By Jody Johnson-Pettit

A new Ontario optometrist has already witnessed firsthand that trusting your gut and your patient could help to save a life.

For 30-year-old Dr. Saed Issac, this happened in October, only two months after becoming a practicing optometrist, when a patient came into his office after waking up with double vision.

“His medical history included DMT2 and hypertension. His blood pressure was normal in the office and he repeatedly denied a spike in his blood sugar,” says Dr. Isaac.

“I diagnosed him with isolated right CN6 palsy. My gut told me something was off here, so I gave him an eye patch to help with diplopia, but more importantly, told him to get an MRI/CT scan done ASAP. He ended up going the next day, where a new symptom of numbness in his left leg appeared. The scan results showed a hemorrhagic stroke in the middle of the brain. I may not have saved his life, but his life was at risk.”

Dr. Isaac has been a practicing optometrist since August 2018. He graduated with a Doctorate of Optometry, Dean’s Honours List, from the University of Waterloo, but says his career path towards optometry began in high school.

“I used to sit in the front row of the class because I could not see anything and I would sometimes take notes by listening only. I eventually got glasses, but still did not know much about optometry, aside from the glasses part,” he says.

“It wasn’t until I was studying for the MCAT (medical college admission test) that I learned what optometry was all about. I was studying 12 to 14 hours a day and kept getting headaches and eyestrain. I went to a local OD where a student examined me and educated me about optometry. He made it sound like an interesting profession and convinced me to look into it.”

Dr. Isaac is now an associate optometrist at Dr. Moussa Professional Optometry Corp. in Windsor, Ont., and Eye Smile Vision in Amherstburg, Ont.

He says it is important to him to know his patients on a personal level and to keep building long-lasting relationships.

“As a refugee myself, I work with a lot of immigrants in the Windsor area. A lot of them have never had an eye exam before, so it can be very challenging. However, it can also be very rewarding. Patient education becomes very important, as many of them don’t have a GP. I always remind them to check their eyes and health on a regular basis.”

As a new optometrist, Dr. Isaac believes networking plays a very important role, whether it is with general practitioners or other eye care professionals.

“Being a member of the Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO) has been a great resource to network with fellow optometrists across the province,” he says.

“Last year, I had the opportunity to volunteer at the OAO Symposium and Infomart as a fourth year OD student. I was there for the full conference, so I learned a lot about the association and spoke with many ODs. My local Windsor society has also allowed me to meet other ODs and I have visited many OMDs in their offices. So, don’t be shy to go knock on the door and introduce yourself.”

He says his plan is to one day have a practice of his own.

“But that’s a long road ahead. I am trying to learn how to run a practice and what it entails,” he says.