IUSO Student Brings Home Not Just One National Award, But Two

Friday, April 29, 2016

IU School of Optometry’s Sarah Kuipers, OD ’16, was recently named the national winner of the 2016 Varilux Student Award given by Essilor. Her case - “Inside Out and Upside Down: Reorientation of a Varilux S Series Design™ Progressive Lens solves a patient’s occupational demands” - described a journey to meet the visual needs of a presbyopic patient who worked inside a windmill tower and had to see within an arm’s reach above his head. The challenge was that the patient was insistent he wanted to wear only one pair of glasses within the tower. Sarah credits his persistence in going to multiple doctors to find an answer to his problem. This optimism was the driving force to push Sarah to find a way to meet the patient’s visual needs.  The solution was to fit the patient with Varilux lenses upside down. According to the Essilor press brief, her case was selected based on the “unique and unusual fitting of Varilux lenses in an occupational situation. Her study highlighted innovative thinking to solve the problem of a patient in a demanding work environment, which resonated with the judges as it goes hand-in-hand with the innovation of the Varilux brand. Sarah fit the lenses upside down, which allowed the patient to navigate a ladder, read overhead text and view intermediate at primary gaze, which was required in his unusual occupation of working in the cramped space inside of a large windmill. The selection was made based upon the applicant’s dispensing skills, application of Varilux lenses to patient needs, analysis of the case and analysis of the lens design and lens performance.” Both Sarah and her IUSO advisor, Ginger Long, received a $2,500 grant for this winning case.

In addition to receiving this national award in her 4th year of optometry school, Sarah also received the national 2015 InfantSEE Scholarship Grant, on behalf of Optometry Cares®- the AOA Foundation, during her 3rd year. She was unaware of the InfantSEE program until she worked part-time at an Indiana optometric practice during her first year at IUSO and was able to witness firsthand two practitioners who were participants of the program, and saw the good it can do. Sarah is excited to incorporate this program into her own practice. She views the InfantSEE program as “a gateway for all children to begin an ocular health regimen, which helps assuage parent's concerns, and can be an excellent practice builder for any optometrist. Amblyopia is the number one cause of preventative vision loss in children in the United States, and yet, guidelines for pediatric ocular care are not well known by the public or medical field.” InfantSEE, as she explains, puts “education and availability of services first, in order to give children their best chance at a successful visual experience. I will work to educate surrounding parents, physicians and pediatricians, daycare providers, and hospitals to ensure that everyone is aware of the program and its importance.”

Sarah considers herself lucky to have connections to the vision care industry. After graduation, she plans to return to her home state, South Dakota, and take over the optical business started by her grandparents. She intends to bring true primary care practice to a business with a full-service in-house lab and a strong reputation for excellence and which is known for dealing with the most challenging cases.  Running her own business and working with her uncles will give her the freedom to practice as she wants and pursue specialties she is passionate about. “First and foremost, I hope provide ocular care for children.” She plans to be a COVD registered optometrist in an area where good coverage for pediatric optometry is hard to find. With her interest in pediatric optometry and her commitment to practicing to the full scope of South Dakota state regulations, Sarah plans to practice medical-based optometry, which is not the traditional model in her state. As if life wasn’t already jam packed challenges, Sarah and her husband are also expecting their first child. As Sarah explains, “The next few months will bring an inordinate number of changes for me as I take on many new roles: doctor, business owner, and mother. As I stand at the precipice of graduation, I am ready to take on the mantle of the profession that I love.”