By Dibby Bartlett

We were surprised and delighted to see Dibby Bartlett, OAA President, interview our own Ms. Specs in the City for a recent OAA newsletter. With Dibby’s permission, we’re pleased to share it with our readers.

Who is Ms Specs Anyway??? 
Optical has its own Miss Manners...
Who is She, and How Did She Get So Darn Smart??

Dear Ms. Specs:
We love your help and answers to optical questions! What led you to start this column? 
It all started with a conversation at an OAA Leadership Conference a few years ago. I was talking with Deborah Kotob from 20/20 Magazine about how manners seemed to be going away, especially on optical social media. Our idea was to encourage opticians to bring manners back, and my inspiration for this is a fabulous book by Judith Martin: Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior. She is a modern Emily Post, with a tongue-in-cheek writing style. And, of course, Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City, hence the name: Ms. Specs in the City.
Do you consider yourself an ‘optical geek’? And if so, why? 
Yes! I definitely consider myself an optical geek. How cool is it that we can combine physics and fashion! What a gas! Because I have a passion for eyewear fashion and optical theory/lens design, I would like to consider myself ‘Geek-Chic’ LOL!

What kind of background do you have that allows you to have such broad knowledge?
Like many optical professionals, I grew up in the biz. My mom opened an optical business in Kennebunk, Maine in 1979, and I started working for her while in high school. My fabulous sisters, Jackie O’Keefe Lincoln and Candace O’Keefe Culp also got their optical start from our mom.

I have been teaching opticianry at the community college level since 1989: Previously at Holyoke Community College in MA and presently at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, FL. And, as the old saying goes: The only difference between a teacher and a student is that the teacher studies the books first. The best part is that over the years, my students have asked many questions which require me to research and follow up if I do not immediately have the answer at hand.  

What is the most difficult column you have written?
The most difficult was answering a question regarding optics vs. aesthetics: Do we order lined bifocals according to the patient’s asymmetry (PD and Seg Height), or do we order them with binocular measurements even if they are not perfect. I went around and around with this, including calculating how much unwanted induced prism would result in splitting the measurements in different scenarios. At the end of the day, and according to the author of System for Ophthalmic Dispensing, Dr. Clifford Brooks, optics won.

What is the funniest column you have written?
I would say that the funniest/goofiest column I wrote was when, during COVID-19, we were facing the challenge of lenses fogging with masks. As I was teaching from home and did not go out, I channeled my inner science geek and conducted an experiment with different remedies in different temperatures. This included running around my condo building like a nut detailing the results in the lobby, at the pool, in the elevator…even sticking my head in the fridge to simulate northern climates. It was a blast, and I learned a lot from it.

In all seriousness, all opticians are lifelong learners. Do you enjoy teaching us in this unconventional way?
I adore it. Optics can be really boring to many, and sometimes, presenting optics in a goofy way makes it fun. I have always held to a mantra: If it is not fun, I am not going to do it! This has served me well. 

Where and when can we catch up with your column? 
So glad you asked! You can read my column every month in 20/20 Magazine’s Pro to Pro section. And, even better, if you have a question or comment on an optical topic you want to talk about, email Deborah Kotob, Director of Education at: [email protected]

Pssst...... It's Laurie Pierce!!!