Passion. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines passion as “a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something.” I think my family and closest friends would agree that, in general, I am a passionate person. Those who know me best will tell you that the things I’m most passionate about are travel (especially international destinations I’ve visited or hope to visit, like the city of Chicago and the Hawaiian islands); being a “foodie” (trying new restaurants and seeking out various ethnic cuisines); our recently-rescued kitten named Coco; and most importantly, pediatric optometry.
I became a pediatric optometrist for many different reasons. The main one involved my early discovery of enjoying working with children. In fact, my freshman year of college I was an elementary education major! I later switched to biology/pre-med due to my equally-significant interest in pursuing a career in the medical field. Ironically, my Lebanon Valley College psychology professor was good friends with a local optometrist, Dr. James Bouquet, and knew a bit about developmental optometry and vision therapy. A psychology research project he helped me design involved subjects doing convergence exercises with an antique stereoscope to investigate its use in decreasing near point fatigue. Planets aligned and interests were meshed, thus solidifying my desire to apply to optometry school the following year. While at PCO, I joined the COVD student organization and eventually went on to become the national student liaison to the COVD Board of Directors. Not surprisingly, my interests drove me to complete a pediatric optometry and binocular vision residency at Illinois College of Optometry.
After almost 17 years of practice, my passion for pediatric optometry is unwavering. I still get excited to see the smiling faces of the children under my care, to make a life-changing diagnosis of accommodative esotropia and prescribe a first pair of +6.00 glasses, and to be able to reassure a teenager suffering from daily headaches due to convergence insufficiency that a program of vision therapy will provide relief to his or her problem. Beyond this day-to-day practice, I also love sharing my passion with fellow optometrists and medical professionals by speaking locally and nationally about general pediatric vision care and pediatric low vision.
One of the primary goals I have for the POA in 2014 is to promote children’s vision. The timing could not be more perfect, matching the rollout of the Affordable Care Act with the pediatric essential benefit in place. The AOA, as a result of your membership dues, fought diligently to make this pediatric essential benefit a reality, a prime example of how the AOA makes sure that optometry is not forgotten or left behind in the legislative or third party arena. With this coverage for comprehensive eye exams, medical visits and materials for ages 0-18 years, it is very likely that most of us will see an increased number of children in our practices over the next year.
To this end, I have unofficially named 2014 “The Year of the Child.” Watch for the re-introduction of the Kids Welcome Here ® Program – a public education and patient recruitment program that is highly recognized around the country. We especially hope to highlight this program at Optometry’s Meeting in Philadelphia. Plans are also being finalized for a six-hour pediatric continuing education program on November 23 in Hershey, featuring a nationally-recognized pediatric optometrist from the ICO, well-respected members of our Pediatric Vision Care Committee (PVCC), and even a developmental pediatrician discussing autism spectrum disorders (how to work best with these children in our exam chairs and associated vision concerns). I am also working closely with the AOA in facilitating an InfantSEE event to be held at PCO. This program has been making its way around the country at several schools of optometry and features both a student program with motivational speaker Tom Sullivan and a COPE-approved continuing education program for optometrists. Lastly, the PVCC will be working towards the long-anticipated goal of a Children’s Vision Day at the Capitol. We are fortunate that the PVCC chairperson, Dr. James Spangler, has a solid relationship with a local state representative who we hope to recruit for support of this project.
The noted speaker and author on leadership John Maxwell said it best: “A leader’s courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position.” It is my vision that over the next year, through increased exposure to and education about pediatric optometry, you, too, will come to share a bit of my passion for taking care of our youngest and most precious patients.
For the love of children,
Marianne E. Boltz, O.D., F.A.A.O.
Pennsylvania Optometric Association
Pennsylvania Optometric Association