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VOL. 131 | NO. 156 | Friday, August 5, 2016

Live-Streamed Eye Surgeries Benefit Memphis Optometry Students

By MICHAEL WADDELL

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Eye Specialty Group (ESG) is teaming up with Southern College of Optometry (SCO) to provide another way of educating the area’s young doctors, helping them to better understand the latest surgery techniques. Late last week, three Lasik eye surgeries took place at the ESG Collierville medical offices and were live-streamed to students at SCO in the Medical District, marking the first of what is hoped will be many live-streamed collaborations.

Southern College of Optometry students view a live stream of a Lasik procedure taking place at Eye Specialty Group in Collierville. ESG and SCO, already longtime partners, hope to collaborate on more live streams.

(Submitted)

“I think the event went really well,” said cornea specialist Dr. Subba Gollamudi, who has practiced in Memphis with ESG since 1998. “It was a great session with lively discussion, lots of questions and interaction from the students.”

Eye Specialty Group has partnered with SCO for more than 25 years.

“We’ve had a good relationship with taking care of patients and also helping teach students as they come through the system,” said Gollamudi.

Cornea and Lasik specialist Dr. Andrew Crothers of ESG performed all three surgeries as Gollamudi narrated the event from the Southern College of Optometry with 25 students eagerly observing the operations and asking questions.

“Our students benefit from this collaboration as they view surgical procedures and interact in live time and have their questions answered,” said Dr. Lewis Reich, president of Southern College of Optometry. “When our students graduate as eye doctors, they’ll be prepared to assist patients in reaching optimal outcomes through pre- and post-operative care.”

Lasik is a laser-assisted surgery used to correct defective vision. Interestingly, refractive surgeries like Lasik are considered non-medical surgeries, despite the fact that they help to rid patients of the need for glasses or contact lenses. The surgeries are deemed “cosmetic” and are not typically covered by insurance.

“As the field of refractive surgery has grown, there have been more and more technology and techniques introduced,” Gollamudi said. “It’s imperative that young doctors coming into the marketplace are up to speed and educated on the latest processes involved.”

ESG has had doctors and students previously rotating through its clinics watching surgeries to see how the doctors interact with patients, but they wanted to create an easier channel to interact and communicate.

The ESG Collierville office opened in 2015 and was equipped with state-of-the-art equipment. ESG has performed Lasik and refractive surgeries at its main office in East Memphis since the 1990s, but the clinic relocated its refractive surgery services to the new Collierville offices. Gollamudi estimates the clinic has performed more than 10,000 Lasik surgeries over the years and currently averages about 100 per month.

“We said, ‘Let’s find a way to take care of the patients and educate the student doctors beyond having the doctors drive 45 minutes out here to other side of the county,’” said Gollamudi.

With the exception of Kentucky and Oklahoma, state law prohibits optometrists from performing laser procedures. However, many laser surgery patients will visit optometrists for post-operational care, so SCO students need to learn about the procedure and its follow-up protocols.

“The whole concept of telemedicine is still in the formative stages, and many people don’t want to change to a format where you can see a patient from 200 miles away and make a diagnosis without actually laying hands on the patient,” Gollamudi said.

The patients who had Lasik surgery were SCO employees who knew the procedures would be viewed by SCO students for educational purposes.

“We want to extend the educational bridge,” said Gollamudi. “You have about 130 kids who come through the Southern College of Optometry each year and correcting vision through laser surgery has to be a part of their education, instead of just dealing with traditional disease and processes.”

In addition to surgical techniques, the demos help doctors understand what is involved with pre-op evaluations and post-operative care, so that down the road when they’re in the real world, they will understand and evaluate patients better.

The goal of the partnership going forward will be to conduct live-streaming events every quarter.

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