Optometry provides power for the pupils

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Siuta B. Ika
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs
One most likely has been asked if they've had any problems with their vision lately during a routine eye exam. And a trip to the eye doctor wouldn't be complete without a request to cover one eye and read a small line of letters on a chart hanging on a wall approximately 20 feet away.

At the 49th Aerospace Medicine Squadron Optometry Clinic, you can expect to be asked the same, as well as a question pertaining to the quality and functionality of issued ballistics inserts, gas mask inserts or inserts for deployments.

"We do everything a normal optometry clinic does, plus a little more," said Capt. (Dr.) Rebecca Freeman, 49th AMDS optometrist. "We administer eye exams to order glasses for daily jobs and to order inserts, but our main goal is to make sure everybody's vision is deployment ready."

Deployment-ready vision includes completion of all mandatory ocular health evaluations and ensuring the deploying member has all the necessary vision correction equipment they need.

Other taskings appointed to Holloman's optometry clinic abnormal to typical optometry clinics include the Aircrew Contact Lens Program and the Corneal Refractive Surgery Program.

"For the Aircrew Contact Lens Program, basically we fit the pilots with the life support device and monitor their use of the lenses," said Doctor Freeman. "For the refractor surgery program, we process potential candidates for eye surgery like LASEK (laser assisted sub-epithelial) or PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) to see if they are good candidates. If so, we send them off to one of five surgery centers to have the procedure, then they come back here so we can monitor their progress while they heal."

The Corneal Refractive Surgery Program has many benefits, explained Doctor Freeman.

"The procedure can cost thousands of dollars per eye ... but for those who qualify, the Air Force will pay for it," she said. "The biggest benefit it provides is you don't have to rely on other devices, like inserts, for deployments."

With all of the programs the clinic offers, it can be hard to provide top-notch care for all of the active duty Holloman members. But for Doctor Freeman and her staff, it's just another day on the job.

"We are rather short-staffed to meet everybody's needs, so I don't find myself to be above any sort of work here and neither does my staff," she said. "If something needs to be done, we get it done. We have to work as a team to get the job done, because if it doesn't we aren't doing anybody any good."

Being the only doctor, and with only two supporting technicians, Doctor Freeman is happy with the customer service the clinic is able to provide to each and every patient.

"People are usually pretty pleased with our customer service and I think we're really good at it," she said. "We do actually care about each individual patient instead of treating them like, 'oh you're here, another number we have to process.'"

With all the services the clinic provides, getting in to see the doctor is the hardest part, explained Airman 1st Class Desiree Delgado, 49th AMDS optometry technician.

"Captain Freeman is leaving, so there isn't going to be an optometrist on base until July," she said. "People can still receive optometric care, but they will have to see their primary care manager to get a referral to be seen downtown."

"It will make things here a little complicated, but of course leadership knows about it and is working on getting the clinic some assistance," said Doctor Freeman.

Even though Holloman's optometry clinic will not be taking appointments until July, Doctor Freeman highlighted the importance of the clinic in one sentence -- "If you can't see them, you can't shoot them."

For more information, contact the 49th AMDS Optometry Clinic at 575-572-3800.