Meet a Specialist: Calliope Galatis, O.D.

Headshot of Dr. Galatis Calliope“Out of our five senses, vision is perhaps the most important. That’s why vision loss, especially if it occurs later in life, can be a very challenging adjustment, says Calliope Galatis, O.D., an optometrist and vision rehabilitation specialist at Mass. Eye and Ear.

Helping Patients Adjust to Low Vision

Dr. Galatis works with patients who have low vision, also known as moderate-to-severe vision loss that can’t be corrected with glasses, contact lenses, surgery, or medications. She helps them maximize their remaining sight with visual aids—such as prism glasses or telescopes—and teaches them new techniques to improve their quality of life, independence, and safety.

“It’s important to understand that every patient has unique needs and goals,” notes Dr. Galatis, who sees patients with underlying conditions ranging from stroke, brain tumors, and age-related macular degeneration, to glaucoma and diabetes.

In order to develop a personalized treatment plan, Dr. Galatis first provides a comprehensive assessment of each patient’s vision. “This initial exam assesses the person’s individual needs, capabilities, and limitations of his or her visual system,” she explains.

In addition to adaptive techniques and visual aids, a large component of treatment also involves emotional support. “When patients first find out that their vision loss is irreversible, it’s common for them to feel sad, frustrated, or overwhelmed. I spend a lot of time counseling my patients, addressing their emotional concerns, and recommending social support services,” says Dr. Galatis.

Maintaining a positive attitude and offering encouragement also goes a long way, she says. “I always focus on ‘what can you do,’ instead of ‘what can’t you do.’”

Vision Changes Leads to Prompt Diagnosis

Many of Dr. Galatis’ patients, especially those with neurological conditions, require the coordinated care of additional specialists. She recalls one patient who lost much of her vision after developing a brain tumor.

“She did amazingly well once the tumor was removed. She still had low vision, but it was a marked improvement from her first visit. And once she learned scanning techniques and how to use assistive devices, she was able to continue working full-time in advertising,” says Dr. Galatis.

Over time however, Dr. Galatis began to notice slight changes in the patient’s vision. “I was closely monitoring her vision with a test called macular perimetry, which detects blind spots in central vision. And I saw that her field of vision was actually decreasing—an early warning sign that the tumor could be growing back,” says Dr. Galatis. Luckily, the results prompted the patient to meet with her neurologist, who quickly identified and removed the recurring tumor.

Mentor to Future Vision Rehab Specialists

In addition to caring for patients, Dr. Galatis is a Harvard Ophthalmology faculty member. She trains residents and fellows in the vision rehabilitation clinic. “Looking back at my early career, I had some of the best mentors imaginable. Now, it’s my turn to give back and help the next generation of ophthalmologists and optometrists become leaders in their fields.”

View Dr. Galatis' online profile

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