One of the most popular groups on campus is SVOSH. Yearly they hold many health screenings and help in distributing eyeglasses to people in the community. Tracy Matchinski, OD ’95 is one of the faculty leads for this organization and also serves as the Coordinator in the Low Vision and Rehabilitative Services. We sat down to learn more about low vision rehabilitation and her activities in SVOSH.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into optometry. What drew you to ICO?
I’m moderately myopic, and I vividly remember my optometrist fitting me for contact lenses so that I could continue playing college basketball without worrying about glasses. I was fascinated by the idea of helping people improve their vision and the impact that good vision can have on a person's quality of life.
I was born and raised in Chicago, but I ended up leaving for college. I interviewed at quite a few optometry schools, but I kept returning to ICO, because of my family, but also because of how great the clinic is here.
My time at ICO was so special, and it's where I made some of the most meaningful friendships of my life. We've been through so much together - weddings, funerals, vacations, and more. The community that ICO has built fosters lasting connections. It's a bond that I cherish deeply, and I feel truly grateful to have made such wonderful friends during my time at ICO.
What's one thing you would like incoming students to know about the field of optometry? (And your specific area of optometry)
Low vision rehabilitation is all about helping people who have lost some or all of their vision to improve their functional abilities and live their best lives. In other words, we maximize their remaining vision. We can’t fix the health of their eyes, but rather we focus on how they can best utilize the vision they have left. That can involve using all kinds of services, devices, and technology. This includes magnification devices, assistive technology, or even smartphone apps that help people with vision impairments achieve their specific goals.
When we work with patients at the low vision rehabilitation clinic, we start by determining what their goals are. For some, it might be reading large print or using a computer, and for others, it might be effectively navigating airports or their environments at home. Once we understand their goals, we use our knowledge to help them find the best solutions. Every patient is different, and so we use all the information we have available to find the best solution for them. What makes low vision rehabilitation interesting is just how many tools we have available to help patients. It’s easy to be passionate about what you do when you are making such an impact with each patient.
You're very active in the VOSH community. Why do you think these organizations are important? Why do you choose to participate in them?
I've been fortunate to meet many amazing people who have selflessly given their time and energy to help others. My mentor, Alfred Rosenbloom, OD ’48 got me interested in VOSH (Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity). I did my first VOSH trip with him to Morocco.
We too easily get stuck in our day-to-day routines; we don’t always recognize the impact we are having. On VOSH trips locally or internationally, something as simple as a routine refraction can be incredibly impactful. Throughout my many years of practice, I've witnessed countless moments where simple skills have changed people's lives for the better.
How do you see optometry changing in the next few years and how do you hope to be part of it?
Optometry has opened a wealth of opportunities for me to connect with people from all over the world who share my passion for helping others. I've been able to build a strong network of colleagues who are dedicated to improving people's eye health and advance the profession of optometry globally.
Optometry is truly a special field. Every day, we have the privilege of helping to maintain ocular health, help people see better, feel more comfortable, and live their lives to the fullest. It's a profession that allows us to make a real difference in people's lives, and it's one that offers a great work/life balance.
What knowledge do you want to impart to ICO students?
Emphasizing just how much of an impact we have is one of the most important lessons that I want to impart to our students. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, I challenged our students to find community organizations we could work with to provide relief. They found several organizations, and at every clinic we did, we easily worked with over 100 patients. Through SVOSH, we were able to provide comprehensive eye care and new eyeglasses to people who were struggling financially and who otherwise would not have been able to afford it.
Another thing I want to emphasize is just how close knit our optometric community is. Optometry is a small field, but it's one that's incredibly powerful. We share a common goal of improving people's eye health, and it's a truly rewarding experience to be able to work together towards that goal. It's an honor to be a part of this community, and I'm grateful every day for the opportunity to help people through optometry.