with other units at the medical group to ensure that patients are taken care of as a whole.

Captain Carlsen and Sergeant Cason said they make referrals as necessary to family medicine, and vice versa. They work closely with flight medicine to ensure all patients on flying/control status are current and their required vision requirements are met.

"Teamwork is the heart of our clinic," the optometrist said. "Since we have such a small clinic, communication and teamwork are very important to allow us to provide the best possible eye care and patient experience each time to any of our beneficiaries. Without teamwork, the responsibilities associated with running our clinic fall on one or the other unnecessarily and make it difficult and more burdensome to provide our patients with the customer service they deserve."

Captain Carlsen and Sergeant Cason make an impact on the Lajes mission, by taking care of an average of six patients each day. According to them, they get a sense of mission accomplishment when the needs or concerns of their patients are met.