Through the lens: Valley students learning all about the eye

OLMITO — They could see a lot through the lens of an eye.

Jeremiah Stevens and Sergio Jaramillo, both 17, looked intently at the pale orange eye in the picture they’d just taken with the funduscope.

The students in Eduardo Rios’s ophthalmology class at the South Texas Academy for Medical Professions found no evidence of retinal tears. They checked the cup to disc ratio — the optic nerve and the retina — and found it to be within the normal range.

A bad reading would indicate the progression of diabetes and glaucoma.

They’d learned a lot last semester, the first year Medical Academy has offered an ophthalmology class. So prepared were they during the lengthy book process they’re doing clinicals this semester at an ophthalmology clinic.

Earlier this week, they’d just returned from their rotations.

“They were great,” Sergio said. “As soon as we got there we were assigned different technicians. From there we shadowed them. We went to different areas of the facility with them. It would be some routine checkup.”

Jeremiah was equally jazzed by the experience.

“It was really good today,” he said. “I was with a technician. He was doing visuals, making sure you can see.”

The students were obviously well-versed with all the standard equipment used in an ophthalmologist’s office. A stand loaded with pieces of equipment might have seemed a bit intimidating. There’s the phoropter with all the lenses and dials, the slit-lamp where you place your chin while technicians look straight into the eye.

Scary, maybe, were it not for the fact that almost everyone has set in those chairs to have their vision checked.

They had presented some challenges to the students.

“This piece of equipment, it’s got all these dials,” Sergio said. He gestured toward the slit-lamp. “It’s for the outer part of the eye.”

“It sees if you have a corneal tumor,” Rios said.

He seemed impressed by his students’ extensive knowledge.

The slit-lamp, he said, can also save a person’s eyesight in an emergency. Such a seemingly simple device can spot acute angle glaucoma, which is the buildup of fluid in the eye.

“You could lose your eyesight,” Rios said. This calls for an immediate trip to the hospital where medical professionals can drain the excess fluid in the eye, saving the patient’s vision.

Less stressful ways to protect one’s vision, or the quality of vision, is a few minutes at the phoropter, looking through lenses at a chart on the wall with letters of decreasing size.

“Which is better? One or two?” asked Sergio as he moved different dials and lenses for Rios, demonstrating the use of the machine.

Both students were enjoying the experience. Completion of the curriculum at the end of the year could earn them a certification to work as an assistant to an ophthalmologist. This could qualify them to give simple eye exams, among other duties.

Some students hope to use their certification while attending college. With the certification they’ll be able to earn greater than entry level pay.

“I was planning on studying to be a surgeon,” Jeremiah said. As soon as he began this course, he began reevaluating his plans. He’s still pursing the medical field, he’s just not sure which one.