Meet Dr. Poonam Teja: The Optometrist behind every great prescription

Fashionable Eye Exam

Photo Credit: Terry Richardson

When it comes to visiting your eye healthcare professional, it’s not just about seeing how many of those tiny letters you can read on the Snellen eye chart.

In fact, Dr. Poonam Teja might say that she looks for far more than meets the eye during your eye exam! Dr. Teja isn’t just the on-site Optometrist at HOLLY Eyewear, she’s also laser focused on aspects that affect your ocular health, making your appointments with her both relaxed and complete.

We sat down to chat with Dr. Teja to talk about the personal reason she became an Optometrist, her top ocular healthcare tips - and her favourite fashion and sunglasses icon.

Dr.Poonam Teja

Hi Dr. Teja! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some of our questions! You’ve been a key member of the HOLLY Eyewear team for some time now, and our customers have been wanting to know more about you - the Doctor behind the exams. Tell me a little bit about when you first became interested in vision and ocular care?

It started years ago, when I was given my first pair of glasses in grade 2 - far before they were cool!

Ever since then, I had a profound interest in Optometry and a strong desire to help others suffering from the same issues I have endured over the years without a compassionate eye doctor by my side.

I strive to be the eye doctor I never had! I enjoy taking my time with each individual patient, ensuring they leave feeling well informed and taken care of.

You’re so right, having a compassionate and invested healthcare team is so important to our wellbeing. How long have you been in practice now?

I am going on to 5 years as an Optometrist. I passed the Canadian board exams in October of 2013. I was fully licensed to practice Optometry in Ontario March 7, 2014. I will never forget that date!

I bet! It’s a huge accomplishment. Optometry is a very specialized path - with some seriously intensive schooling! In addition to your years of education and training, what does it take to become a licensed Optometrist?

As you mentioned, you need to have compassion for people, for the world, and genuine desire to help those in need.

In my segment of health care, people rely on us to SEE - which is fundamental to their quality of life every day to be able to carry out their day-to-day routines without any compromise to their vision or visual system. It’s a huge responsibility that I take very seriously.

We know how much you love taking care of your patients - and your patients agree! What’s your secret to providing the level of care you do every day?

Patients recognize and appreciate a genuine and knowledgeable doctor. I’m proud to be one of them! I think being endlessly fascinated by my work helps too. Patients really feel when you’re excited about the work you do. There are a few areas of optometry I have a keen interest in like dry eyes, myopia control, binocular vision, and vision training. I plan to further develop my skill set and experience with specific technology in these areas.

Thankfully, developments in eye care diagnostic technology are constant. And, while every piece of equipment is invaluable and serves their specific roles in diagnostics, for me, it is all about the OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography).

It’s particularly useful in the diagnosis and management of macular conditions and glaucoma. I love it because it’s a multi-functional device that can scan and detect pathology in its very early stages which means I can provide prompt treatment and prevent unnecessary damage to our eyes and vision. And that’s what I want to do for my patients!

The area of healthcare that you focus on - pardon the turn of phrase - is fundamental to how we all live from the moment we open our eyes in the morning! Since patients generally see you once every year or two, what do you wish they would know for the  time between their appointments?

As I discuss during and at the conclusion of every eye exam, I just want people to keep up with having their eyes checked regularly.

I find most people underestimate the importance of eye exams every 1 to 2 years, whether they can see clearly or rely on glasses. The main message I’m trying to get across is - do not wait until you are having issues with your eyes or your vision!

It’s scary to realize that most sight- (or even life-) threatening eye conditions have no symptoms!

But, the good news is that most of them can be managed as long as they are caught and treated early.

Sight is the most undervalued sense, and yet it’s the most critical to living. So please people, do not take your eyes, and 20/20 vision for some, for granted!

You can’t underestimate the value of a thorough and regular check-up! Of course we’re so curious - what was the most surprising thing you’ve identified during an eye exam?

Of course the best thing to discover is completely healthy eyes! But when an issue does arise, they’re all an equally big deal.

What's surprising is that most  issues are found during a routine eye exam, after instilling drops to achieve pupil dilation.  

Pupil dilation gives me the biggest and best view of the vital structures in our eyes that allow us to see. It’s only by dilation that we can make sure that we see everything - otherwise things can go unnoticed until they become very problematic. And that only requires a few eye drops during the appointment!

Sometimes patients don’t even plan on getting an eye exam but for whatever reason they land in my chair! I’ve seen young people with perfect vision who, upon having a comprehensive exam, were found to have serious defects in the eye anatomy that may limit their years of sight! It’s times like that when I’m very grateful to be able to help people correct or manage their vision functionality.

The technology and knowledge we have that can ensure the health of our eyes from early childhood all the way into our later years - it's actually quite mind blowing.

Having that kind of insight into overall health through a routine eye exam is incredibly empowering! Of course, we’re familiar with having to wear sunglasses after our pupils have been dilated - but you also recommend wearing sunglasses all year round, even in winter. Why is that?

There are many changes that come with age. When it comes to our eyes, changes usually come in the form of cataracts of the lens and macular changes. Again, annual routine eye exams will allow early detection and prevent unnecessary damage to your vision.

Protecting the eyes from the sun is very important for an ageing eye and can deter premature changes. That’s why it’s a good habit for people of all ages to wear sunglasses year round.

We’ll keep that up for sure. There’s nothing we love more than a great pair of shades! What about other ways to protect our ocular and overall health? Do you have favourite health products like specific foods, supplements, vitamins, or exercises?

Generally speaking, anything that is good for your body is good for your eyes. Living a healthy lifestyle with exercise and a healthy diet are invaluable.

In particular, a diet high in antioxidants (dark pigmented veggies), omega-3’s, and plenty of water are all beneficial to maintaining eye health. As is the UV protection from those sunglasses!

Oh, and for your whole health? My best advice is to laugh!!

Having a good sense of humor in life is SO important - this comes from years of field research with my senior patients!

Laughter is alway the best medicine! I get the feeling those sunglasses are right at the top of your list of favourite eyewear trends. If you had to choose your very favourite eyewear trend of all time, what would it be?

Oh, that’s an easy one! Audrey Hepburn and her cat eye sunglasses - the Manhattans by Oliver Goldsmith - in the 1961 film, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

She turned the cat eye shape into a trend that never died! It’s my favourite and seems to be the only shape that works on my face!

Breakfast At Tiffany's

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Thanks for spending some time with us Dr. Teja! We can’t wait for our next exam with you!

Is it time to book an eye exam for yourself or your family members? 

Call us at 416.700.2391 or fill out our contact form and we’ll get back to you with options shortly.

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