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  • Frank Brodie, MD, Addresses Vision Challenges of Craniofacial Anomalies

    The Academy is recognizing Frank Brodie, MD, 2022’s Artemis Award winner, for advocating and enhancing care for pediatric patients with craniofacial abnormalities. He is the co-founder of the Loving Eyes Foundation (LEF), a nonprofit organization that delivers custom-fitted glasses for children in need.

    See a slide show of patients aided by Dr. Brodie's Loving Eyes Foundation and his method of making unique eyeglasses.

    Since 2014, the Academy’s Senior Ophthalmologist Committee has presented the annual award to a young ophthalmologist who demonstrates the utmost in patient care and goes above and beyond what is expected.

    Nominations for the award are solicited from societies represented on the Academy’s Council, the supranational ophthalmology societies as well as from academic department chairs and program directors. Dr. Brodie was nominated by the University of California, San Francisco.

    In this interview with YO Info, Dr. Brodie delved deeper into the impetus of his foundation — specifically how it works, how he got inspired and what YOs can do to get involved in their own communities.

    What is the mission of the Loving Eyes Foundation and how does it work? 

    Dr. Brodie: We provide customized, 3D-printed glasses to children who can’t wear traditional “off-the-shelf” glasses. This includes children with a host of congenital craniofacial abnormalities, as well as patients with trauma or tumors. 

    How this works is that we train the patient’s home eye care provider on how to use our app to create a 3D model of the child’s head and then work with our designers to produce a custom frame uniquely designed to the child’s anatomy. We also provide the family with a demo pair to ensure a good and comfortable fit and make as many revisions as necessary to our original design.

    Once everyone is happy, we produce a high-quality pair for the child with prescription lenses. All of this is done free of charge.

    What craniofacial conditions does your foundation target?

    Dr. Brodie: We are agnostic to the patient’s specific diagnosis, but generally want the patient to have tried alternative over-the-counter glasses first. Some of the conditions we’ve created glasses for include craniosynostosis, orbital mass, macrocephaly, microcephaly, hypertelorism, microtia, achondroplasia, Crouzon syndrome, holoprosencephaly, Treacher Collins syndrome and hemifacial microsomia, among many others.

    What was your inspiration for your foundation and why is it important to you?

    LEF was born out of a patient that I helped care for as a resident who had a severe mixed craniosynostosis syndrome and was becoming amblyopic because she couldn’t wear any glasses. I collaborated with Alejandra de Alba, MD, her pediatric ophthalmologist, to develop our approach to produce custom glasses. Based on our initial success with the young patient, we expanded our services to other patients and ultimately partnered with Andy Corley, an executive and founder in the ophthalmic industry, to launch Loving Eyes Foundation and provide glasses for these children on a larger scale. 

    I love the work we do at LEF because it’s so concrete and immediately impactful for these children and their families. For many of these families, they’ve been searching with great frustration, trying to find a pair of glasses that their son or daughter will actually tolerate and wear. To have something specially made for them can be a tremendous benefit not only for their vision, but also in their ability to function and engage with the world.

    Up until your foundation came along, how did these children obtain glasses?

    Dr. Brodie: There are many terrific companies that produce glasses for children, including ones that specifically accommodate some facial differences or provide flexibility in the design and materials. These companies help serve the majority of children really well. However, there are less-common cases of significant structural abnormality that cannot be served by the previously existing solutions, and that’s where LEF comes in. So it’s common to first meet our patients wearing multiple straps and other homemade adaptions to glasses as an attempt to try and get a sufficient fit.

    Do you foresee a future in 3D-printed glasses for all patients?

    Dr. Brodie: I do think customization is becoming increasingly accessible on a large scale. Indeed there are already some companies doing this in the eyewear space, including with 3D printing. Unfortunately their technology requires some assumptions about symmetry and a somewhat constrained range of variability that precluded using it for the patient population that LEF serves. But, yes, I think the general population will enjoy the benefits that a customized fit will bring!

    What are LEF’s biggest challenges now and what’s the future plan? 

    Dr. Brodie: We are always trying to improve our efficiency and scale up our technology. Going from reconstructed CT scans to real-time 3D scanning with our own smartphone app has been a huge advance and has allowed us to serve far more children. 

    Although we’ve made great progress with design and materials, ultimately it’s still a manual process. I would love to get to a totally automated design process based on each child’s 3D scan. Once we can reliably do that, we’ll be able to serve exponentially more children worldwide. 

    And in the short term, we are limited by people power. Dr. De Alba and myself run the organization day-to-day, which is challenging when we both have busy clinical practices and research programs as well. We’d love to bring on a passionate individual into a full-time role for LEF to help it grow! (Anyone out there?)

    How can young ophthalmologists get involved in helping disadvantaged communities obtain vision care?

    Dr. Brodie: The key to any new endeavor is defining the need. What specific problem are you trying to solve: Access to care? Help managing a specific disease? Patient education? Once the problem is well-defined, it becomes easy to identify what programs and interventions will have the greatest impact. 

    Don’t be afraid to try out new ideas. At worst, you learn something about the problem you didn’t know before. Finally, doing something outside of your routine practice to help patients is tremendously rewarding and is a nice change from how you engage with patients normally in your clinic.

    Learn More at AAO 2022

    Join us at the three-part YO Program in Chicago on Sunday, Oct. 2, where Dr. Brodie will be recognized as the Academy’s 2022 Artemis Award recipient. He will also be fȇted at the Orbital Gala on Sunday evening at Adler Planetarium.

    See some of Dr. Brodie's patients