Interview with Nancy Torgerson, OD, FCOVD
For all those who don’t know you yet, what drove you to Optometry?
I was interested in medicine in high school. The summer before my sophomore year in college, I worked for a husband and wife team at an optometric practice in downtown Seattle. Doctor Bonnie Beals Hall told me that if she had to do it again, she would have gone into vision and learning. Vision and learning, what was that? That one statement changed the course of my career. How could vision and learning be intriguing at the end of someone’s career? Dr. B was ready to retire, and she wished that she had gone into this part of optometry. From that statement, I searched for what vision and learning was all about. I attended Pacific university College of Optometry and grew passionate about vision and vision therapy because of the changes in the lives of patients and my own life.
What has been your experience during the course of your career as a professional optometrist?
I worked in two different practices doing visión Therapy right out of Optometry School and then started my own practice. I was the receptionist, visión therapist and Optometrist. I used a different phone voice for each. The practice grew through collaboration and referrals from fellow optometrists, other professionals and patients that had success. I do not have an optical and do not work with contact lenses. We send patients back to their providers for this. If they don’t have a primary care Optometrist, we see them for their evaluations.
Alderwood Vision Therapy Center’s misión is to transform lives through visión, connection and relationship to empower people to discover new possibilities beyond their current boundaries in order to see their true potential. AVTC has 6 doctors, 15 vision therapists, and 9 patient care coordinators.
You are a Fellow in an organization as renowned as the COVD. What has your membership in this organization given you as a professional?
Ahhhh…. COVD has given me so much! The more involved I became and gave, the more it gave back to me. It has given me the joy and challenge of the fellowship process, learning to communicate what I know and finding the areas that I needed to grow in. It has given me the opportunity for amazing education and also giving courses. It has given me the opportunity and challenge to serve on committees, the International Examination and Certification Board and go through the steps and be the President of COVD. And the best job of all – Past, Past President of COVD. I have gained friendship of a lifetime and know people all over the world through this my COVD connection.
In the advanced pre-congress course you are going to talk about the relationship between vision and autism. How can vision therapy help people on the autism spectrum?
Years ago, an auditory integration therapist, kept referring patients on the autism spectrum. Mr. McCarthy kept telling me that I could help these individuals. I first had to learn new ways to evaluate and observe. I needed to do less, observe and listen more. I needed to be okay to do an evaluation in almost any setting. As Optometrist we have so many tools to help discover what potential individuals’ have and where vision potential can be guided. Through visual evaluations and watching behavior, we can see how each person’s visual system is working for them, central peripheral integration, oculomotor, eye teaming and visual processing skills. With lenses, prisms, sectoral occlusion, twin prisms, microprisms, optometric photoTherapy and vision Therapy we have an abundance of ways to help individuals.
Do you believe that neuroscience and vision therapy can complement each other in order to achieve improvements and breakthroughs in this type of patient?
Absolutely! Come to the advanced pre-congress and learn more about this!
Do you think that collaboration should not only be between ophthalmologists and optometrists but also between other professionals such as neuroscientists and psychologists? Would you add any other profession that you think is important for this type of special population?
Teachers, auditory integration therapists, neuro-psychologist, physicians, pediatricians, nurses, tutors, behavioral therapists, applied behavior análisis therapist (ABA), occupational therapists, physical therapist, music teachers, speech and language therapist, cognitive therapist, the list goes on and on.
Do you think that vision therapy could be enriched by collaboration with other branches of health care, not only visual but also psychological or physical?
Absolutely – that is partly how our practice grew. Collaboration is key!
What has been your most enriching experience as a behavioral optometrist and vision therapy specialist?
As I sit typing the answer, I think of my team. There is no way I could impact as many lives without a phenomenal team. I want this to be a career and even a calling for those that join AVTC. We are family and we are a team that works together to help transform lives. I look off to the right of my desk and see many thank you cards. These notes of thanks for help for themself or their family members are so rewarding. And without the team – it wouldn’t have been possible to impact as many lives. I want to help more teams around the world, help more people!
What would you say is the greatest virtue that a behavioral optometrist and vision therapist can have?
LOVE! Loving others as we love ourselves. It isn’t always easy to love yourself but necessary if we want to love others.
If you could change one thing about Optometry, what would it be?
Work together for the good of all our patients and our teams. We don’t all have to enjoy the same thing but we need to support each other and not be afraid to collaborate with each other and learn from each other.