A local optometrist has achieved a significant milestone in his professional career, and opened the doors to new services in the region.
On July 8, 2023, in Quebec City, Dr. Bruce Lidkea of Lidkea Optometry in Fort Frances was among a class of nine optometrists across Canada who were appointed Fellows of the Canadian College of Specialties in Optometry (FCCSO) from the Canadian College of Specialties in Optometry (CCSO). According to information provided by Lidkea and the CCSO, this is the first time a Canadian institution has awarded a post-doctoral Fellowship in optometry.
But what, exactly, is a fellowship? Lidkea noted that it is, in essence, another degree allowing for him to expand the services he can offer as an optometrist, and turning Fort Frances into something of a destination for specialized referrals.
“Typically, fellowships are the route to a specialty,” Lidkea explained.
“There’s typically two routes to a specialty; you can either do a residency right out of school, or you go on to do a fellowship in whatever your area of special interest is. There’s certainly lots of academics that will have two or three fellowships along the way, but I’ve been involved with the University of Waterloo School of Optometry as a clinical supervisor for 20 years now, so I am getting into more of an academic teaching role, and this was just a logical progression.”
Lidkea thus follows in the footsteps of his father, Dr. Bob Lidkea, who received a fellowship from the American Academy of Optometry some years ago. While such a fellowship isn’t necessary to provide quality optometrical care, and Lidkea stressed that Fort Frances has many excellent optometrists working in town, the synergy between his office and the University of Waterloo now allows for Lidkea Optometry to offer specialty services that are typically only found in larger city centres like Thunder Bay, or even farther afield.
“We offer vision therapy and neuro-rehabilitation now, and we’re the only provider of vision therapy and neuro-rehab between Winnipeg and North Bay,” he said.
“So we’re actually seeing referrals in from Thunder Bay to come here to be assessed. It’s wild, but wonderful. Patients that have had concussions or traumatic brain injuries, patients that suffer from migraines or light sensitivity or balance issues, visually related learning problems, we can work with them because vision plays a major role in the rehabilitation of all of those things. We can even provide sports vision training now. We can make your good athlete, better.”
Among Lidkea’s interests are neuro-optometric rehabilitation, photobiomodulation, vision therapy, ocular disease, and advanced dry eye.
According to the CCSO, fellowships are awarded for excellence in optometric practice, and involves the demonstration of competence through publishing clinical cases, lecturing, volunteering with provincial colleges and associations, as well as the clinical supervision of student optometrists, which Lidkea has done in his office for decades now. Lidkea noted he was required to submit a minimum of three case reports, and in conjunction with all of his other work and achievements, was finally subjected to an oral exam with a handful of top optometrists from across Canada, who grilled him over Zoom to make sure he knew his stuff.
“Happily enough, I did,” he said.
Lidkea noted that while medical doctors in other streams of medicine are allowed to note their specializations in print and other media, in Ontario optometrists are not, though he is hopeful that will be changing in the near future, and that the fellowship will be the first step in allowing optometrists to pursue those specializations and receive the appropriate acknowledgement.
Lidkea has been affiliated as an adjunct clinical supervisor for the University of Waterloo School of Optometry and Visual Science for almost 20 years. He has lectured at regional and provincial Optometry conferences, and has spoken as a KOL (Key Opinion Leader) at a National Optometric Summit. He has published in optometric journals and continues to study and write clinical cases to share his work experience with other peers. He served the board of directors for the Ontario Association of Optometrist for two terms.
Dr. Gordon Hensel, CCSO president, noted in an email that the college is “extremely proud” to award Lidkea his CCSO Fellowship designation, noting that the town will “undoubtedly benefit” from his expertise.
“[I] was very impressed with Dr. Lidkea’s determination and clinical acumen in being able to achieve the rigorous requirements for Fellowship,” Hensel wrote.
“The people of Fort Frances will undoubtedly benefit from Dr. Lidkea’s Fellowship studies especially in the areas of ocular disease diagnosis and management, and, treatment of binocular/accommodative vision disorders. With the phenomenal expansion of a Doctor of Optometry’s skill set, knowledge base and set of competencies in the last few decades, optometrists are starting to subspecialize in specific areas of practice such as low vision rehabilitation, binocular vision disorders, specialty contact lens fittings and ocular health diseases. The end result is improved patient health outcomes and enriched patient experiences. The CCSO is very pleased to be one of the driving factors in this health care quality metric transformation.”
The fellowship is a significant achievement, but far from the only big news happening at Lidkea Optometry. Likdea noted that the business has also hired on a new associate, significant renovations are coming to a close and there are even new technologies he is looking forward to announcing to the public, ensuring that he and his staff will be primed to offer as much as they can to help patients who need it.
“We were doing great before,” Lidkea said.
“We’re doing better now.”