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Diplomate Spotlight – Thelma Barnes, OD, FAAO

For Dr. Thelma Barnes, becoming board certified was a way to separate herself from the pack and ensure she was continually challenged to stay current with knowledge and skills. Providing the highest level of patient care, along with a sense of personal satisfaction was all the motivation she needed to pass the examination and become a Diplomate of the American Board of Optometry (ABO).

A 1995 graduate of SCCO, Dr. Barnes completed a hospital-based residency at the West Side VMAC in Chicago, Illinois. She is now employed by the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona and works in both the clinical as well as hospital setting. Her practice is primarily disease based, including treatment and diagnosis of glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetes, and other systemic diseases that affect the eye. Dr. Barnes considers herself lucky to work in a practice setting where optometry and ophthalmology work well together and have a genuine camaraderie and respect for each other. As a part of the department of ophthalmology she also has a responsibility to rotate on call for covering the emergency department and in-patient hospital patients as well as supervising externs for Midwestern University, Arizona College of Optometry, where she is an adjunct faculty member.

Although her initial goal in attaining board certification was primarily personal and professional growth, Dr. Barnes recognizes that optometrists who are board certified are perceived as having gone the extra mile to advance their careers and are staying current with advances in healthcare that are relevant to optometry. “In certain settings, especially when working with ophthalmologists and other specialties, it is expected that you have board certification and, in my case, other specialists view you as an equal,” said Dr. Barnes. “At Mayo clinic, requiring board certification for optometrists is becoming the standard. I am not sure how much of an impact board certification has had on our profession as a whole, but I am hoping that eventually, it will be the standard for all and expected of every practitioner.”

A lifelong learning advocate, Dr. Barnes is also a fellow in the American Academy of Optometry and holds a second certification with the American Board of Certification in Medical Optometry. She has been married for 21 years to her husband Gene, a criminal defense attorney, and they have a 13-year-old daughter who just began 8th grade. When she gets time away from caring for patients and mentoring students, Dr. Barnes enjoys traveling, spending time with her family, working out and squeezing in a few happy hours with friends.

We thank Dr. Barnes for her commitment to the profession and her continued support of ABO.