Optometry Podcast: Dr. Mark Dunbar Talks The Battle at the Sands

On this week’s podcast, Dr. Darryl Glover caught up with one of the pre-eminent ocular disease optometrists in the US, Dr. Mark Dunbar.  He shares how he found optometry as a career, the decisions that shaped his passion for ocular disease, and his experience as the co-chairman of the Vision Expo conference advisory board. 

Dr. Dunbar grew up in a small town in Northern Michigan: no stoplight, no McDonald’s. It was idyllic, kids played outside and local community was everything. When he was a junior in high school his teacher assigned the class to write a report on what they wanted to do when they grew up. At the time, he wanted to be a professional basketball player, but even then, he knew that he was too short to really make this dream happen.  He needed a plan B. A student in the class ahead of him had written his report about being an optometrist, and this paper was used by the teacher as an example of what the report should entail. “Why not be an optometrist?” Dr. Dunbar thought, and he began exploring the career. 

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He attended Ferris State University in Michigan, and was planning to “figure it out”, but the more he looked at optometry, the more he realized it was exactly what he wanted. He could live in a small town, coach the local basketball team, and be really involved in his local community. Going into fourth year, he did an externship rotation at the Omni Eye Center in Kentucky, one of the first co-management centers in the US at the time. Through his time at the clinic, he was inspired by colleagues to apply to work at Baskin Palmer Eye Institute because the doctors that had worked there seemed so knowledgeable and advanced. He wanted to learn more about ocular disease and this was the best opportunity to do so, but he also was drawn to the sunny climate after that northern Michigan upbringing. “My goals in life were very simple. I just wanted palm trees in my yard.”

His plan was to only stay in Miami for a few years, but he fell in love with the city and his coworkers at Baskin Palmer, and 32 years later he can’t picture leaving this great community. 

A Day in the Life of an Ocular Disease Optometrist at Baskin Palmer Eye Institute

Dr. Dunbar shares that his day is not that different from a typical primary eye care practice. He sees 25-30 patients a day, with a range of conditions including glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetes, and cataracts. For the most part it is more of a geriatric patient base, but he also sees a younger, healthier group of patients providing for the University of Miami staff and employees. Dry eyes, allergies, and refractions are still a foundation of his patient care, even in this medical setting. His biggest advice is to treat all patients with a medical mindset. “Put pen to paper and write a prescription.” Sampling medications or over the counter tears contributes to a major issue in how optometrists are perceived; medical doctors write prescriptions and don’t hand out samples from a drawer.

Why Should Students Consider Residency?

Dr. Dunbar is a strong believer that residencies help optometrists get an extra year of special interest education so that by the time you leave at the end of the year, you’re confident you can handle anything that walks into your practice. “It’s an investment in your education. That extra year of training gives you the best opportunity to move as our profession moves and truly manage patients of all kinds.” Dr. Dunbar encourages all students to consider residency, because this training opens doors and helps build relationships that may give your career opportunities you would have never imagined. 

Why You Need to Make it to Vision Expo!

Dr. Mark Dunbar is co-chairman (along with Dr. Ben Gaddie) of the conference advisory board for Vision Expo, and he works closely with team members to develop the educational program at this event.  They are charged with bringing the best in education and innovating creative ideas to give attendees to Vision Expo a unique experience. The venues of NYC in the spring and Las Vegas in the fall are special places to pair education with fun and an incredible exhibit hall. “It’s really the Super Bowl of the optical and medical side of optometry.” This year Vision Expo is launching a new event: the Battle at the Sands Competition. Dr. Dunbar envisioned this competition as a new way to celebrate imaging – from OCT to meibomian gland infrared images, optometry has access to a large spectrum of imaging resources and new technology is entering the marketplace every year.  The Battle at the Sands Competition pits eight speakers bracket-style against each other in presenting short image-based cases, and the audience decides which doctor presented the most interesting and innovative case. It’s a free program to attend where ODs can get exposure to state of the art imaging options available, and see first hand how it will influence the patient care in their practice. 

Battle at the Sands Round 1: September 18th 1:30-3:30 PM

Battle at the Sands Semi-Finals and Finalist Round: September 18th 3:45-4:45 PM

Moderator: Mark Dunbar, OD, FAAO

Panelists: Dr. Steven Ferrucci, Dr. Jay Haynie, Dr. Jerome Sherman, Dr. Danica Marrelli, Dr. Arthur Epstein, Dr. Diana Shechtman, Dr. Mohammad Rafieetary, Dr. S. Barry Eiden

Battle at the Sands Workshop: September 18th 5:00-7:00 PM 

This workshop following the competition allows doctors to experience the best in imaging technology with a hands-on event.

Insider’s Tip for Vision Expo: “Have a divide and conquer mentality,” Dr. Dunbar recommends for making the most of the show.  Make a plan in advance for the education you plan to attend, the booths you want to visit in the exhibit hall, and the technology you plan to explore if you are considering making a purchase during the show. With so much going on, it’s impossible to see it all, so coming prepared with a plan can help maximize your experience. 

If you have questions about being an optometrist at Baskin Palmer, or want to learn more about Vision Expo, contact Dr. Dunbar at mdunbar@miami.edu 

Don’t forget that as a Defocus Media family member, you have access to FREE registration for Vision Expo West by using this link: http://visionexpolv2019.com/DefocusMedia

Drs. Glover & Lyerlyhttps://www.defocusmedia.com
Defocus Media is run by two successful Millennial optometrists and social media entrepreneurs, Dr. Jennifer Lyerly and Dr. Darryl Glover. They have proven track records of successfully engaging online readers and followers. They reside and practice in North Carolina.

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