On April 15, at the 46th annual meeting of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD) in St. Louis, Dr. Barry Tannen, adjunct associate clinical professor at SUNY Optometry, was sworn in as president of the organization. We asked Dr. Tannen a few questions about the development of his career and his priorities as president of COVD.
Tell us a little bit about your professional background
I graduated from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry where I was fortunate be one of the first optometrists to receive a National Health Service Corps scholarship. During optometry school I was diagnosed with a severe convergence insufficiency and treated with vision therapy, which changed my life. Upon graduation I served three years in the Public Health Service and afterwards I was recruited by SUNY Optometry to pursue my first love, vision therapy. I became the assistant chief of the vision therapy service at the College. I left fulltime academia in 1987, but I remain a part-time faculty member to this day. I founded my private practice, EyeCare Professionals, PC, in Hamilton, New Jersey soon after with Dr. Nick Despotidis, a SUNY Optometry graduate.
Much of your career has been devoted to treating children whose academic performance has been impacted by visual issues. Can you talk a little about this experience?
Having had first-hand experience, I know how debilitating undiagnosed vision conditions can be. I still see so many children who’ve suffered for too long before being diagnosed. Treatment with vision therapy can often be the spark that allows them to succeed academically. There’s nothing like a parent or patient who comes to you years after they’ve completed vision therapy and tells you that your diagnosis and treatment were the reason they now love to read, or have succeeded in school. It still gives me chills!
As the newly installed president of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD), tell us what some of your priorities are for the organization?
Developmental optometry has come a long way in the years that I’ve been in practice. We now have schools, teachers, rehabilitation hospitals and others specialists requesting our services. But there is still much more work to be done. I hope that I can help raise the awareness that there are still too many patients who do not get the treatment that they need. Also, our new journal Vision Development and Rehabilitation is a high priority for me. It’s critical that we continue to get high quality research articles, reviews of relevant literature, interesting case reports and perspectives in front of our profession and other related professions in order to help as many people as possible.