By Dr. Gary Gerber, OD and co-founder of Treehouse Eyes
I practiced optometry for 22 years. While I’ve stayed current on eye related science and technology, I haven’t seen a patient since I sold my practice more than 13 years ago. When I practiced, I used custom-designed overnight contact lenses for kids solely for the purpose of providing uncorrected vision. I noticed that as kids were returning for their yearly visits, they were either not having changes in their prescriptions, or were changing a lot less than I expected. Of course, back then my thought was that changes I was seeing were either luck or simply a temporary but beneficial precise flattening (just like LASIK, but without the surgery) of the cornea. Today we know much more about what was happening because of all the research that has gone on around myopia’s causes, the recent increase and treatment alternatives.
A few years ago, as the myopia epidemic started to appear more and more in the popular press I thought, “Why doesn’t anyone just take care of these kids like I was doing?” and I considered going back into practice. My thought was to create a practice solely dedicated to treating myopia in kids. That meant no glasses, no adults, no primary care, no ocular disease. Treat myopia in kids and be amazing at it. Make it a positive and memorable experience for the patient and their family and do something for these kids that can literally be life changing. Not only could we improve their vision, but by limiting their myopia progression we could reduce their risk of retinal disease and glaucoma.
However, wanting to really make a huge and memorable difference at this point in my life (Treehouse Eyes would go on to be my fifth significant career after optometry practice, business consulting, music and mentalism), I realized the myopia epidemic, and the opportunity to attack it, was way too big for one doctor in a single office to conquer. I needed to open up centers all over the U.S., and eventually the world.
We opened our first Treehouse Eyes centers in the metro-DC area just over a year ago, and I am thrilled at our progress treating kids. Recently we’ve started seeing the first kids that started treatment for their annual follow up, and it is fantastic to hear their stories and see how well they are doing. We’ve also been able to provide a level of service and care you don’t find in doctor’s offices these days. I’m excited to continue this journey as we start to plan more Treehouse Eyes centers in new cities coming soon!