Educating doctors, students in the eclipse's path of the totality with Dr Jeffrey Walline

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With The Ohio State University College of Optometry in the path of totality for this year's total solar eclipse, 1 optometry school has prepared its alumni, students, and doctors to share information with the public.

While business will be as usual for The Ohio State University College of Optometry during the total solar eclipse this year, Acting Dean Jeffrey Walline, OD, PhD, said that students and facility will be able to take time off to view the event. He details how to help keep the public's eye protect in an exclusive interview with Optometry Times.

Video transcript

Editor's note - This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Jordana Joy:

Hi, everyone. I'm here today with Dr. Jeffrey Walline, distinguished professor and acting dean at The Ohio State University's College of Optometry. He's here to chat about the upcoming total solar eclipse, and what to do to keep your eyes protected. So welcome Dr Walline. It's a pleasure to have you here today.

Jeffrey Walline, OD, PhD:

Thanks very much for having me.

Joy:

Awesome. So to get started here, how does a solar eclipse caused damage to the eyes and why can it cause such significant damage?

Walline:

Yeah, actually, during the solar eclipse, the sun is exactly the same as it is at all other times, it's just that we typically don't stare at the sun, unless there's an eclipse. So the sun can actually do damage like it does to your skin when you burn your skin, but the difference between the skin and the eyes is that your skin can heal. Your retina or the seeing part of the eye actually can't heal and so that can cause permanent vision loss.

Joy:

And what exactly does that vision loss look like? What can people experience and what are they really looking out for in that case?

Walline:

Yeah, so if people look at the sun too much, they might not notice anything right away. It might happen over time that they basically start to lose their vision, and this is over the course of a few hours to a few days, to a day or 2. They might start to get blurry vision, things might become a little bit distorted. But that's most of the time what they experienced is just blurry vision.

Joy:

So what is the College of Optometry at OSU doing to educate students and the general public about the event.

Walline:

What we started doing was educating our local doctors, or our alumni and we hope that they go out and talk to the media and educate all of the people in their areas. So we're sort of trying to broaden the place where we get the information. We created a continuing education 1 hour course for doctors to watch and then we actually taught them how to speak to the media. Then we are also providing people with information about how like, just like we asked before, how you can have permanent damage to your vision if you spend too much time looking at the sun. Then of course, the appropriate ways to look at the sun with appropriate filters in front of the eyes that you should get from a valued source, 1 that you can trust.

Joy:

Okay, is there anything else that you can share about how to properly protect your eyes during the eclipse?

Walline:

Yeah, well, first, we have lots of information that's available at our website, optometry.osu.edu/eclipse. There's a list of places where you can get these protective glasses, and you can know that they're safe. People can also look at the Ohio Optometric Association website for information about how to keep your eyes safe. So there's lots of places, especially as we get closer to the eclipse that people can watch. And then of course, watch your local news channel. Look at all the optometry publications. There's lots of great information out there.

Joy:

So OSU lies in the eclipse's line of totality this year. Are there any of the college's professors that are planning on incorporating the event into optometry classes on April 8, that you know of?

Walline:

Yeah, it's a good question and it's a question that we asked ourselves: "Should we take time off from our clinic? Should we take time out of classes?" And we actually decided that we aren't going to do anything specific. You know, a lot of the elementary schools aren't having school at all that day. We are actually continuing our services as need be, but we're allowing people the flexibility to be able to go out and of course, you know, this is almost a once in a lifetime thing that people can observe. So we're giving them some time to be able to observe, we're giving them some glasses to be able to observe it safely. But that's really what we expect for our students personally. People can take time off if they want individually, because it's more important to some than others. But we aren't really doing anything different at the College of Optometry except for providing people with protection.

Joy:

Sure, okay. Is there anything else that you'd like to add that we haven't touched on?

Walline:

No, it's just as always, make sure that you safely look at the eclipse. Even a few seconds of looking at the eclipse can damage your eyes, so you have to have those filters in place, or you can do indirect viewing of it by creating a pinhole aperture that allows you to see the moon going between the sun and the Earth. So those are the ways that are best to observe the sun. But it keep in mind that even a few seconds, especially over a long period of time of doing that, can really do damage to the eye. So be careful because you can't gain that vision back.

Joy:

Yeah, that's all important stuff. Alright, well thank you very much for taking the time today Dr Walline, it was a pleasure.

Walline:

Yeah, appreciate the opportunity.

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