Written by Maria Choi (3rd Year) and Simo Liu (1st Year)
In November 2021, we had the privilege of meeting virtually with Dr. Laura Dwernichuk, optometrist at the Stony Plain Eye Centre in Alberta. She works alongside her husband to serve the Stony Plain and Spruce Grove communities, as well as surrounding areas. Dr. Dwernichuk graduated from the School of Optometry and Vision Science at the University of Waterloo in 1993.
We had a wonderful discussion about how optometry has changed over the years, what to expect as new graduates, and administration logistics of managing your own practice.
It was eye-opening to learn how optometry has changed since Dr. Dwernichuk started practicing. When she graduated, optometrists had just received the ability to perform dilated exams two years prior! Specialty training, such as residency and fellowship, was not available at the time. The scope of practice continued to expand in therapeutics, as well as in billing for foreign body removals, visual fields, and medically necessary procedures, such as dilation for suspected retinal detachments. Some recent changes include billing for telehealth, which started during the COVID-19 shut-down of optometry clinics in mid March to early May in 2020. We enjoyed hearing Dr. Dwernichuk’s insights about the usefulness of telehealth, especially in allowing us to provide care for patients with contagious conditions, while not putting other patients and staff at risk.
Furthermore, Dr. Dwernichuk had great advice for new graduates, such as how to get the word out about your practice. Some of her recommendations included handing out your business card at exams, joining service clubs, and giving speeches to seniors’ groups.
Dr. Dwernichuk also offered exceptional guidance on the logistics of managing your own practice. We learned that EyeRecommend is a fantastic partner since it offers continuing education opportunities, office training, and Human Resources support. She also advised taking the population you are serving into consideration when deciding which equipment to purchase for your clinic. For example, 80% of her patients are hyperopes, so it would not be cost-effective to purchase equipment for myopia control.
Thank you so much, Dr. Dwernichuk! We appreciated that she took the time to speak to us and to share her experience in optometry. We will take her advice with us for the rest of our time in optometry school and beyond!