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On Being a Patient

Marjolijn Bijlefeld

By Marjolijn Bijlefeld, Editor, Women In Optometry

When COVID-19 struck, I was about two months overdue on my annual comprehensive eye exam. I’m a flitterer when it comes to ODs. Because we write about many different practice settings for Women In Optometry, I tend to visit a different optometrist each year.

Recently, I saw that Angela Tsai, OD, of Premier Eyecare, had opened a new location in Fredericksburg, Virginia—where I live. I was intrigued by her green approach: solar panels on the roof, reclaimed wood décor, electric car charging stations. She was also posting intriguing YouTube videos about the disposable masks she was making. She invited me in for a look around when it was mostly staff members inside. I saw the roomy layout, the sliding barn-style doors and the whimsical kids’ section off the vision therapy hallway. At that visit, she also encouraged me to come back as a patient.

angela tsai office
Dr. Tsai

So last week, just as offices were reopening for routine care, I went in.

I’m a rule-follower, generally. So I wanted to see how comfortable someone like me could be as an early entrant to the world of “routine” health care. In this office, with its obvious and systematic approach to sanitization and safety, I felt very comfortable.


angela tsai office
The wide granite desk creates some space between patients and staff. The greeter explains the “rules” of engagement for the visit.

The doors were locked, but a front desk staff member immediately spotted me and walked out to greet me. She saw I was wearing my own mask; otherwise, I could have picked one from a basket of folded blue shop-towel masks that Dr. Tsai has made. She took my temperature, walked with me to the front desk where she asked me to use the hand sanitizer. I was given a paper form and a tablet—and on the desk were two containers of pens and styluses—one marked “clean” and the other marked “used.”

I sat in the large reception area—alone for most of the few minutes I was there—and returned the paperwork and tablet to the front desk when I was done.

angela tsai office
The children’s area is a ton of fun.


Escorting me to the pretesting rooms, the technician explained what the purpose of each of the tests was, and she used alcohol wipes on forehead and chin rests of all the equipment.


Dr. Tsai did a fast and comprehensive refraction, health check and eye-tracking check. She also wiped down equipment before using it. For the confrontation visual fields, she had me cover my eye with my hand, minimizing equipment required. We did notice that the mask gets a bit in the way in the lower range. While I was waiting for my contact lenses to settle, I could hear the staff cleaning other exam lanes and tracking which ones were sanitized and ready for another patient.


angela tsai office
Dr. Tsai’s office feels very “natural.” The wallpaper on the left has stone embedded into it and the table at the right is made from a whiskey barrel from a local distillery and the top was crafted by a local custom woodshop.

I happened to be the only patient in the optical that morning. The optician walked me through the process: I could try on any frames I wanted, and I’d put those I wanted to consider further into a tray and those I didn’t like into a basket, where they would be sanitized before someone put them back on the boards.

angela tsai office
Easy-clean chairs by the front entrance and checkout area

Dr. Tsai swept into the optical and looked into my tray of considerations, then pulled out a lovely Schwood frame that became the instant winner.

After writing about how practices are reopening and what they’re doing to ensure patients that they’re taking proper precautions, it was interesting to be on the receiving end of the conversation. I’m certain the staff tires of giving these explanations over and over, but it made me feel more confident to hear it.

angela tsai office
Dr. Tsai added the opticwash cleaner for eyewear as a feature even before COVID-19.

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