For newly minted optometrist Dominic Brown, O.D., being named the Jones Fellow at the Lions Vision Research and Rehabilitation Center — Wilmer’s low vision division — was a dream come true.
“This is a one-of-a-kind program, and it afforded me the opportunity to not only improve my clinical skills and my confidence in those skills but also to be able to do research,” says Brown, who grew up in Baltimore. “It’s an environment that’s amazingly conducive to complex learning.”
After earning a B.A. in biology (with a minor in psychology) at the University of Maryland, Brown studied at Salus University’s Pennsylvania College of Optometry, where he graduated with honors — earning his Doctor of Optometry degree and a certificate of public health in 2020.
He immediately applied for and was accepted into the college’s low vision residency program, but it did not have a research component, so the following year, he applied for and was accepted into the Wilmer fellowship program. “I fell in love with the low vision field because it is really about the whole patient,” Brown says. “We work with patients whose vision can’t be corrected by surgery or glasses or contact lenses, and we prescribe tools to help them do things they love but have mostly given up doing. There are so many technologies available today, from hand-held magnifiers to high-tech, head-mounted devices. I can’t tell you how satisfying it is when you find just the right tool and a patient can suddenly read a book or travel, or see their grandchild’s face in a photo again.”
Brown, who spends four days a week seeing patients and one day working on his research project — a study of outcomes of low vision interventions — says he loves the fellowship program’s team approach to patient care. “I have so many great mentors, from the low vision optometry staff to a low vision occupational therapist and a certified low vision rehabilitation therapist, to the people helping me with my research,” he says. He attends lectures and faculty meetings, interactions that are largely virtual because of continuing COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. And he has done numerous in-person field trips, visiting state agencies and nonprofits as well as shadowing teachers and orientation and mobility specialists who work with the visually impaired.
“It’s been a very robust experience, both because we see so many complex and challenging cases at Wilmer, and because of that remarkable opportunity to see some of the specialists we so often refer patients to at work,” he says. “I am grateful to Dr. Judith Goldstein [chief of Wilmer’s Lions Vision Research and Rehabilitation Center], whose leadership is fantastic, and the whole Wilmer low vision team, for being generous with their time and sharing all they know and hopefully making me a better doctor.”