Vallone and Scott were part of a project in 2016 that examined penguins at Moody Gardens to see if they could receive cataract surgery.
For some students, the rotation with the Ophthalmology Service inspires them to pursue a specialty. Even if the students don’t specialize in ophthalmology, their training with the Ophthalmology Service allows them to understand what is normal and abnormal and when they should refer a patient to a specialist. “I’ve seen where students come in through a sense of obligation because they feel like it’s a requirement to be able to understand how to do an eye exam, but then they leave with a new found interest for the actual subject,” Vallone said.
Similarly, Scott said, “I know the students really felt a need for more in their training in ophthalmology, so it was so easy to get them to come to our rotation, and they’re really eager to learn and really appreciative of everything that we offer. I’ve had just wonderful interactions with the students.”
Although the service has just opened, Scott and Vallone already have plans to expand, something they’ve been doing since day one. “We had to renovate the space that was definitely not suited to seeing more than one case at a time, and now we’ve converted it to two exam rooms and a small work area so that we can accommodate students and try and expand our case load,” Vallone said.
With the addition of a newly renovated small animal hospital, Scott and Vallone foresee their workspace potentially doubling in size to better accommodate patients and students alike. “We joke that we make use of every single inch of our space,” Scott said. “Certainly, in the future, it will be great to have more space.”
The Ophthalmology Service’s plans also include expanding research. “We have a study that will be starting soon,” Scott said. “We’re looking at pain management in dogs that have their eyes removed for ocular disease, and we’ll be collaborating with the Anesthesiology Service for that study. I know Dr. Vallone is working on identifying a new structure in the horse third eyelid that has never been described before. We have many different projects in the mix. Right now they’re all in their infancy, but in the next year or so they’ll really start to take root and build. I would say for the most part our research is clinical, so we are bridging what we do in the clinics to different avenues of research.”
Interdepartmental collaboration is also a priority for the Ophthalmology Service. Scott said, “Another collaboration that we have is with the Zoological Medicine Service. It’s interesting—they see so many different exotic species that really haven’t had their eyes described. Particularly, we’ll be looking at quail and studying their ocular parameters.”
But what makes the Ophthalmology Service strong is teamwork. Scott and Vallone rely on each other for support and guidance. “It’s great that Texas A&M considered hiring two people at the same time,” Vallone said. “Starting a service that hadn’t been here for five years can be challenging. I wouldn’t have been able to do it alone.”
This story was originally posted on the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences website.