You can see the fingers on your hand only when they're barely an inch from your face. The major differences in your vision reflect daylight and darkness. Reading is out of the question. Learning and education? Next to impossible.
At the International Special Olympics, the 22-year-old Icelandic woman stood in line for the vision screening. Although nearsighted to the point of apparent blindness, she could still perceive light and wanted to see if the test showed any potential for better sight. "Imagine my surprise when I realized this young woman's nearsightedness was at minus-20, ten times worse than average," says Donald Jarnagin, O.D. "And imagine her surprise when we discovered that her vision could be corrected enough so the world around her was no longer in a fog. She was amazed to see leaves, trees, everything separate and clear."
This young woman found herself at the Special Olympics because her mental development was at least partially impaired by her blurred vision. "That's one of the reasons I volunteer with the American Optometric Association's Open Eyes sports vision program," says Jarnagin. "We'll see as many as three hundred people a day at the state games for comprehensive eye exams, and we send their prescriptions for spectacles and sports goggles to a local optical lab that donates the lenses and frames. It's so important to help young and challenged people achieve as much as they can."
In addition to volunteering with Special Olympics and after maintaining a private optometry practice for 37 years, Jarnagin was instrumental in the effort to establish the Arizona College of Optometry (AZCOPT) at Midwestern University's Glendale, Arizona campus, becoming the program's dean in June 2011. "After Dr. Goeppinger joined the Glendale Rotary Club, she and I talked about the MWU Board's plans to establish an optometry program, and we're now making it a reality," says Jarnagin. "I want to have an impact on the profession and educate more optometrists who can serve low-income, diabetic, and underserved populations, especially those without health insurance."
I want to educate more optometrists who can serve low-income, diabetic, and underserved populations, especially those without health insurance."
— Donald Jarnagin, O.D., Glendale
After receiving his Bachelor of Science and Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) degrees at Southern California College of Optometry, Jarnagin - a Phoenix native - returned to the city and went into practice with the optometrist who had provided his own vision care throughout his growing years. Within six years, Jarnagin became a full partner and took over the group practice twenty years later at his partner's retirement. When the opportunity at Midwestern University appeared, he and his staff moved the entire practice first to the Midwestern Multispecialty Clinic, then to the new Midwestern University Eye Institute which opened in October 2010.
"Midwestern's multidisciplinary approach to healthcare education is exactly right," says Jarnagin. "Our students interact with the other health professions on campus and learn the team approach to healthcare. Community-based clinics are the key to new and effective treatment for patients. MWU students rotate through the various practice areas, so they become comfortable with that kind of collaboration. Getting into rotations early in their educational career also provides valuable experience."
As part of his community service commitment, Jarnagin works with the Glendale (AZ) Rotary Club on MWU/DOCARE multidisciplinary medical missions to Guatemala that also use thousands of pairs of glasses donated by local Lions Clubs. "In the small towns in Guatemala, we see mostly Mayan populations — children and adults with vision and medical eye problems," says Jarnagin. "This population faces severe discrimination and lack of services. We'll use 8,000 to 10,000 pairs of glasses in the two weeks of our mission, and we find an immediate reaction to vision correction. These children can now see the chalkboard clearly, which also improves their reading ability, so they have better opportunities in school and beyond. The older people need reading glasses so they can continue to do the beautiful handwork that provides their income."
As the Dean of the Arizona College of Optometry, Jarnagin enjoys interacting with the other healthcare professionals at Midwestern and the challenges and opportunities involved in administering a first-class optometry program and state-of-the-art clinic. "The Midwestern University Eye Institute is a first-class clinic, providing excellent resources and new equipment that gives our students the best optometry education possible. It's a great place, where everyone is open, positive, and helpful."
Donald Jarnagin, O.D., is the Dean of the Arizona College of Optometry (AZCOPT) at Midwestern University's Glendale (AZ) Campus. Jarnagin was awarded O.D. of the Year from the Central Arizona Optometry Society, the Arizona Optometric Association, and the Great Western Council of Optometry, and was named the 2007 Southern California College of Optometry Distinguished Alumnus.