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Dr. Mark Bernardo’s dream of a medical career dates back to his childhood, which he spent in the Philippines. “I was very close to my aunt, who’s a primary care physician,” he recalls, “I admired her, and taking care of patients seemed so appealing.”
After his family moved to the United States, Dr. Bernardo pursued his undergraduate studies at Rutgers University. During college, he had the opportunity to work in an optometrist’s office, which solidified his interest in optometry. “I was supposed to work there for a summer, but wound up staying for two years because I liked it so much,” he says.
Dr. Bernardo’s career path became clearer during graduate school, at the New England College of Optometry, where he completed his OD degree. “Suddenly I realized that in a hospital-based practice, the optometrist sees a much broader spectrum of patients,” he recalls. “I had been thinking about private practice. But once I hit my third year, it became clear that hospital-based optometry would be far more interesting. That’s when I realized that this is what I was meant to do.”
As a full-time optometrist in Mass. Eye and Ear’s Optometry and Contact Lens Service, Dr. Bernardo has expertise in fitting contact lenses for patients with a variety of needs, including astigmatism, bifocals, post-surgical, post-trauma, ectasia and other types of corneal disease, aphakia, and high refractive error. Based at Mass. Eye and Ear’s Longwood location, he has experience working with various lens modalities, including soft contact lenses, rigid gas permeables, multifocal lenses, hybrids, and scleral lenses.
With highly specialized training in the detection of ocular disease, and in A and B-scan ultrasound for diagnostic purposes, Dr. Bernardo says careful questioning is his first approach to differentiating routine problems from more complex conditions.
“A lot of patients come in reporting eye irritation and pain,” he notes. “But a variety of conditions can cause those symptoms, from eye dryness, to something less common, like intraocular inflammation. Asking about onset, frequency, duration, and symptom severity can help to narrow down possible causes. Then, after examining the patient’s eyes, and performing any necessary tests, we’re able to develop a diagnosis and decide how to manage the condition–or refer the patient to one of our specialists, if need be.”
Dr. Bernardo also receives referrals from other physicians at Mass. Eye and Ear, whose patients have eye conditions that require specialized fitting for contact lenses or eyeglasses. “Specialists from the Glaucoma Service and the Retina Service typically send me patients—some of whom they have been following for years. My job is to assess their functional needs and determine the best eyeglass prescription for those needs,” he notes. “If someone has glaucoma or retinal issues, their sight may be limited because of the disease, but we still want to optimize their vision by prescribing the best glasses or correction possible.”
Dr. Bernardo also has participated in community-based vision screenings at a number of neighborhood centers in Boston, as well as in the Philippines. “It’s been gratifying to help out in some of Boston’s lower-income neighborhoods, and in my home country,” he says. “We find youngsters who have never had their eyes checked before, including some who had eye problems never previously identified. Once the screenings are done, we can send them to someone who can manage their care.”
Dr. Bernardo stresses that education is critical to the communication process with patients. “I want my patients to understand the nature of their eye condition, and why I believe the management I’ve recommended is the best approach,” he says.
But he also acknowledges that communication is a two-way street. “It’s important to understand what’s going on with the patient because it can influence how they respond and comply to the treatment,” he notes. Financial problems are one such obstacle, he adds. In those instances, Dr. Bernardo may refer patients to Mass. Eye and Ear’s financial assistance office, or review the treatment plan for equivalent but more affordable alternatives, such as generic medications, or less expensive eyeglasses and contact lens options.
“Giving someone the best possible care sometimes requires addressing additional needs,” he says, “including an understanding of their personal circumstances.”
Dr. Bernardo shares his great fund of knowledge with optometric and ophthalmic residents in the Harvard Medical School (HMS) Department of Ophthalmology Residency Training Program. “HMS Ophthalmology affiliates—which includes Mass. Eye and Ear, Longwood—are all teaching hospitals,” notes Dr. Bernardo. “That means, we are providing the best possible care for our patients while also mentoring the next generation of optometrists. We use a team-centered approach in clinic, working together to examine, diagnosis, and treat the patient that enhances overall care. This approach helps to both foster the resident’s clinical independence, and at the same time allows us all to be on the same page and learn from one another.” In addition to providing formal supervision to residents during clinic, Dr. Bernardo and other optometrists at Mass. Eye and Ear help teach the basics of refraction to the first year ophthalmology residents in a workshop setting.
Contact Dr. Bernardo’s office at 617-573-3202.
View Dr. Bernardo’s online bio for more information.