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Debbie Boey MS, OT

I work as an occupational therapist in an acute hospital in Singapore. I first came to know about low vision rehabilitation when an expert, Beth Barstow, Ph.D., with the University of Alabama at Birmingham came to Singapore to teach about the subject in 2009.

Back then, I was working with the elderly and many of them had falls due to low vision. I was ill-equipped to help them overcome challenges in activities of daily living (ADL) due to limited knowledge in this field and there was no specialized OT low vision rehab practice in Singapore.

Through Beth’s sessions, I realized there was SO much more that OTs could do to help clients with low vision. That was the start of my venture into the field of low vision rehab.

From Singapore to Birmingham and Back

Having completed the UAB Graduate Certificate in Low Vision Rehabilitation program in 2012, I led the development of an OT low vision rehab program in the hospital where I worked.

Being able to provide specialized interventions for clients with low vision and helping them reach their Aha! moments where they discover they CAN still do ADL which they thought they couldn’t gave me much professional satisfaction.

I am also recognized as an expert in the area and actively involved in teaching OTs about basic low vision rehab. Developing the program was challenging but a great learning experience and opened doors to new collaborations with a multi-disciplinary team that we have traditionally not worked with – the optometrists and ophthalmologists.

Combined Clinic Success

It was exciting to see how the developments unfolded over three years. A combined clinic with the optometrists and ophthalmologists was set up and we saw a steady increase of patients with low vision.

We reached out to other physicians including the rehabilitation doctors, geriatricians and renal doctors. We organized a widely publicized local event to raise awareness about low vision in Singapore and I was very encouraged by how willing our patients were to step forward and share their about how they have benefited from OT.

Media publicity brought our program to the attention of the masses and more were willing to approach us for our services. Networks were built with community partners and we are currently working on a national program to train community providers in providing basic low vision rehab. This would broaden the reach of low vision rehab in Singapore.

Expectations Exceeded

When I first embarked on the graduate certificate program at UAB, I wanted to improve my ability to contribute to direct patient care. The program has exceeded this expectation, as it enabled me to contribute on a larger level to the organization’s development plans and use the knowledge further to benefit a wider community.

If anyone is considering the program, I would say PLEASE DO! You would be learning with the leading OT experts in this field and gain so much more professionally, in addition to value adding to your patients!