Faculty Spotlight: Mary Bartuccio

If it would seem a little strange to you to one day work alongside your professors and call them by their first name, it’s OK. It felt a little strange to Mary Bartuccio, O.D., FAAO, FCOVD, assistant professor in the College of Optometry, as well.

Bartuccio graduated from NSU in 1997 after receiving her Doctor of Optometry degree. She then completed her residency in Pennsylvania and joined a private practice in Florida for five years, before returning as faculty to NSU in 2003.

Bartuccio said, “I always wanted to teach and when the opportunity became available to work at NSU, it was perfect timing. “

The most interesting part about returning to NSU for Bartuccio is that every day is an adventure since her responsibilities include teaching the optometry students and taking care of patients in the clinic.

Her favorite part about being a professor is when she sees that “a-ha” moment happen for her students. She tries to help students put together thoughts and concepts taught in other classes, so they can see the big picture. Bartuccio does this through visual aids including videos. She realizes that you have to make the experience in the classroom fun.

She said, “The classroom can’t be a threatening environment. It needs to be nurturing—a place where people can have fun and absorb information. It’s two-fold.”

One of the reasons why Bartuccio took the job at NSU was because she loves to teach, and at the same time, she loves to continue being a clinical optometrist. She said ever since she was a child she always wanted to take care of kids, which is why her specialty is pediatrics.

“I am thrilled when small children, or adults, come in with undetected visual problems and through glasses and vision therapy, these patients undergo many positive changes that they take with them forever. It makes me feel fulfilled because I know I took care of them,” she said.

But at the same time, Bartuccio said, it’s a struggle to make patients realize some visual problems require more than a pair of glasses.

“They need to realize they need to work at it and yet some still want the ‘magic glasses’,” she said.

It is common for patients to have undetected visual problems, and even more so for patients with special needs. It surprises Bartuccio that these patients do not get the care they deserve because there are so few professionals who can manage these patients’ cases.

She hopes to help change this with her new book, “Visual Diagnosis and the Care of the Patient with Special Needs.” She, along with Marc B. Taub, O.D., M.S., FAAO, FCOVD, and Dominick M. Maino, OD, MEd, FAAO, FCOVD-A, co-edited the book in a process that started many years ago. She said the book is geared towards optometrists, but also other professionals, including occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech and language therapy, as well as psychiatry, social work, pediatric medicine, and special education, can find this book an excellent resource.  Many experts who work with patients who have Autism, Down syndrome, brain injury, etc. contributed to the book.

Bartuccio hopes people who read the book will be able to better take care of patients with special needs, by learning new techniques and the latest research and treatments available.

“It’s a well-rounded textbook which emphasizes the role of optometry in the care of patients with special needs, but the book is also geared towards other professionals in many fields.  It talks about conditions that are becoming more common and how professionals need to work as a team to help these patients get the care they deserve,” she said.

Writing the book also changed the way she looks at students’ papers due to the editing process.

“We edited the chapters many times and I’ll never look at another paper the same. Grammar counts and it needs to make sense. Expressing yourself on paper is an art,” she said.

Though Bartuccio has done a lot for the community, she still has one more goal: to better educate the public about the importance of comprehensive eye exams to help patients get treatment for their visual problems. She believes that patients with special needs require this even more and regular visits to their optometrist should be people’s number one priority to detect visual problems early.

“You only have one pair of eyes. There are no transplant procedures to replace eyeballs. I want to help the public realize it’s not just how well you see, but how well you interpret the world by what you see,” she said.

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