Eyes on it: Optometry clinic ensures mission readiness
By A1C Sarah Dowe, 633rd Air Base Wing Public Afffairs
/ Published January 30, 2020
Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va. -- From annual eye exams to extracting debris from eyes, the Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, optometry clinic sees it all.
Depending on real-world situations such as emergency patients or deployment requirements, personnel at the clinic may see between 30 to 50 patients a day. Serving not only Airman, but Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Coastguardsmen as well, the optometry staff work diligently to ensure each patient is fit to fight.
“The mission of any optometry clinic is ensuring the readiness of the base,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Erich Wanagat, 633rd Aerospace Medicine Squadron optometry flight chief. “We ensure everyone from flyers to maintainers have the required eyewear. We make sure they are seeing as well as possible and that there’s nothing we need to worry about going forward.”
Eye exams are more than just reading a chart; doctors can uncover life-threatening diseases that may not have been discovered otherwise. Therefore, the optometry staff suggest active-duty military members schedule a routine exam at least once every two years to ensure they are healthy and mission-ready.
“Having an annual eye exam is an essential part of your total body health,” said Dr. Courtney Humphrey, 633rd AMDS optometrist. “I have discovered problems with patients who did not need glasses or contacts but had a different type of issue.”
As a way to test visual acuity, patients are required to read from an electronic Snellen chart which simulates what it would look like to read words up to 200 feet away.
When it comes to eyewear, the clinic uses what is called a lensometer to verify patients have the correct prescription.
“The lensometer finds the center point on the lens of glasses and lets us know the patient's prescription based on that reading,” said Senior Airman Alexander Peterson, 633rd AMDS ophthalmic technician. “It lets us know how far apart the pupils are so we know where the light’s coming in.”
Another important part the clinic is the Aircrew Soft Contact Lens Program which ensures pilots who wear contact lenses are supplied with the best prescription and have a matching set of glasses.
“We work with Flight Medicine to make sure that any pilot on active flying status checks in with us for their contact lenses,” Peterson said. “All the pilots are required to have a pair of glasses with them while wearing contact lenses in the cockpit so in case a lens falls out or is damaged, we know they will still be able to see with 20/20 vision.”
Helping to keep other services mission-ready, the clinic also teaches U.S. Army and U.S. Navy students hands-on skills such as cutting lenses, making glasses, writing prescriptions and much more.
“We help them brush up on skills as if they were working in a family practice,” Peterson said.
The ophthalmology clinic is conveniently located in the same hall as optometry, therefore any patients requiring surgeries are able to be treated within the same facility.
“This improves patients’ access to care,” Wanagat said. “We are able to see these patients in a timely manner and tap into specialty care when necessary.”
Doctors and personnel at the Langley clinic continue to ensure active-duty military members receive the best care possible to continue the mission of their specific unit and base.