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CONTRIBUTED CONTENT – As a pediatric optometrist and mother of two, Dr. Jenna O’Brien combines cutting-edge vision care with a loving and caring attitude for every little patient at the Children’s Vision Center.
O’Brien said many of his patients had never seen an eye doctor before coming to The Children’s Vision Center and don’t know what to expect so all the staff make comfort a priority and strive to create a fun, friendly atmosphere where children can feel right at home.
âWe really take the time to explain every step of the way because kids like to know what’s going on,â she said. “They don’t like surprises, and that’s where a lot of the fear of going to any kind of doctor comes from.”
O’Brien and his staff welcomed their first patients in May as they navigated the turbulent waters of the COVID-19 pandemic. On Monday, a small group gathered to finally inaugurate the clinic with an inauguration ceremony.
O’Brien told St. George News that problems that keep children from not going to school, such as trouble concentrating or reading, are sometimes caused by vision problems. These issues are not always obvious and can be difficult for young children to express.
âChildren can have difficulty and not know why because they don’t know that what they are seeing is not what they are supposed to see,â she said.
O’Brien recommends that children have their first eye exam between 6 and 12 months of age, and then again during their toddlers, just before starting school and annually thereafter.
Although eye disease in children is rare, early detection and treatment of any abnormalities is essential to prevent more serious problems later in life.
The Children’s Vision Center provides routine eye care as well as specialized treatments for myopia control, vision therapy and sports vision.
In the past, the only option available to myopic children was a prescription for glasses, usually adjusted each year as their eyesight continued to deteriorate. However, by controlling myopia, the underlying cause of nearsightedness, doctors can now slow eye growth to stabilize vision. Early treatment of myopia reduces the risk of complications and eye diseases developing further into adulthood, O’Brien said, as well as the use of glasses or contacts.
Vision therapy helps children with problems that cannot be corrected with glasses or contacts alone, including lazy or misaligned eyes. Through weekly activities, young patients learn to retrain their brains to properly use both eyes.
Sports vision programs are another method of treatment at Children’s Vision Center. This treatment is not intended to solve eye problems but rather to improve reaction time, hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness in aspiring athletes. The training is personalized to meet the visual requirements of the particular sport practiced by the child.
âIt takes the visual aspect of the sport and improves what the eyes can do,â said O’Brien.
These state-of-the-art vision treatment options are only available in southern Utah through the Children’s Vision Center, she said. As the clinic’s sole provider, she personally examines each patient and develops an individualized therapy program for their unique needs.
Born and raised in Beehive State, O’Brien graduated from the University of Utah and the Southern College of Optometry before completing her training with an eye disease residency in Tennessee. She has lived in St. George for four years with her husband, Kevin, and their 2 and 4 year old sons.
âAs I started practicing, I saw patients of all ages, but found that I really enjoyed seeing children,â she said. âI like the results when they don’t know they’ve had difficulty with their vision and then they get their glasses on and they’re like ‘Wow! ” moment.”
After the birth of his children, O’Brien realized that the community needed specialized pediatric eye care. The process of opening her own clinic took a few years of dedicated planning and preparation.
âAs a mom myself, I know someone who is comfortable with children will give better care,â she said. âWe are offering a new service and a new option in St. George that will benefit children and help them be successful – in school, in sports and all the things that are important to them. “
Written by ALEXA MORGAN for St. George News.
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