Why Can’t EYE Learn?

A few years back I blogged briefly about a unique seminar jointly sponsored by the Section on Ophthalmology of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Office of Continuing Medical Education of Jefferson Medial College in Philadelphia.  The seminar was held at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida, and I decided to attend after Dr. Lynn Hellerstein shared a flyer with me about the program.


My experiences at that seminar served as the basis for an article that I wrote at the invitation of Dr. Paul Romano, a pediatric ophthalmologist who was editor of Binocular Vision & Strabismus Quarterly.  That article, “The Interface Between Ophthalmology & Optometric Vision Therapy“, was reprinted in The Journal of Behavioral Optometry the following year.  I’ve never written about the backstory behind my participation at the meeting, and in doing some housecleaning I came across a folder that prompts me to write more about it for posterity.

Suffice it to say that in 2001 the climate was not warm for optometrists attending continuing education meetings sponsored by medical groups.  (In fact, in 2004, the American Academy of Ophthalmology banned optometrists from attending its annual meeting.)  “Why Can’t EYE Learn?” was such a unique program that I decided I wanted to attend incognito as an Associate Professor at SUNY rather than as an optometrist, so that I could better understand how the subject matter was being presented to pediatricians and pediatric ophthalmologists from their perspective.  I was immediately intrigued by a leaflet published by the AAP, positioning pediatric ophthalmologists as diagnosticians of visual processing disorders.


The notion of pediatric ophthalmologists as experts in this field was championed by Harold Koller, Chair of the meeting.  If that name sounds familiar to you, it may be because Dr. Koller was the author of an infamous 1998 article in Review of Ophthalmology featuring a rubber duck on its cover with the intentionally provocative title: “Is Vision Therapy Quackery?”, to which Dr. Jeffrey Cooper wrote an elegant rebuttal in the Journal of Behavioral Optometry (Deflating the Rubber Duck).  Harold Koller was, in many ways, the pediatric ophthalmology analog of optometry’s Harold Solan – an energizer bunny active in establishing a multidisciplinary clinic for learning problems in his practice.  Koller did this in South Jersey, at one point partnering with a young neuropsychologist Kenneth Goldberg with whom he co-authored A Guide to Visual and Perceptual Learning Disabilities (Current Concepts in Ophthalmology Volume 7, March 1999), and a book chapter on The Ophthalmologist’s Role in Visual Processing and Learning Disabilities (Duane’s Clinical Opthalmology, Vol. 5, chapter 42, E. Jaeger, ed. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2006 edition).  It was therefore no coincidence that Dr. Koller opened the seminar with a presentation entitled “Learning Differences Presenting as Visual Symptoms”, followed by Ken Goldberg’s presentation on neuropsychology.


As chance would have it, Ken and I wound up on the same Phillies Phantasy Camp team in Clearwater, Florida a year later, he as the gifted center-fielder and me as the gritty second baseman.  I could not have anticipated that on a spring day in 2001 in Sea World, Harold Ken and I would share a podium in where serendipity abounded.  But more on that in Part 2 …


Phillies Phantasy Camp

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s