Interview with Jeffry Gerson, OD, FAAO: VSP Eye on Wellness Continuing Education
Following is an interview with Jeffry D. Gerson, OD, FAAO, a practicing optometrist who is also a writer, lecturer, and thought leader on retinal disease management. Dr. Gerson co-leads the VSP Eye on Diabetes and Eye on Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) COPE-approved CE seminars with Paul Chous, MA, OD, FAAO.
Your biography says that you knew in high school that you wanted to be an optometrist. What prompted you to specialize in retinal disease management?
Well, to begin with, I knew from a fairly young age I wanted to be an optometrist. I knew that as a child I never dreaded going to my optometrist. I wanted to be somebody that others would not dislike going to and where people would likely leave happier than they were when they came in.
As far as retinal disease, I really enjoyed that part of one of my fourth-year externships, and was lucky enough to do a residency where I had both an incredible mentor and was exposed to a lot of retinal disease, among other things. For some reason, the retinal disease really interested me and I always wanted to learn more.
Why did you get involved in the VSP Eye on Wellness Campaign—first with VSP Eye on Diabetes and now with VSP Eye on AMD?
I think it’s a great opportunity for me to provide education on the subject, and a great opportunity for doctors to receive education, while earning COPE-approved credits—for free. Also, with the 4-hour “series,” it allows for the topic to really be gone into detail and not just summarized.
Why is education about treating the whole patient important for ODs?
Although the main areas we deal with every day are vision and eyes, they are only a part of a person. Their well-being may be dramatically affected by their vision, but there is more to a person's whole self than just vision. We need to realize that we are a piece of a person's healthcare puzzle that needs to interact with the other pieces as needed.
Do you see ODs as having a role in educating patients on lifestyle choices that can help prevent diseases like AMD?
Absolutely. Patients with early AMD are mostly seen in OD offices. They may not need a retinal specialist, but they need education. We know the potential benefits of lifestyle changes, and can’t assume that a patient will undertake these changes without education and direction. These patients are a great opportunity to really build strong relationships and help people preserve their vision (and well being!).
What one thing do you hope ODs who attend VSP Eye on AMD will take back to their practice?
I hope that they will take at least one thing that will help them to do something a little differently. As long as patients receive good care, that is my goal. If I had to pick one thing, I think that it would be that we can make a difference!
What have you learned from your fellow ODs as you've co-presented the VSP Eye on Wellness CE seminars over the last few years?
I learn something every time I do a talk. Sometimes I learn from a question that I may not know the answer to, when I have to rely on Dr. Chous (I am lucky to get to present with such a great mind!). I have learned that ODs practice differently, to different levels, and that is OK. Some people may refer a patient before I would, and some after. As long as patients are getting the right care, then that is the bottom line. Often, there is not just one right or one wrong thing to do.
To date, more than 1,430 doctors have received free CE and COPE-approved credits through the VSP Eye on Wellness Program. In a survey to these doctors, nearly 100% found the seminars to be highly valuable. Learn about and register for upcoming seminars at vspeyeonamd.com and vspeyeondiabetes.com.
Visit globaleyesofhope.com to learn more about all of the VSP Global outreach efforts—or stop by the VSP Mobile Eyes clinic at Vision Expo West.