Dr. Carl G. Hillier: “Vision is the ‘glue’ that holds our physical world to our cognitive world and Vision Therapy is an opportunity for growth in cognition”

Dr. Carl G. Hillier: “Vision is the ‘glue’ that holds our physical world to our cognitive world and Vision Therapy is an opportunity for growth in cognition”

Dr. Carl G. Hillier is a well known lecturer in the United States. To summarize  his way of thinking paraphrases the Swiss philosopher Piaget with the quote “knowledge is constructed through experience”.  Dr. Hillier has a wealth of experience and knowledge, and has been recognized on several occasions with both national and international awards.  His work ensures that Behavioral Optometry gives other Optometrists the opportunity to help people discover the possibilities of enriching both their own lives and those of others.

In this interview Dr. Hillier comments on his career as well as his presentation at the VI SIODEC Congress, which will take place on March 27 to 30, 2019  in Granada.

Dr. Hillier’s inaugural speech will open the Congress on Thursday, March 28 at 4:30 p.m. However, prior to this, during the afternoon of Wednesday, March 27 and the morning of Thursday, 28  Dr. Hillier will present the advanced Pre-Congress  Seminar titled:  ‘Visual Attention and Visual Memory: the Rrole of Behavioral Optometry in the Development of Attention and Memory”’

[Registration for Dr.’s seminar and all other information regarding the International Congress of Behavioral Optometry and Visual Therapy  can be found at this link: https://www.siodec.org/en/siodecgranadacongress/]

1. Why did you decide to study Psychology? 

At age 18, I had an interest in many things, so to pick a specific topic of interest was too limiting, I felt psychology would provide an opportunity for me to develop the thinking skills necessary to pursue a wide variety of professional careers. 

2. Later you graduated as a Doctor of Optometry and received the Fellowship to the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD). After studying Psychology, why did you want to specialize in Optometry? 

In my fourth year at the University of California, San Diego, my vision was becoming blurry, so I went and had my eyes examined for the first time. It was then that I decided that Optometry would be a very interesting profession. I did not know at that time, that Vision Therapy was a part of Optometry; I did not know what Vision Therapy was! 

3. How was your experience establishing mobile clinics in rural Honduras? What would you highlight about this professional experience? 

My time in Honduras was special. I learned of the importance of one of the most fundamental aspect of seeing – physical and social survival. I also learned how appreciative others are for the help that we offer. I also learned that happiness is not necessarily predicated upon ones circumstances. 

4. Then you became part of the Medical Services Corps of the United States Navy, where you managed the Visual Therapy clinic. What are the most amazing cases that you remember in this stage? 

I remember that a young girl was more receptive to putting a contact lens on than the Admiral in Command of the Naval Operations of the Pacific Fleet. I also had the honor of helping the men and women who fought for freedom all around our world. 

5. You combined clinical activity and teaching in different training centers. What does teaching bring? If you had to underline a characteristic of the new generations of optometrists, what would it be? 

Teaching offers an opportunity for myself and others to think critically and deeply in areas that they didn’t know existed. In my experience, so many of the “new generation of optometrists” are lulled into thinking that vision is all about seeing clearly and having healthy eyes. Those that pursue further education at the COI and SIODEC are the lucky ones; they see much more in my opinion. They are willing to ask more fundamental questions about the reason for having a visual system, and how to develop it. These special optometrists are willing to ask questions that have no easy answer, no “easy internet response.” 

6. You also worked for 10 years with volleyball teams and coached the sports vision of baseball players. In fact, you have been recognized by the American Optometric Association as a Sports Optometrist of the Year. Why did these sports professionals use your services? What kind of skills improved these players? Did it have a positive impact on their achievements? 

These sports vision professionals wanted to use our (Dr. Sanet and me initially) services because they knew that vision determined when and where they need to move in space. They knew this innately, but Dr. Sanet and I were able to put words to it, words that they could assimilate into their understanding of their sport.

The skills we work with are, in a most basic sense, to be more aware of more information per unit time, and per spatial area. This could be referred to as “seeing just noticeable differences in time and space” and doing this with ease and endurance, regardless of the environmental challenges (spatial, temporal, cognitive, perceptual) that may surround the athletic situation.

Those athletes who participated in Optometric Sports Vision Training experienced great achievements. Our USA Volleyball teams would end up winning medals at the Olympics when they had never been close before. Baseball players would see their athletic abilities accelerate significantly.

7. You have also been honored by the COVD with the Getman Award. What did this recognition mean for you? 

This was completely unexpected. It is clear that so many other people in Developmental Optometry should receive this award. I don’t stand on the shoulders of giants; I’m near their feet, at about the height of their toenails.

The recognition for me requires of me to take more responsibility for the development of the people on our planet. The perspective that helping one individual at a time can do this is comforting to me. I’ll try to help as many as possible. If I can encourage a million others to do the same, vision will reach everyone eventually.

8. At the VI International SIODEC Congress will make the inaugural presentation ‘Vision, Mirror Neurons and Embodied Cognition’. What do you think about inaugurate this great biennial appointment of Behavioral Optometry? 

I feel honored, and feel very responsible to present meaningful information to such an important group of clinicians. Given the global opportunity we have as optometrists, I hope that this Keynote Address will put into perspective what can be done to facilitate human development with the powerful methods we have available through Optometric Vision Therapy.

9. Could you summarize your presentation ‘Vision, Mirror Neurons and Embodied Cognition’, please? 

Vision is the “glue” that holds our physical world to our cognitive world. The physical world is a part of our cognitive activity; our cognition is embodied in the real world.  Mirror neurons enable us to engage our social world. Conical neurons enable us to engage our physical world. Engagement in the ecology of our social and physical world develops the neural architecture of our brain; it is a part of our cognitive development and cognitive range. I will discuss how Vision Therapy is an opportunity for growth in cognition.

10. You teaches the advanced pre-congress course ‘Visual Attention and Visual Memory: the role of Behavioral Optometry in the development of Attention and Memory’. What would you highlight about this training? What new knowledge will acquire the attendees? 

I don’t know what will be new to the attendees, as many, many attendees are very experienced, and have already thought deeply about these ideas. What I will bring to the pre-congress course is my experience and perspective on the significance of Visual Attention and Visual Memory in Vision Therapy. I will review the underlying neurology and practical methods of developing these abilities in us and in our patients. Some of the highlights will be acquiring specific methods for developing attention and memory you’re your patients will truly benefit from.

11. You make conferences all over the world. How do you think that Behavioral Optometry is established in Spain? Do you think that SIODEC is doing a good job in this regard?

For tens of thousands of years, Spain has brought together thinkers from all around the world; SIODEC continues this tradition. SIODEC has some of the best and deepest thinkers in the world, and that is why optometrists are drawn to it. I think this is because of their creativity and dedication to the most advanced research while holding onto strong principals of patient care. Their courage in the face of doubt is most inspiring.


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