Dr Rosenfield is a professor at SUNY Optometry who teaches OTP (Optometric Theory and Procedures) I and II, taught during the fall and spring semesters of 1st year respectively. These courses lay the foundation for all classes as they cover refraction, accommodation, binocularity and other critical aspects of optometry. Dr Rosenfield not only teaches, but also does research. Through his research and teaching he shows dedication and passion for the field of optometry. It was very nice of him to share his thoughts on many different topics.
OS: What drives you to keep coming back to teach the 1st years at SUNY? It is like a new language that you teach us and it takes a lot of effort.
Dr. R: I love teaching first year students because they are so enthusiastic and everything is new to them. For example, even though it is still August and this is their very first week of Optometry school here at SUNY, they are now in the methods lab practicing procedures. We literally begin in the lab on day I of the first year and they are so excited about starting clinical work. The enthusiasm is the best part of first year students. They are all bright eyed and keen to learn. It’s wonderful.
OS: You are known as someone who expects a lot from students. What are your thoughts?
Dr. R: Yes I do expect a lot from students and I know I push them harder than some other faculty. But this is what you will be doing for the rest of your professional lives. One day your parents will tell you about “tough love”. Sometimes you need to be strict and a little harsh, not because you want to be the bad guy but because you want everyone to reach their full potential. I want all of you to become outstanding clinicians. I don’t want you to be just okay or average. I want you to be the very best doctors. I want our graduates to become the colleagues I would happily refer friends, family and other patients to. So I will push maybe harder than a lot of students would like, so as to make them the very best that they can be. It’s a little like being a sports coach. To be a winner, you have to suffer a little along the way. But it’s very worthwhile at the end when I see outstanding graduates. I think, okay, I pushed them hard, and they made it. The “tough love” is worth it in the end.
OS: When I try to explain it to my parents all the homework problems, it all seems like a new language. It blows my mind that you make it so accustomed to everything. It is like second nature to you.
Dr. R: First year Optometry is exactly like teaching a foreign language, and it never ceases to amaze me how quickly students do pick it up. A big reminder of this for me is when I bring new faculty into the teaching lab who have never taught first year students before. They may have supervised third and fourth years in clinic and be experienced practitioners. But they come in to the first year lab and often say “wow this is so difficult” because they are used to talking the language of optometry. They speak to a first year student in technical terms only to find out that they have no idea what we are talking about. In the beginning we have to talk to them like lay people. Like today in the first week of the first year, I told the class to “measure the left eye”. You have to realize that they don’t even know which is the left eye, and that it’s the patient’s left not your left. A lot of experienced doctors have trouble explaining procedures to new first year students.
Dr.R: I would not mind teaching 2nd years but only if I could continue to teach 1st years as well. But I really don’t have the time to teach both. So while I would be happy to teach other classes, I would not want to give up teaching 1st years. There isn’t enough time for me to do both as well as all the other optometric things I want to do both here at SUNY and elsewhere.
OS: What is the biggest challenge that you had when you wrote the textbook?
Dr. R: The biggest was getting authors to turn in their chapters on time. Some were very good, but a lot of faculty habitually just ignore deadlines. The whole process took around 2.5 to 3 years. The publishers were a little slow as well. The whole process took a lot longer than I thought it was going to. You have to send a lot of reminder emails to the chapter authors to “bug them” about their chapters. But ultimately if they are slow you just have to wait.
OS: What made you focus your attention on Computer Vision Syndrome? Is it because of students complaining?
Dr. R: For once it was nothing to do with student complaints. I have read about the condition and a lot of patients complain of various types of discomfort when they are looking at electronic screens such as desktop and laptop computers, I-phones tablets and electronic readers like Kindles. We are still not sure what the underlying cause of the problems are. It may be related to the distance people hold these devices, which is sometimes very close, or it could also be due to small font sizes. Dry eye and changes in blink patterns also seem to be related to computer vision syndrome.
OS: What have you researched prior to Computer Vision Syndrome?
Dr. R: I have spent a lot of time looking at the cause of myopia and trying to figure out the relationship between nearwork and myopia.. Clearly we have not yet been successful in outlining a clear mechanism although some of the latest research such as the effect of peripheral hyperopic defocus seems promising. But there have been a lot of what seemed really good ideas over the years. We will just have to see how that works out.
Be on the look out for part 2 of this interview, as Dr. Rosenfield gives insight into education in optometry and what be believes makes a good optometrist!