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Welcome to the Ophthalmic Photographers' Society Blog! The posts on this blog are authored by a myriad of individuals in Ophthalmology. Posts are not always authored by those directly affiliated with the Ophthalmic Photographers' Society and opinions may not be those of the OPS; however, all posts are submitted to a review process and have been approved by the OPS before being posted. Comments are open to the public. New posts are added every Friday, so make sure to check back often!


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Playing Well in the Sandbox

Posted By Brandi Deats, Friday, July 6, 2012
Updated: Friday, July 6, 2012

Dear Diary,

Let’s talk today about something that, until about a year and a half ago, I had little experience with:

Playing WELL in the Sandbox.

(an example of what NOT to do)


Oh and don’t get me wrong here. I’m still learning and still struggle with this "concept” from time to time.

So lets start from the middle: post-high school, pre-career, in that wonderful place called college. Some of us started college, or completed it, without going through the entire course of the Biomedical Photography program at RIT. What I’m not so subtly getting at here is some of us have gone through the pleasure of sitting through a critique where there was a more brutal back and forth between you, your teachers, and your peers. Sitting there trying to defend your art against a brutal onslaught of critics whom are either responsible for your grade or competing against you sometimes can be a bit rough.

(mad max thunderdome.jpg - )

This breeds a competitive nature which I believe to be exactly the OPPOSITE mentality of what it takes to "play well in the sandbox”. I say this because I may be slightly competitive [understatement of the day] and I have struggled to put my compulsion for personal conquest on the wayside in order to work well to enrich both my and others’ lives.

That struggle did not begin until I "finished” college and began my first job. Until then I was happy to add more proverbial achievement notches to my belt and watch the others flounder around me. I took part in two co-ops and had three amazing teachers who helped mold me and teach me the way around a fundus camera [A special thanks to: Christye Sisson, Leslie Barressi, and Jaclyn Pisano]. When I started my career I was delusionally convinced I knew it all; how wrong I was.

The not so funny thing was that I was about to be given the opportunity for an attitude adjustment of a lifetime; and thank goodness for that. I needed to reign in my mercurial personality and adapt to life as an adult, with a career. The first thing I learned was that this is a team effort so I needed to stow my ego and assimilate to being part of the team.

The first thing I had to work on was communication. It was not often what I said but how I said it that needed a little buffing. Learning to communicate with coworkers, patients and physicians can be tricky at times. Masking any sort of frustration, stress, impatience, irritation etc, although difficult, is extremely important. There is a law of diminishing returns when it comes to imaging patients and the happier the patient the more fluidly administering the test will go. It’s especially important to be cognisant of your tone when working with patients. Usually when I’m with them I’m in a dark room so it’s mostly a verbal interaction. As for co-workers and physicians, this is where you need to really pay attention to the non-verbal stuff. Not only do you have to watch your tone, you need to be aware of any facial expressions, gestures, body language, eye contact, and even posture. It’s enough to make your head spin!


So let’s talk for a moment about what you should [and perhaps should not] be doing while attempting to communicate with another human being.

1.       Maintain eye contact. Nothing is more annoying than talking to someone while they are looking all around instead of at you. By maintaining eye contact you not only let people know you are focused on listening to what they have to say, you also seem more sincere in what you say when speaking to them.

2.       Facial expressions: they happen whether you’d like them to or not. This is the nonverbal part of communication I struggle with the most. My face seems to have a direct connection to my thoughts and feelings and has no filter what-so-ever between the two. Makes it a bit hard to effectively communicate when sometimes what you say and how you feel are different. Also it’s important to be able to pick up on others’ expressions. When someone is looking at you like they’re burning a hole in your forehead it’s time to evaluate what you’re saying and if you’re digging a hole, stop.

3.       Watch your body language. Consider how you perceive people when they’re slouching, constantly checking the time, picking at their nails, stoking their chin, not facing you while they’re talking to you, hands on their hips, behind their head, standing too close to you, etc. The way you carry yourself communicates a wealth of information to those around you. Be aware of how you’re presenting yourself.

4.       Voice: how you use it is important. Changing your tone, timing or inflection can be the difference between a pleasant conversation and one that will go downhill quickly. Be aware that it’s not always what you say but how you say it that people will remember. Frankly, people are much more apt to listen to you when you’re not being a condescending jerk towards them.

5.       LISTEN: Listening to others is essential for communication to be effective. You need to be able to absorb, understand, and consider what is being said to you. Take criticism without being defensive about it. You don’t have to debate every point. Like my boss has reminded me, you have two ears and one mouth, listen twice as much as you speak.

Everyone has to learn to communicate. Where I work it’s especially important to learn how to do that within our group. We have a small group of people who do diagnostic testing and for the most part we run as a pretty well oiled machine. The only way this continues to work is truly if everyone is willing to be, for the lack of a better term: a team player.

With growth or expansion or frankly just life that group dynamic can change. It’s important to remind everyone of what it takes to work as a team. I’ve covered communication, that’s the hard one. Other ones are pretty simple.

Be consistent, reliable and respectful. Don’t sit passively on the sidelines as your coworkers do the lion's share of the work. Even if you have a different way of going about things, put that aside and help things get done. Be an active participant in what’s going on around you, and if you don’t have anything to do-ask. Take the initiative and start a dialogue. You can learn something new and make yourself more marketable in the future. Every single person you meet, including your coworkers, can teach you something new. Learn!

When I started working I would aggressively attack my workload. I would get study protocols and make write ups for what was needed in order to get certified. I put a lot of work into them and I didn’t want to share with others, because they were mine ALL MINE!!! I figured if I could do it, they should be doing it too. This brings me to my next point, something we all were supposed to learn when we were children: share.  Sharing information with the team keeps everyone in the loop, and helps the well-oiled machine move forward.

And people, things change. People move, life happens, new policies are enacted. You gotta roll with the punches, and adapt. Compromise. Remember you still have a lot to offer, try to figure out how to do it. It might be hard, it might be stressful, problems may arise. Try to solve those problems, don’t dwell on it, avoid it, or blame it on others. If you do, guess what? The problem is still there. As problems pile up, things get stressful.


Stress. Stress. Stress.

One of the things that can really negatively affect communication and small group skills is stress. I haven’t learned how to completely control it, or deal with it. I’m working on it because that one little tooth that is off-kilter due to stress can make the whole thing fall apart. That’s pretty much the last thing that you want, cause guess what it will cause: more STRESS. If you have any suggestions on how to effectively deal with stress, please feel free to share.

Working with a group can be pleasant and advantageous, or ineffective and wretched. We have all experienced this in either our schooling or careers. The fact that I have to constantly remind myself of while working with others is that, while I only have control over my own thoughts and actions, I have to find ways to make my personal opinions work for the group and scrap the ones that are self-serving. Knowing and doing your part coupled with effective communication is the only way to get things done.

Brandi Deats, B.S., CRA, OCT-C,  has been working for the University of Rochester, Flaum Eye Institute in Rochester, New York for just over 2 years. A fledgeling adult and relatively newly married she enjoys cooking, eating, traveling, and the endless struggle of trying to get her husband to try something other than Labatt Blue.

Tags:  blog  cute  education  funny  Ice Breakers  Interactive  Meaningful Use  New Life  PDC  school 

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Technical Difficulties

Posted By Matthew Price, Friday, June 15, 2012
Updated: Friday, June 15, 2012

Let me tell you a story of hearbreak and loss, redemption and hope, and ultimately the triumph of good over evil.

This is the story of the time my fundus camera broke.

The day started like any other. I had drawn up several syringes of fluorescein in anticipation of the workload that my retina specialist was going to toss at me. I had organized my drawers and cabinets, I had my needles at the ready, tape was drawn and cut, and the alcohol wipes and cotton balls were at the ready.

Things moved along swimmingly. It was shaping up to be a good day. My patients were friendly and understanding of the procedure (as I’m sure many of my fellow retinal angiographers know, not every patient is very receptive to the notion of driving a needle into their arm and pumping them full of dye!), and the patient load wasn’t overwhelming.

About two thirds of the way through the day, I began an angiogram like I had done many times before during that day. "Alright, Ms. Smith (names have been changed to protect the innocent),” I said. "Let’s get some pictures.” She happily obliged me. The procedure began, and she was wonderful. I was taking her last photo when it happened.


What was that? I thought. I use this camera all day every day and I know what it’s not supposed to sound like. I looked at the computer screen and the picture looked good. Must’ve just been a weird little sound, as sometimes complex machines make funny noises and then it’s right back to business as usual.



But things were not business as usual.

I brought my next patient in, explained the procedure, procured consent, etc. When I went to take the preliminary photographs, I looked into the viewfinder to see; my eye, upside down. I checked to see if my camera was set in ICG mode where that kind of thing is normal. It wasn’t.


I looked around the camera and lined my lens up with the donut of light on my patient’s cornea to get the pictures I needed, which turned out pretty good considering I couldn’t see through my viewfinder. Every time I clicked a picture, there would be a funny sounding ‘pop’ instead of the resonant ‘clack’ I was accustomed to hearing. We finished the procedure and then I walked her up to our checkout desk.

Luckily, my fellow photographer was at that location that day assisting with the doctor, so I called her into the photo room. I was hoping she would look at the problem and say, "Oh, you just have to flip this little switch here”, or something else mundane and easy. But after a couple minutes examining the camera, it seemed that would not be the case.

"What happened?” she asked.

"I dunno,” I said. "I was taking pictures, then just heard a click. Now it’s not working right.”

We took a screwdriver to the side panel, opened it up and looked inside. Everything looked fine, the filters seemed to be engaging and nothing seemed loose. We were at a loss. It was time to call our supervisor.

She came in and looked at things, advised us to take another part off and look inside, which we did and saw nothing out of the ordinary. My supervisor decided it was time to go to Defcon 4. She said she would tell the doctor that the camera was out of commission for now and told me to call technical support at the camera manufacturer. Things had moved beyond a simple equipment hiccup and looked more and more like a bigger hardware problem.

I did as I was asked and called the camera company’s tech support line.

If you’ve ever spent time on the phone with tech support for anything, you know that I didn’t have a good time. To be fair, the technician on the phone was pleasant, but there’s always the list of things they make you do, going down the troubleshooting list. Upon doing everything he asked of me and putting me on hold a couple times, he determined that we would have to send the camera in to be repaired.

This meant that our camera would be gone for a minimum of three weeks. I don’t know if you’ve ever had to tell a retina specialist that his fundus camera would be gone for three weeks, but suffice to say it was not a smooth conversation. The camera company informed us that we were not under warranty and therefore did not have a loaner camera to give us while they repaired ours. My clinic supervisor then got on the phone with them and paid no small fee for the extended warranty only to be told that they still did not have a loaner camera.

We found an old fundus camera in storage from years ago that we pulled out and prayed would be compatible with our photo program on the computer. So I had to dismantle the broken camera, prepare it to be shipped out for service, and install the new camera, all during clinic hours.

As of today we are up and running with our backup camera, which has its own quirks and isn’t completely compatible with the system we’re running, but we’re making do. It’s amazing how the unexpected loss of a primary diagnostic tool can send the clinic into scramble mode to get things rectified, and this time I found myself in the center of the maelstrom.

Have you ever found your clinic compromised by malfunctioning hardware? How did you handle the situation? Tell us your stories.


Matt Price is a retinal angiographer at Mid Florida Eye Center in Mt. Dora, Florida. He has been taking ophthalmic photos since 2010.

Tags:  blog  cute  education  funny  Meaningful Use  New Life  PDC 

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Ophthalmic Photography in Switzerland: My First Act with Eyeballs: Part Two

Posted By John C. Peterson, Friday, June 8, 2012
Updated: Friday, June 8, 2012

In my last blog post, I talked a bit about beginning my career in at the University Eye Clinic in Basel, Switzerland. Today’s post is about the work environment there, and the circumstances that led me to jump across the pond, all the way to Madison, Wisconsin:

 Basel is located on the Swiss border to France and Germany and thus qualifies as a true multinational city. On a typical day it was not unusual to hear French, German, Spanish, Italian, Turkish, Czech, Tennessee English and Serbo-Croatian spoken by patients and staff alike. Running to find interpreters for patient photo sessions was a nearly daily occurrence (as I’ve stated before, my language skills stop with German and Swiss-German). I soon learned which cleaning ladies spoke Turkish, and which receptionists could be counted on when no French speakers were within reach.

The work atmosphere in Basel was distinctly Old-World traditional in some ways, and progressive in others. Vestiges of Old School ophthalmology were being phased out during my time there: The inpatient ward, once used for acute surgical cases, including cataracts (!) was replaced with an outpatient surgery center. We received some of the first email addresses ever given out under the University of Basel domain. Administration was eager to take strides into digital media and desktop publishing, and backed it up with generous equipment purchases and by funding meeting attendance to broaden our skills.

Other recollections that have stuck with me: the traveling ocularists, who set up their glass-blowing equipment twice a year, fashioning new prosthetic eyes for a stream of customers; photographing enucleated eyes afflicted by mysterious tropical diseases, routed to our pathology department via the Basel Tropical Institute; being mistaken for a doctor by virtue of wearing a lab coat by every third patient…I gave up correcting them after the first month.

Last but not least: Lunch hours lasted a full hour, and your time away from your work area was respected. Most patients would sit and wait mit Geduld until you returned.

In 1997 I attended the OPS Educational meeting in San Francisco, where I met Michael Neider of the University of Wisconsin. Upon his recommendation I visited Madison a week later and interviewed for the open ophthalmic photographer job. Three months later, I began the new phase of my career. I recently marked my fourteenth anniversary at the Madison clinic.

Why did I give up a good gig in Basel, one of Europe’s finest cities with high marks for quality-of-life, for a job in chilly Wisconsin? More opportunities to progress professionally, a desire to return to my own culture, the excellent reputation of UW, and the cultural attraction of Madison ("the Austin of the North”, as my brother-in-law puts it) all played a role. Do I ever miss the perks of everyday life in Basel: taking lunch down by the Rhine, the superb public transportation, the architectural splendor, and the yearly three-day Fasnacht (Carnival), one of the world’s great outdoor parties? You kiddin’ me? And of course, my good friends (including Phillip, Theres, Marketa, Christian, Peter, Sakine, Dorothe, among others), who were patient and supportive and whom I miss very much.

Has anyone else made a big cultural shift when moving from one job to another? We’d love to hear your thoughts, comments, regrets etc.


John C. Peterson, BS, CRA is Director of Ophthalmic Photography Services at the UW Health Eye Clinic in Madison, Wisconsin. He began his career at the University Eye Clinic in Basel, Switzerland. In his spare time he runs a small farm, hunts fossils, dresses up as a pirate, and writes about macro photography at, although not all at the same time. He is currently a candidate for an MBA in IT Management at Western Governors University. Politically, he is against some things and in favor of others.

Tags:  blog  cute  education  funny  Ice Breakers  Meaningful Use  New Life  PDC  Switzerland  Travel 

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Look out RIT there is a new school out there!

Posted By Jay Rostvold, Friday, May 25, 2012
Updated: Friday, May 25, 2012
I was asked to be a guest lecturer at this school specifically designed for the OPS. The faculty looked long and hard to find someone with a knowledge level appropriate for their students. They came to the conclusion that I was just the scholar for them! As guest lecturer, I was provided a vehicle and my own parking space!  
During the introductions, the director of the program explained where I was from. 
After the director spoke, I worked with the entire student body in this large lecture hall!  

In this break out session I had the students listening to my every word!  
Students posed for this class photo the day before St Patrick’s Day wearing their hats in my honor!  
My son Ryan is a Kindergarten teacher at a school that just so happens to go by OPS. On a trip to visit my son and his family, I had the opportunity to sit in on his class to see the day of a kindergarten teacher. The students were very curious as to who the "old guy" was in their classroom they brought books for me to read to them.

Jay Rostvold
is the Director of Imaging at Wolfe Eye Clinic in West Des Moines, IA. Jay spent 30 years as an Ophthalmic Photographer with the Department of Ophthalmology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN and has been a member of the Ophthalmic Photographers Society since 1979

Tags:  blog  cute  education  funny  Ice Breakers  PDC  school 

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