Practicing in Portland, Oregon—one of the hot-spots of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak—has been an opportunity for Mila Ioussifova, OD, to once again rise to the occasion. After graduating from New England College of Optometry in 2007, she did her residency in a community health center practice in Boston, Massachusetts. Following her residency, she worked at a private practice and as an adjunct faculty member at Pacific University College of Optometry and cold-opened her practice South Waterfront Eye Care in 2013.
In her practice, she has found two main passions: dry eye and nutrition. When it comes to dry eye, her practice specializes in in-office treatments such as LipiFlow, Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) and radiofrequency. Dr. Ioussifova’s practice, South Waterfront Eyecare, receives many referrals for dry eye patients. “We went into optometry school wishing to make an impact on patients’ lives,” Dr. Ioussifova says. “Treating patients with severe dry eye symptoms has given me that opportunity; it has been so rewarding to hear when patients—literally—thank me with tears in their eyes that their eyes finally feel normal.”
A HOLISTIC APPROACH
Like many ODs, Dr. Ioussifova sees the big picture when it comes to treating a patient for an ocular health issue. “When we treat ocular rosacea, for example, we understand that it starts with the skin,” she says. “But in most cases, it has a systemic involvement and that’s where nutrition and lifestyle play an important role.” As well as being a long-time member of the Ocular Wellness and Nutrition Society (OWNS), Dr. Ioussifova has started the path to becoming a certified nutrition specialist through University of Western States—a program with which OWNS has partnered. “We are going to the basics of nutritional biochemistry…understanding supplements and nutrition at the molecular level and being able to incorporate nutrition into dry eye is absolutely crucial,” she says. “We are treating symptoms and the condition at their core, not just putting a Band-Aid on the surface.”
SPREAD THE WORD
Since starting her own formal education on nutrition six months ago, she recognizes the value it can bring to her patients to help them with their chronic conditions. “Now, more than ever, we need to educate our patients on the importance of nutrition and wellness.” She wants to share this idea with others and encourages her colleagues to join OWNS and explore incorporating and discussing nutrition with their patients. “When we examine our patients, we shouldn’t just be treating their eyeballs; we should be treating a whole person,” she says. “Unlike acute conditions, chronic conditions, which include dry eye disease and rosacea, should have holistic approach where nutrition, lifestyle and evidence-based functional medicine are all part of the management plan.”
THIS TIME, IT’S PERSONAL
It was a personal moment that led Dr. Ioussifova to her career as an optometrist. “It goes back to the first time I put on contact lenses in high school,” she reflects. “The world just changed.” She recalls not wanting to wear her eyeglasses, but not doing so left her going through life squinting. She remembers being brought to happy-tears when she was finally able to see. “I love giving that feeling to patients,” she says. “It’s why I am so passionate about treating dry eye, which can be debilitating for so many. There is nothing more rewarding than hearing your patients tell you that you’ve changed their lives.”