Home Health and Wellness Healthy Lifestyle Choices Make OD a Better Resource for Her Patients

Healthy Lifestyle Choices Make OD a Better Resource for Her Patients

Valerie Barber, ODHealthy lifestyle counseling is part of eye care. Valerie Barber, OD, says that eyes are amazing, but they’re just one part of the patient. As an “optometric health provider,” she spends most of her time educating patients on eye care and proper nutrition, aiming to improve the overall eye health of her patients through education on diet and lifestyle choices. She’s also a yoga instructor and nutrition fanatic.

She’s full-time at Granite City Vision in Granite City, Illinois, where she “loves” what she does. She sees patients of all ages but has a special place in her heart for her pediatric patients. “Kids are so cool. They’re full of life and curious,” Dr. Barber says. She has two of her own, but sees lots during her office hours. Patients and their families are never too young to hear about the value of preventive eye care.

Her exam rooms are kid-friendly, too, with toys, books, coloring pages and lollipops to make the process more fun.

She distracts siblings by having them draw or color, then hangs the artwork on the walls for all to see—which her patients and staff love.

When it comes time to talk about the patient’s eye health—pediatric or other—Dr. Barber makes it a point to discuss the important of eating dark green and yellow vegetables and avoiding smoking and vaping.

“I tell parents, it doesn’t matter if you have to put melted cheese all over something. Get them eating fruits and veggies!”

Dr. Barber credits her view on ocular wellness to a meeting run by the late Stuart Richer, OD, PhD, FAAO, a pioneer in ocular nutrition. She got inspired by what she learned and saw at the meeting, including the use of a retinal camera. She now uses a retinal camera on most patients. “We can show each patient a photo of their retina. Some have never seen something like that before, so it’s a great way to give the patient a visual explanation of what is going on and how to keep their eyes healthy,” Dr. Barber says.

The late Stuart Richer, OD
The late Dr. Richer

Whatever kind of difference she can make is good enough for her, she says. Lots of her patients are smokers, and it gratifies her when patients cut down or even quit smoking. “These patients are learning about and owning their health,” she says. “If I can help at all, or give them the guidance to do it, that’s all I can ask for.”

The most rewarding part has been when patients come back and tell her what a difference learning about their eye health has made for them. “I once had someone tell me that I taught them more than their ophthalmologist ever did.”

“I get up every day and want to go to work,” Dr. Barber says. “I can tell myself, ‘I helped someone today,’ and that’s what I set out in this life to do.”


Read more WO practice stories here.

Connect with Dr. Barber on LinkedIn here.

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