Dr. Debbie Luk has been working in optometry for a decade and has won awards for her advocacy work in the field, but she says that vision is still mostly misunderstood by the public she serves.

According to the American Optometric Association, vision therapy uses exercises and activities prescribed by a doctor to develop, rehabilitate, enhance visual skills and processes.

Luk says that vision is far more than having perfect eyesight and that it is often misunderstood by the public. Vision problems can present themselves in many ways, with symptoms often being misdiagnosed as ADHD or dyslexia. An individual may experience blurry or double vision, they may experience fatigue or pain after a few minutes, or make frequent errors when reading and writing.

After graduating from optometry school in 2009, Luk sub-specialised in vision therapy and completed a one-year residency in New York City, as well as a fellowship after graduating.

“I wanted to learn as much as I can in my sub-specialty so I can treat the most complex cases,” she said.

Luk enjoys her work in vision therapy because it gives her the opportunity to work with patients over an extended period, typically a few months. She works with a variety of patients including school-age children and elite athletes. Luk is also the official optometrist for the Calgary Flames and works with them to gain a competitive edge on the ice.

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Dr. Debbie Luk in the clinic’s foyer. Photo: Taylor Holmes 

Marie Leejohn started to take her then-10-year-old daughter, Giovanna, in for vision therapy after struggling in school despite having glasses with a proper prescription. Giovanna had problems adjusting focus and struggled to read both the whiteboard and novels in class — she would often get headaches from reading. After starting vision therapy in September, Leejohn said the biggest challenge was getting her daughter to do the required exercises every night, but after a few weeks, she says that the hard work is paying off.

“The vision therapy is helping her prescription to work properly,” Leejohn said. “She’s not complaining that she can’t see properly, that she can’t focus properly.”

Along with working with patients in the clinic, Luk also ensures that her own children do vision therapy — which in turn helps her be a better doctor.

“I can see what my children like and how they learn […] then I have that extra perspective so that I can help my patients as well,” Luk said.

Luk is a child vision advocate, and has been awarded the Alberta Optometric Association Service Award for her work with schools, doctors and nurses, educating them on the importance of eye health.

Cierra Clark, a vision therapist who works with Luk, says that Luk is very passionate about her work.

“She’s very, very invested in the patients. She’ll spend extra time if needed, just explaining things,” Clark said. “She’s really good at bridging the gap between what she diagnoses and explaining how that diagnosis really relates to that person’s life and what their symptoms might be.”

Clark, who is currently pursuing her vision therapist certification, adds that Luk has also been a supportive mentor, helping Clark answer her certification questions and work.
“She stays up with me till one in the morning, twelve o’clock at night if I need to when I’m doing my certification questions to help me,” Clark said. “She’s always available for people when they need her.”

And for Luk, that’s at the core of her practice.

“Being able to help them [patients] achieve a good quality of life and help them achieve their full potential, whether at school or work, that’s really satisfying to me,” she said.

Editor: Hadeel Abdel-Nabi | habdel-nabi@cjournal.ca

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