Low Vision is an area of specialty that many ECPs are not comfortable diving into. Yet, it may be one of the most impactful and rewarding areas of practice. Dr. Ana Juricic is a low vision optometrist practicing in Toronto with over 27 years of experience in the field of vision rehabilitation services for individuals living with vision loss. In this episode, Dr. Juricic shares how she became a renowned low vision specialist without completing a residency or pursuing any other specialized training in the space. Dr. Juricic also explains why it is important for all primary eyecare providers to become well-versed in low vision. Learn more about the impact of low vision and the role of low vision optometrists in helping those battling this vision problem in this conversation!
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The Impact Of LOW VISION With Dr. Ana Juricic
I always appreciate the time taking the time out of your busy days to join us and I’m always trying to bring on guests that can help us expand and grow. This episode is no exception. I have the wonderful Dr. Ana Juricic here. She is a low-vision specialist based in Toronto and had a passion for low-vision for many years. She’s helped thousands of patients over this period of time. She’s seen patients from all over all corners of Canada and even from around the world. She’s an international speaker and the creator of The Vision Enhancing Method, which I’m very excited to learn more about. Thank you so much, Dr. Juricic for joining us.
Thank you for having me. I’m a big fan of your show. Thank you for interviewing everyone and sharing the information of optometrists not just in Canada, but all over North America and the world. Congratulations on such a great job of what you do.
That’s very kind. Thank you. Let’s learn a little bit more about you because we’ve spoken a couple of times now, and I’m impressed with everything that you’ve done and built. I want more of our colleagues to know about you and what you’re doing and learn from you. Tell us a little bit more about who you are and let’s dive in from there, how have you gotten to where you are, where you’ve practiced, and that type of thing?
I’ve been practicing for many years. I’m a graduate of the University of Waterloo School of Optometry class of 1996. I sometimes shake my head thinking that I’ve been doing this for many years. All those years ago. I’d be a lot older and that’s a long time. I am still passionate about what I do and I enjoy seeing the patients out in the seeing. When I first graduated, I went back to my hometown to see Ontario, which is outside of Windsor. I practiced from Windsor and Tecumseh. I worked as an associate.
I was doing routine-like exams and within the first few months of practicing, one of the practices was right across the hall from a prominent ophthalmologist. He’s well known for being one of the leaders in refractive surgery, Dr. Tayfour. When he would see some of his cataract patients, if they didn’t have optometrists, they’d send them over to our clinic across the hall. I was seeing more and more people with macular degeneration. I knew they didn’t need glasses. They needed low-vision aids.
At the time, our clinic had a few handheld magnifiers. Nobody was doing low-vision services down in Windsor. People are being sent back to Waterloo where I trained. That’d be a three-hour drive for them to commute to Waterloo. For anyone who has done clinic rotations and low vision, these exams in the university setting take about three-plus hours. That’s why, unfortunately, a lot of people remember low vision as being slow vision.
Here are these people who travel three hours to get there. They’d be in the clinic for over three hours. They either stay overnight or come back. I reached out to one of my classmates. He is a good friend of mine. At the time, he was working at the Scarborough Low Vision Centre. He said, “You know what to do. We were taught everything that you need to do. Why are you sending these patients to Waterloo? You can provide the services in Windsor.” That’s how it all started.
He guided me and taught me some of the aids that he was recommending and what he was doing well with. I started bringing the low-vision services within the practice I was working as an associate. I’m grateful that the optometrist I worked with recognized the need. A few years later, in 2000, there was an opportunity for me to be able to open up my own clinic. I decided to open up my own private practice of full-scope optometry clinic with a low-vision center within it.
It was unheard of anywhere in Southwestern Ontario and a big reason I want to also open up the practice is because I was tired of those gray laminate medical settings of offices. You have the gray laminate counters and cabinets. I wanted a boutique-style optometry office. In 2000, what I was able to create was unheard of in Southwestern Ontario at the time. I’m proud of what it was able to create.
I had the low-vision clinic within there and I also had hired a low-vision assistant who is legally blind. Her son was a patient of mine. I recognize how important it would be to be able to have somebody who could relate to the patients. Once I was done, she would be able to work with the patients. She had a CCTV in her low-vision demo room. It was a great relationship and eventually, because of my husband’s work, it brought us back to Toronto where he’s originally from.
In 2009, the practice was sold. It had grown to 5 doctors and 9 staff. I sold it to one of my classmates and then I had this opportunity. We had started our family. We had two kids at the time and nobody knew me in Toronto. Nobody knew about the work that I did, whereas in Windsor, I created a wonderful reputation. I had the ophthalmologist, local colleagues, and optometrists referring to me. In Toronto, it was only my colleagues or friends who knew what I was able to do.
I remember my husband asked, “Do you want to open up another practice?” Having 2 little ones, I knew that putting 80 hours a week between patients and during the business side of things, I didn’t want to have a full-scope practice. I could not see myself being in a new city with 2 little ones because they were both at that time under the age of 3. I said, “No, I wanted a do a little different.” It’s such an under-serviced area. I enjoy it. I love helping patients.
My idea was to work with an ophthalmologist. Originally, I wanted to go and work in the hospital setting in retinal clinics. I remember I went outside my comfort zone and I drew up a resume and cover letter everything to tell what I was able to do and the lectures I was already doing. I sent out 30 of these letters to ophthalmologists throughout the immediate Toronto area. I was able to set up some interviews with some key ophthalmologists, especially the Chief of Ophthalmology at three of the hospitals.
I will always appreciate the conversation I had with Dr. Berger. He’s a specialist here in Toronto. At the time, he was Chief of Ophthalmology at St. Michael’s Hospital. He was candid. He said, “For you as an optometrist here in 2009 to be able to work in a hospital setting, it’s virtually impossible because of all the obstacles.” That crushed my idea of being with the retinal specialist when you were seeing the patients I wanted to be able to help because many of them were all working in these hospital settings.
That’s when I focused on private practices and clinics and through another colleague of mine, a good friend, he introduced me to Dr. Kranemann, a chronic glaucoma specialist in Toronto. I was fortunate. He recognized what I was talking about, the need for low-vision services, and that there weren’t a lot of options in Toronto, let alone Canada. He gave me the opportunity and I was with him for nine years.
Eventually, I worked also with another retinal specialist, Dr. Choudhry. He is another impressive specialist career in the city. Knowing that my schedule will always have to revolve around the ophthalmologist schedules as well, I eventually decided that with all these years, and I’ve been doing it for many years, it was time for me to branch off again on my own and now I have a low-vision clinic where I rent space within an optical. I did that because the optician that I work with worked with low vision for almost many years.
Between myself and him, we have nearly 67 years of experience together. He gets my prescriptions because I do a lot with prism relocation and some interesting complex designs. I always say the foundation of any low vision assessment has to start once you’ve done the vision goals, knowing what a patient wants in terms of the goals. The next foundation is a good refraction. That’s why I always say, “I’m here to maximize any remaining vision of person has so they can do the vision goals they have.” It starts with a good refraction. It’s key before I show them any of the other options that are out there, which is the part that I get super excited about. That’s my venture in many years down in a few minutes.
That’s a lot of stuff. It’s amazing that you’ve been through many different steps and spoken to many different people and different cities. Quirky little fact, I went to Tecumseh Elementary. The name, all of a sudden, brought back all these memories, but that was here in Vancouver. You would think in a big city like Toronto, there’s going to be a huge need for these types of services. I’m sure after a little while, you’ve seen that the need for it there.
A lot of what you’re getting into at the end of telling your story was the refraction and the way you prescribe and complex prescriptions. I feel like that side of the conversation starts to scare people a little bit about like, “I can’t do low vision because that’s like complex stuff that I don’t have the knowledge in. I don’t practice that way.” One thing we want to talk about is this was what you do now. You got here on your own practicing and learning it yourself. You didn’t do a residency.
One thing we wanted to do is encourage our colleagues to do a little bit more about this, more of this, more low vision type of care and least understanding how to start that care for our patients but we get a little scared of like, “That stuff’s a little too complex.” What do you say in that regard as far as somebody who’s maybe doing general practice and wants to learn a bit more about this?
I’m glad that you highlight this. This is one of the reasons that I have gone outside my comfort zone all these years. I do a lecture on the topic and it’s because we as optometrists are trained. We’re first trained IN refraction. We have all the other elements with ocular health and binocular vision. I always see low vision as being the full-encompassing aspect of what optometry is to a higher level because you take everything into consideration.
When I see a patient, it’s a very integrative approach. The refraction is key. Everybody who practices optometry has the tools that they need to do a good refraction. That’s one of the reasons. That’s the basis of this whole vision-enhancing method that I’ve created. This is part of a prism relocation. When I went to school, we only knew to use a prism if somebody had an eye turn, binocular vision issues, or if they’ve had a stroke and hemianopsia and you had to shift the visual field.
There’s an element of using prism relocation on anybody who has a central macular defect or even slight RP changes where all I’m doing is displacing that central focal point, not to hit the immediate center at the macular roots of the finest detail vision, but an area next to it that might be healthier, that eye deviation that they have. You’d be surprised how much a person can appreciate, even a 1-diopter prism that’s added, 1/2-diopter, a lot of my Rxs even have a 1/2-diopter, or 2-diopter
When I see all the stuff that happens in your old lens, I get excited because here’s another way that the prism has been added to the way optometry can be practiced. I’ve been doing prism relocation for years now, and that’s one of the tricks of how I’m able to optimize a person’s prescription. I often tell a patient they probably never experienced it because it’s normally not done in the standard exam. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to be done.
If someone has low vision, especially someone practicing in remote areas, people can’t travel necessarily to go to a low vision clinic because it’s quite a distance to find somebody. All you need is 1) Proctor, 2) Trial frame, and 3) Your trial frame set. I do ret on every patient because it gives me a lot more information. I mastered retinoscopy. I remember when I first graduated and had full physical practice, I loved the autorefractor.
However, there’s a key to retinoscopy and it gives me a lot of information so everyone gets a ret with me and then I fine-tune it. I’ll draw up from what I have as our distance refraction. I start using the prisms to find out how to optimize the best part that they have and that can make a difference with that higher reading add.
Whenever I see a prescription for someone who has vision loss, they’ve come in and have seen someone else. If I see they’ve been given a +3.50 add or 4 add, I comment to that patient, “You had a great doctor,” because they didn’t rely on the formula that once you pass a certain age, it should be a +2.50 add or I’m going to stop at most as a +2.75 add.
That formula goes out the window as soon as you’re dealing with someone with vision loss. That’s something everyone can do and that little bit of extra add that you have to educate about good lighting and having to hold it much closer can bridge a gap for a while until maybe if they start suffering more visual loss where then they have to go into additional age to help maximize.
We’re optometrists. We know how to do great refraction and how to fine-tune it. When somebody says, “I can’t do it,” that’s a choice they’ve made. They can either choose to spend the extra time which sometimes means they might have to come back. You might have to modify how much time you are allocating for an eye exam for someone that you think might need more time but to say, “I can’t do it,” is a choice or decision of not taking action. Everyone has the ability to take action. It is something I tell my kids all the time. I have four kids. They say they can’t do something. They can choose not to or they can choose to do something.
It reminds me of Confucius, “He who says he can and he who says he can’t are both right.”
The other thing that I always say is, “You can’t try. You either can or cannot.”
Thank you for that. I’m one of those optometrists who’s like, “I don’t think I have the skillset for low vision. I don’t think I’m set up for it.” As you’re saying, you need a retina scope for ophthal trial set. Pretty much you’ve already done a good chunk of it. That’s talking from a technical skill standpoint, but there’s one other big thing that’s needed and it’s not a technical skill. It’s a personality trait. I don’t know what’s the right way to put it. That’s empathy. I know empathy is a word that’s thrown around generally a lot. This is one scenario where it is extremely important. I know we want to talk a little bit about that. Tell me why empathy is important and where it fits into this whole conversation.
It’s such a huge element and that whole art of communication is huge when you’re dealing with someone with vision loss or anyone who’s having more difficulty. It seems more natural for some people to have empathy and I know that’s something that I’ve always been able to relate with my patients. I will always say I’m not in their shoes. I never want to say, “I know exactly how you’re feeling,” because I cannot know what it’s like 24/7 with them with their vision loss.
I may have an understanding of what they may go through and it’s key. I almost have a little radar that I’ve recognized and I’m taking a lot of courses to help even fine-tune my own skills of the art of communication and understanding how people think and process things. What I realized early on when I took some of these courses is that I have that natural rapport with my patients and part of it was because I am a very empathic person. I can pick up on patients if I sense that they might be depressed. That’s a huge thing because many of my patients, especially if they have an accurate generation, are seeing their ophthalmologist usually every 4, 6, 8, or 12 weeks if they’re getting injections.
If they’re lucky, they’re spending five minutes with that doctor. That doctor has many patients that they’re seeing. I worked in ophthalmology clinics. I know how many patients are seen in the day. They don’t necessarily have the time to spend with patients. Sometimes they will with some. Unfortunately, they can’t have the time for all of them the way the system and how they’ve made their schedule. When I see a patient, I’ve scheduled that extra time.
If I pick up that someone is depressed or I think they’re depressed, I bring them the conversation of, “How are you doing with the vision loss?” Often, they start opening up and the reason is if they are in that stage of early depression, which is very similar stages as if someone going through the early stages of visual loss, it’s like losing their best friend. They’ve had their vision from day one longer than most people they know.
When they’re losing their vision, they’re going through the same grieving stages as losing a loved one and they can be in that stage of anger, “Why me?” The denial. It’s often until they get to that stage of acceptance that they’re open to the possibilities. I’ve seen patients where they’re in that deep stage of depression at that point. I start talking about that because I know that it’s a conversation that’s not normally taking place in examination rooms. I want to know how they’re doing.
When people lose their vision, they’re going through the same grieving stages as losing a loved one.
I’m very fortunate here in Toronto. I’ve gotten to know some key people and one is this amazing psychiatrist that my patient told me about. She’s a medical doctor. She’s a psychiatrist who works at a local hospital, but she has a niche practice where she sees people with vision loss and we’ve become friends over the years as well. She herself is legally blind. Who best to talk to than someone who lives it every day?
There’s another agency called BALANCE here in Toronto. They’ve expanded. It’s BALANCE for Blind Adults. They have these amazing services that now have expanded past Toronto where they have someone who’s further team and she and her sister both are legally blind. They have an inherited retinal condition. She provides support and therapy for people the vision loss either in group settings or one-on-one. I share this with my patients. It’s all my resource list that we give up to our patients because it’s huge.
I’ve had far too many people who sat on my chair who’ve told me when we tap into some of this, “I’ve been very depressed. I’ve thought about suicide.” Some have attempted. I’m fortunate they never succeeded. There’s one person in particular that I think about. I told him about this psychiatrist. He wasn’t ready to see her at the time. He reached out by email. I am happy it didn’t fall into my junk mail. I saw his email. He reached out. He wanted to get connected and have me refer and I did. Luckily, she was able to see him in a timely manner. It was later revealed, he had a suicide plan for the age of 50. He reached out to me 4 months before his 50th birthday. He’s still here six years later.
That’s one of the reasons that I was talking to you. You’ve inspired me with all your shows. I’m launching my own show called Seeing Again Podcast. It’s geared for people with vision loss, their caregivers, anyone dealing with individuals with vision loss and blindness, and eyecare colleagues as well. The big thing that I want to be tapping into is some of these great stories of patients I’ve met for many years who are inspirational.
I know pure Olympians that I’ve gotten to meet. I’ve met Ultramarathoners. I’ve met people who have started their own businesses and have succeeded in every realm. I want to share these stories with people to give them some hope and know that maybe there are different possibilities, especially when they think there aren’t because I find that there are not a lot of great sources out there.
If I can provide hope to people, I know I do that when patients get to see me one-on-one, but not everyone gets to sit on my chair. Even though I’ve seen people from coast to coast, including Nineveh and the territories, they can all sit in my chair. This is one way that I know I’ve helped thousands. I don’t want to stop helping thousands. I want to be helping hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people with vision loss by giving them the information, knowledge, and hope.
There are powerful and inspirational stories in there. We all understand as optometrists that vision loss, and not to minimize any of this conversation, but even patients who have severe dry eye, go through these different states of depression. Their mental well-being is affected by these conditions. You can only imagine when somebody’s had severe vision loss, how much it could affect their mental state as well. The fact that you’re taking the time to address that with them and connect with them is huge.
It’s interesting to know the inspirational stories of people who’ve had vision loss but instead of letting it control their lives, they’re taking action and using it as a way to build a business or help other people. That’s inspirational as well. People will want to know more about these stories. I look forward to when you roll out your show and start to share that information. I’ll be sure to make sure we spread the message as well. I’m happy to help you however I can to make sure we get that off the ground. It’s going to be powerful.
One thing that I always do whenever I do these lectures and it’s to our eye care colleagues, ophthalmologists, and optometrists running healthcare. When you have that patient sitting in your chair if it’s personal vision loss or dry eye, any patient who sits in your chair, if all of us, optometrists, would think about that patient as if it was their loved one, what would they want that loved one to be told by their eye doctor? We’re the professionals. We have the knowledge.
Patients and loved ones are going to be searching the internet for anything that can help them. If we even stop and think, even if you have a diagnosis you have to give someone like before I diagnosed someone with choroidal melanoma. That’s not the news you ever want to tell a patient that they have this. How do you relate that information? You’re in beyond the slit lamp. You don’t want to go, “Huh?” The patients are going to wonder what happened here and what did you see.
You want to be using your words very selectively and the best way to know what words to use is to think of that person who’s sitting on that chair as a loved one or yourself. What would you want to know? Wouldn’t you want to know everything that’s available to get them to see better? That’s what I do with every patient in my chair. I know what it’s like to get a diagnosis of a loved one when my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
The doctor who did the surgery told my mother and brother that my father should stop all of his meds while he was in recovery. My father didn’t hear this conversation and he has six months to live. My mother is a very strong European lady. I’m Croatian in the background. She told that doctor, “You are not allowed to speak to my husband. We’re going to have the doctor who had referred you to speak to my husband. You’re not given permission to tell him this.”
My brother is a dentist. My sister’s an optometrist. My brother right away start researching. This is back in 2005, the year my sister was months away from graduating and he found that there were alternative therapies in the US. My brother took my parents down to the US. That doctor who started a technique told us of a doctor up in Calgary. I took my parents to Calgary to see that doctor. That doctor told us there’s a doctor in Montreal. We asked my father, “Do you want to see that one?” He went to the one in Montreal.
We let my father make the decision because I was there for the Calgary appointment. My brother was there for the one in North Carolina and Montreal. My dad showed to the one in Montreal because this procedure was not being done in Ontario. That doctor respected quality of life. He said, “I won’t know exactly how much I have to remove,” because it was going to be even like a chemo bath that was going to take a few hours. He was going to bathe my dad’s inside GI tract because he had a rare cancer in the appendix that would have been caught while it was still encased. My dad had complained for ten years to his family doctor and to a specialist. They missed it.
It’s a bridge to his peritoneum, the interlining of his GI tract. It was like salt and pepper everywhere. He said, “I want to know until I’m inside to see what I need to do.” He didn’t do the twelve-hour procedure. He did eight hours because he knew that if he did the full procedure, he would not have a quality of life. My dad lived almost three years from that original point of diagnosis. He got to see my first daughter get born. He got to watch and walk my sister down the aisle as she got married. He missed meeting my second daughter. He passed away nine days before I had my second daughter.
I know what it’s like when you get a diagnosis that is not that great and how we had to be the advocates. I know patients are out there. They want to know the information and some of them are sometimes told nothing more can be done. Those were terms that I used to hear when I first graduated many years ago. At that time, if you had macular degeneration, you had bleeding. It was before any of the anti-VEGF injections.
They would use a hot thermal laser and I would use the example. They would take it as if there was a cigarette butt and sizzle the skin on top to get to that blood vessel that’s leaking but it would sizzle that overlying tissue that was still healthy. These patients afterward would be like, “I went. They did the laser, and my vision’s worse,” because now they had a bigger blind spot not recognizing that they’re trying to prevent it from continuing to leak.
People were told nothing more could be done. It still happens nowadays. That shouldn’t be the case. That’s one of the reasons I have gone outside my comfort zone. I do speak. I try to educate as many people, not just eye care and healthcare professionals, but patients. I’ve been wanting to advocate the phrase, “Nothing more can be done,” because there’s always something that can be done.
Nothing more can be done because there’s always something that can be done.
I’m sorry to know about your father but nice that there were other options and that you guys didn’t rest on that one diagnosis. There were others out there who were able to help him live longer and have a quality of life. That’s something that we are able to do from the vision side of things with our patients as well. If we’re not able to do that ourselves in our office, are there some resources that you are aware of that we could share now as Canadian e-CPS where we might be able to send our patients to help them get other services and care that they deserve?
The first thing I recommend is to find out who in your area might provide low-vision services. If there’s anyone reading this who does low-vision services, I highly recommend you reach out to all of your colleagues within your area and let them know because I get that question often. Unfortunately. We don’t have a great national registry that lets people know who provides low-vision services and who doesn’t.
There’s always the option of referring to the branch from the CNIB and vision-loss rehabs that are located throughout the country, but you also have to remember that the key foundation of that good refraction is a basis. If they go to CNIB or visual loss rehab centers, they’re only going to work on the vision that somebody has at that point in time and show some aids that they might have, but they can’t do the spectacle mountain aids that we have. We have great telescopic aids that we’re regulated as optometrist that we know how to do we’re regulated to dispense.
That’s something that I recommend. It’s always that key refraction, but find out who does it. I shared with you earlier before we went on this interview that I’m going to be putting together a low-vision series. It’s a how-to-be multi-series step lecture that will be available online. It highlights what I call my Vision-Enhancing Method. It is what I’ve turned all my years of experience, my recipes of what works with certain conditions because what’s going to work with somebody who has an essential defect with macular degeneration, Stargardt, or any macular issues?
It is going to be different than my patient who has tunnel vision from retinitis pigmentosa or might have optic neuropathy. There are going to be differences. That’s what will be part of this series that we’re going to be putting together and they’ll be ways to access. It’ll be on my website. There’ll be a way to link to that branch of any of the lectures that any of the colleagues because I’ve had people reach up to me from other countries around the world wanting to know about low vision.
There are not a lot of sources of live sessions, unfortunately, on this topic in Canada. Often, I’m one of the ones who do the live sessions. I enjoy it. I’ve even spoken in the US multiple times at low-vision conferences. When I first started, I remember going in ’97, ’98, or ’99, I used to go to the academy meetings down in the US to pick up as much as I could in terms of low vision in other areas because we weren’t getting that here and this is before we had to have mandatory CE.
I’ve always been on this path of learning and growing because there’s always something new to learn and as I learn more, I course-correct and change. It’s something that’s always evolving. Sometimes, I wish low-vision solutions that are out there would evolve faster than they have but there are some great options that are out there in terms of digital aids and magnifiers because I find 7 out of 10 of my patients prefer reading white on black. You can’t do that with the handheld magnifier.
The handheld magnifier isn’t for long periods of reading. That’s for quick spotting and there are some cool camera aids like the OrCam that you clip onto the camera onto glasses. That’s an intuitive camera system and it will do text-to-speech so somebody who has no vision or who has very degrees of visual loss can benefit from that or the new Envision Glasses that use an app and is based on the original Google Glass where it’s all AI-based. AI is always evolving. ChatGPT came out in November. There are all these platforms that do all this AI.
It’s happening even in the field of vision loss solutions. That’s my area of passion. How can I convey some of this new technology to patients? The only downfall is that here in Canada, there’s not a lot of funding for any of these specialized newer technology aids. If you’re in some of the provinces, there’s zero funding for any low-vision aids, which is unfortunate for many of these patients.
Here in Ontario, we have a program called the Assistive Devices Program or ADP, but it’s a very antiquated program that they have not increased their fees in 25 years, even though I’ve gotten to sit on meetings where the association asked me to speak and change the way the fee structure is and have it go more towards some of this new technology. Unfortunately, the government at this point doesn’t want to increase these fees. They don’t want to cover some of these specialized aids which is unfortunate.
I’m not sure how it is in BC, but I find that a lot of people don’t recognize that 1/3 of Canadians who are in the working-age class and are legally blind or have severe vision loss are employed. 2/3 are unemployed. This is here in Canada. We are an advanced country. I used to have a go-to person. His name was Tommy. He unfortunately passed away from cancer during COVID. He was my iPhone tech group I got some in 2010.
Anytime I would lecture, I would reach out to Tom to say, “What do I need to be telling people at my conferences when I’m speaking?” He was completely blind. He would teach people at BALANCE for Blind Adults how to use their iPhones, what apps to use, and how to use a computer. He had no vision. He was completely blind. He was a reason in 2010, I updated my hot pink Motorola flip phone to get my first iPhone because how could I talk about technology if I wasn’t using it myself?
He used to go and volunteer in Cuba at the schools for the blind and bring old iPhones down there to show and teach. He would tell me that when he came back to Canada, he felt like he was coming to a third-world country. That’s a powerful statement for someone who is living with vision loss and blindness. He even went to school in Texas. That’s a powerful statement and hopefully, this conversation will change before I ever retire. I don’t want it to be that once I retire. I’ve been doing this for many years and we’re still at a very similar spot in some cases such a shame and that’s where I’m a huge advocate for individuals with vision loss.
It is such a shame and pretty eye-opening, pardon upon that somebody would come to our country and say something along those lines as we usually would think of ourselves as a developed and advanced country in most forms and ways, but with someone as passionate as you leading the charge and doing all the things you’re doing as well as now getting out there. It’s one thing as you said to be helping patients within your exam room and that’s extremely powerful but to now get out of there and spread the word in all these different mediums through your show and The Vision Enhancing Method program that you’re going to develop.
We’ll start to create more of a groundswell and awareness. Hopefully, that’ll push companies to start to develop more technologies and maybe governments to develop more programs that’ll support that new demand that’s coming up. You’re the perfect person to be at the front of all of that. I hope that it starts to come to fruition before you retire.
I’m not getting longer how old I am, but I’m not getting younger.
You’re doing a great job and regardless of the age number, I definitely sense a real feeling of youth and energy with you when I talk to you. As long as that’s there, that’s all that matters. Thank you so much for sharing all of this information. This is going to be powerful for anybody who reads this. Before we wrap up, where can people find you and learn more about you?
They can go on to my website. It is DrLowVision.com. It’s been a big educational platform ever since the fall of 2022. Anybody who signs up for the newsletter on the website is added to a newsletter that I send out about every week something related to vision. One of the hottest topics was when I talked about depression. I can’t tell you how many people, if they came into the clinic, mentioned to me how they found that message to be powerful.
It’s a great resource that you can even share with your own patients. Any of the previous newsletters are all under the blog post. Patients can even find out information about various vision solutions that are out there. If ever somebody can’t find somebody to do low vision in their area, if you have someone that you have who has a vision impairment and no one’s doing it in the area, since COVID, one of my suppliers has created a diagnostic kit. I’ve done virtual assessments over Zoom when we have people pick up vision aids and any of the digital aids if they can’t do the in-person training.
We do it online. We’ve pivoted since COVID because we never imagined doing it through a live Zoom call, but we’ve been doing and it’s worked out well, especially for somebody who needs extra follow-up. You can always send me an email directly at [email protected]. I am on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. My kids are convincing me that I need to be on TikTok. I see you’ve done some TikTok videos. I do have some ideas for some quick TikTok videos. I don’t think I’m going to be a TikTok star, but you never know.
I keep expanding and going outside my comfort zone and I can share a funny story. When I graduated, if you had asked me back in 1996 if ever I would speak in front of large groups of people, do a podcast like this or anything like that, I would have sunk in my shoes, shaking my head because most of my classmates might not have realized that I rarely ever put up my hand to ask a question. That was a fear of mine.
I studied and absorbed all the information and any of my classmates knew my notes were well sought after. They were color-coded and very neat. My writing for my colleagues and my classmates is not the same anymore. I do write a lot of plaster but I had beautiful notes. Anyone who knows John Mastronardi, ask him how popular my notes were with his M&M Production Company where they were photocopying my notes and charging. This is back in 1995 or 1996 when we had Kinko’s and he’d go photocopy.
I missed out on requesting royalties for all my needs that we copied. The long-standing took him and I have but with that, when I graduated, one of the most embarrassing moments in my life happened at our convocation. I was involved in putting together memories of our four years because I was on the yearbook committee. I love taking photos. Anybody who knows me knows I take lots of photos. My kids will say I have thousands of photos on my phone. We put a video together and I ended up turning to my classmate and my dearest friend, Rita.
I said, “Who’s our valedictorian?” A minute later, I heard my name. I sunk to my feet. It said my name again. It was Dr. Strong down at the front. When I finally made it down to the podium and the auditorium at the University of Waterloo, he looked at me and said, “You didn’t know?” I said, “I didn’t.” I probably have on record the shortest valedictorian speech ever in optometry school. I even hit three minutes. I’m impressed. People won’t remember that but I remember that and it was pretty embarrassing. I’ve reached out and I’ve gone outside my comfort zone. If I could survive that moment in life, I know I can survive many moments.
That’s a pretty epic moment and probably the wrong way but how did you not know? Did somebody forget to tell you?
I don’t even remember seeing if you’re voting for a valedictorian.
Isn’t a valedictorian a person who has the highest grade in the class? Maybe you had that and they thought, “She’ll probably know that she has the highest grade,” and that’s it.
It was pretty embarrassing.
You certainly come very far from that. I’m glad to see that you have. That’s a great story to share. Thank you for sharing.
For people to say can’t do something, it’s a choice.
If people say they can’t do something, it’s a choice.
Thank you so much for that. I look forward to seeing more about what you’re doing coming out. I’m happy to share everything that I can. I appreciate it. Thank you, everybody, who’s reading. I hope you enjoyed this episode. I’ll be back with another one very soon.
Thank you so much.
- Dr. Ana Juricic
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About Dr. Ana Juricic
Dr. Ana Juricic is a low vision optometrist practicing in Toronto with over 27 years of experience in the field of vision rehabilitation services for individuals living with vision loss. She graduated from the University of Waterloo in 1996. She is a leading authority and educator in Low Vision Rehabilitation in Canada and is dedicated to educating eye care professionals, optometric students, and the general public about the help that is available for individuals living with vision loss. Dr. Juricic is the creator of the Vision Enhancing Method, which focuses on vision health and solutions beyond the traditional.
Dr. Juricic provides hope and solutions for individuals living with vision loss through her specialized low vision assessments that incorporate the newest advancement in technology. She has helped thousands of people from across Canada maximize their remaining vision so they can once again read, see faces of loved ones, watch TV and enjoy day-to-day activities. She is a huge supporter of vision research and has participated in the Cycle for Sight annual fundraising ride for 6 years on a tandem bike with her visually impaired cycling partners. When not seeing patients, Dr Juricic is busy mother to her four children and enjoys travelling with her family.