Devon Kennedy, OD, grew up on a farm and thought that she would become a veterinarian. Yet when she witnessed an incident that left her sister needing eye surgery and facing a lifelong need for ocular treatment, her interest pivoted to the field of optometry. In college, she worked as an optician and scribe for an ophthalmology practice. “I came into optometry school knowing that I wanted to be on the co-management side and more medical-based,” she says. “I loved ocular disease out of any specialty; it stuck with me the most and my previous experience pushed me in that direction.”
Ultimately, both sisters became optometrists after attending Southern California College of Optometry; Dr. Kennedy graduated in 2019. Dr. Kennedy started at a retina and glaucoma clinic concentrating on posterior segment exams. Now she’s shifted her focus to co-managing refractive surgery at Dougherty Laser Vision in Westlake Village, California. “It’s been a great experience,” she says.
She got her foot in the door with fill-in work and co-managing patients with Dougherty Laser Vision (DLV). “Sidra Qadri, OD, and I hit it off, and we work well together.” She found a great fit and inspiration with Dr. Qadri as a mentor. “My time spent working with the team at DLV and the way that Dr. Qadri talked about the practice drew me in,” she says. “It’s such a plus when someone is willing to teach you. You grow your skill set that much more quickly.” On Dr. Qadri, she says, “She is such a wealth of knowledge—I can shoot her a text and get her opinion.”
FINDING HER CALLING
While Dr. Kennedy herself has never had LASIK due to her relatively low prescription, she has found a good rapport with patients interested in the procedure. “Our CEO was telling us that there has been increased interest in LASIK since the start of the pandemic. Across the country other surgeons are experiencing the same thing,” she says. “It’s so intriguing… in a pandemic with so much uncertainty, patients are nervous about their eyeglasses fogging up all the time. They want to be able to see.” The LASIK procedure is quick; typically lasting 10 minutes to treat both eyes and allows patients to go back to work the next day if so desired.
Another factor that has been thrilling to Dr. Kennedy is the day-to-day variety the job provides. “I work directly with surgeons some days and my own schedule on other days,” she says. She spends time seeing pre-op patients, as well as doing cataract and refractive consultations. The doctors want to ensure their recommendations for the best surgery for the patient are correct.
On Tuesdays, Dr. Kennedy sees mostly post-operative patients who’ve had refractive surgery such as LASIK, implantable contact lenses or cataract surgery. She spends the rest of her time working with pre-op patients and performing comprehensive exams. “It has been secondary education,” she says. “I started in retina and glaucoma spending hours doing my own research and going over my notes to pivoting to anterior segment and refractive surgery.” She found great impetus to continue her learning at Dougherty Laser Vision with her mentors. With Paul J. Dougherty, MD, helping her think through the “why” of every medical decision and her ability to ask direct questions when she needed an explanation, Dr. Kennedy became comfortable in her knowledge prowess. Her colleague and clinical director Ahn Le, OD, has also been a resource. “If I need consult, I can refer to him. The first three months were very intense,” she says of her learning journey. So much of her acquired knowledge is based on hands-on experience. “Learning truly happens when you’re treating and managing those challenging patients.”
SEIZING THE DAY
An aspect of optometry that Dr. Kennedy finds thrilling is the ever-changing nature of technology. What makes her most excited, though, is the opportunity to give patients their vision back. “Refractive surgery used to be more limited regarding treatable prescriptions,” she says. Now she’s excited to explain the new developments in specialty lenses and emerging refractive techniques to a patients who may have had limited corrective options 5-10 years ago. “Refractive surgery is anything but static, that’s what makes me most excited.”
She advises young ODs or ODs just starting their career to keep their options open. “If you are willing to learn and pick up everything—you can flourish in a new area. Sometimes you have to embrace the unknown.” Dr. Kennedy grasped every opportunity that has come her way, and it has paid off. “I wasn’t actively looking to go into refractive surgery, but I’m so incredibly happy with my experience.”