I confess: I am a Martha Stewart wanna-beminus the orange jumpsuit, of course. Martha taught me all of the really important things in lifelike how to decorate a Christmas tree, how to skewer asparagus for even grilling and how to word a wedding invitation. So naturally, as Memorial Day approached, I turned to her first for advice on how to kick off summer with a family barbeque, as well as for creative ways to display flags with class.

Well, Memorial Day came and went. My version of Marthas All-American Potato Salad looked and tasted like baby food, and I burned her signature Flag Cookies. But, at least the family was together for a nice cookoutalbeit a rainy one. Thats what Memorial Day is all about, right? Getting together with family over a long weekend? I guess not.

Tuesday morning, I set aside my stack of Better Homes and Gardens, Good Housekeeping and, of course, Martha Stewart Living, and picked up the June issue proofs of Review of Optometry. I started reading, and when I got to page 37, I stopped dead in my tracks. Optometrist and attorney Pamela J. Miller, Reviews revered practice-management guru, put things in perspective for me. Shes developed a real knack for that over the years that weve worked together.

Dr. Miller is not your cookie-cutter practice management consultant. As such, the article on page 37 is not entitled How to Work Less and Make More or How to Decorate Your Frame Board for the Fourth of July Holidaythough I bet she could teach us a thing or two about these topics as well. Rather, her timely feature is called Serving Those Who Serve Our Country. In it, Dr. Miller explains the unique conditions that you must account for when treating military and paramilitary personnel.

Vision care is a huge issue for the U.S. military, one that theyve been trying to improve. In 1995, officials took a close look at the effects of combat on U.S. soldiers and estimated that, in the next war, eye injuries would represent 10% of all casualties.1 According to Sergeant First Class Bradley Mikalson, glasses were not a priority item in Operation Desert Storm, so they sat on the tarmac awaiting transport.2

Since then, the military has taken steps to improve eyewear use and distribution, and the Department of Defense reported decreases in eye injuries and costs due to missed work days.3 Captain Daniel Stewart (no known relation to my gal Martha) makes clear the obvious problem facing the military: Soldiers who cant see, cant fight.2 Or shouldnt. Thats where you come in.

As Dr. Miller explains, treating military personnel goes beyond handing them the two pairs of spectacles authorized by the government. You need to educate them about the importance of carrying the additional pairs and arm them with knowledge of how to handle ocular emergencies.

In addition, you cant overemphasize the importance of protective mask inserts. Captain Stewart says these are probably the most forgotten deployment item.2 Between 1988 and 1998, two out of three military personnel were NOT wearing eye protection at the time of the injury.3 On average, they lost 1.4 more workdays, were hospitalized 0.6 more days and cost $1,119 more per injury than those who wore eye protection at the time of the injury.3

The bottom line is that you dont want even one of your military patients to be injured as a result of inadequate eyewear or lack of education.

Thanks to Dr. Miller for reminding me of whats really important. Next Memorial Day, I for one, intend to devote a little less time thinking about how to stencil my mailbox and a little more time showing my gratitude for Americas real heroes. Sorry Martha.

1. Army Looks to Eye Armor. Soldiers October 1995:6. 
2. Moore A. A Spectacular Solution. Soldiers Online.
www.army.mil/soldiers/oct97/features/optical.html. (3 June 2004).
3. DoD Class A, B,and C Mishap Eye Injuries FY88-FY98. DoD Eye Injury Statistics.
mil/doem/vision/mil_info/DoDInjuryStat.htm. (3 June 2004).

Vol. No: 141:06Issue: 6/15/04