The Mind-Eye Institute team consists of a group of very talented individuals with the shared goal of excellent patient care. Together, we bring a wealth of knowledge obtained through both traditional education and many years of hands-on experience in our respective fields.
As our contingent continues to expand, we look forward to exploring the talents and gifts of new team members to better serve our patient population.
Deborah Zelinsky OD, FNORA, FCOVD
Executive Director, Research
Deborah Zelinsky, O.D. is an optometrist noted worldwide for her work in neuro-optometric rehabilitation. Currently, she serves as founder and executive research director of The Mind-Eye Institute, based in Northbrook, Illinois. Her global reputation is due, in part, to her discovery of the use of eyeglasses to alter sound location and subsequent development of the Z-Bell Test℠. The patented test allows Dr. Zelinsky and her team to prescribe lenses and use other optometric interventions that balance processing of central and peripheral eyesight, while synchronizing the integration between auditory and retinal sensory systems.
The Mind-Eye Institute was created with the objective to make new science discoveries pertaining to eyes more accessible to patients both domestically and globally. Dr. Zelinsky’s vision is to train other eyecare professionals on enhancement of retinal processing using her patented methods, with a short-term goal to have accredited doctors practicing in most major population centers globally.
The 20/20 eye testing standard is over 150 years old and does not consider the peripheral processing or auditory integration both of which are critical. Dr. Zelinsky is pioneering a campaign to “Leave 20/20 in the 20th Century” and shift into a more updated assessment protocol including moving targets and overall awareness of surroundings. Using brain mapping of the retina (which is comprised of brain tissue) the optometric profession can perform brain, rather than eye, examinations. Patients needing this updated testing include those who have been diagnosed with a brain that isn’t functioning at its full potential. This includes a wide range of issues, including genetic mutations, autism, attention problems such as ADD and ADHD, dyslexia, learning problems, concussions, and stroke among others.
In addition to her work with the Mind-Eye Institute, Dr. Zelinsky is a fellow in both the College of Optometrists in Vision Development and the Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Association. She is a board member of the Society for Brain Mapping and a community leader for the Society of Neuroscience.
Carla D. Adams MEd, OD, FCOVD
Director, Visual Rehabilitation
Optometrist Carla D. Adams, M.Ed., O.D., FCOVD, has now joined the Mind-Eye team. Dr. Adams is training in applying the advanced neuro-optometric rehabilitation techniques practiced by the Mind-Eye Institute and is seeing patients at both the Institute’s central clinic in Northbrook, Ill. and at her own practice, which has undergone a name change from Optique EyeCare to Mind-Eye Institute. The satellite office is located at 2435 Dean St., Suite C, in St. Charles, Ill.
Dr. Adams’ experience includes management of a variety of conditions, including strabismus (misaligned or “crossed” eyes), amblyopia (“lazy” eye), accommodative and convergence disorders and vision-related learning disorders. She also works closely with physical and occupational therapists, reading and education specialists, physicians and psychologists to ensure her patients receive an integrated approach to their health care.
In her new role at the Mind-Eye Institute, Dr. Adams is expanding her focus from “eye care” and 20/20 acuity testing to “brain care.” She is doing this by applying 21st century neuroscience research, showing how light can be used to affect brain functions. She is using therapeutic neuro-optometric methods on a very individualized basis in order to bring sensory systems into synchronization in each patient.
“Vision is a dynamic process that is learned and directly affects how we think, how we solve problems and how we feel,” says Dr. Adams, who graduated from the Illinois College of Optometry and earned a master’s degree in education from the University of North Florida. “Emphasis is not just placed on getting a patient to see 20/20, but also on how patients perceive their environment and how efficiently they use their eyesight.”
There are also visual skills that involve internal processes, such as mental organization and planning, which are used daily life. “People don’t realize how eyeglasses can affect how they think and feel in addition to how they see,” she reports.
Dr. Adams is a fellow in the College of Optometrists in Vision Development and a member of the Optometric Extension Program, National Optometric Association and the Illinois Optometric Association (IOA). She also is the speaker liaison for the Fox Valley Chapter of the IOA and serves on the auxiliary board for the Tri City Health Partnership, a clinic providing health care to families in need.
Linda Weil OD
Optometrist Linda S. Weil OD refers to the science practiced at the Mind-Eye Institute in Northbrook, Illinois, as “groundbreaking.”
“Standard optometry emphasizes central eyesight, sharpening the acuity (20/20) of the central retina as a patient looks at objects at distance and near. But, at the Mind-Eye Institute, the focus is on the peripheral retina and the manner in which the peripheral retina affects sensory integration and other systems of the body,” says Dr. Weil, the latest optometrist to join the Mind-Eye team.
The Mind-Eye Institute also assess the role of non-image-forming signals that emanate from the surrounding environment and pass through the peripheral retina to the brain, stimulating key brain structures, and critical physiological systems, Dr. Weil says.
What impresses her most is the Mind-Eye staff’s compassion and ability to use advanced optometric science in providing relief to patients who have suffered brain injuries, concussions, stroke, and other neurological disorders, and building underdeveloped visual processing skills in children and adults who struggle with learning deficits.
“That we can help so many patients by using optometric interventions other than, or in addition to, lenses is amazing. Just by changing direction, amount or wavelengths of light we are influencing brain function,” Dr. Weil says. She points to the care Mind-Eye provided a child who was a near-drowning victim. “The patient could not communicate and demonstrated little in the way of responses when she first arrived. Today, her mother says she is doing much better.”
Dr. Weil brings to the Mind-Eye extensive experience in optometry, including more than 25 years in primary care practice in the Chicago area, much of that work centered on infant and pediatric eyesight, binocular vision, and neuro-cognitive rehabilitative therapy. She also served as an examiner for the National Board of Examiners in Optometry and as a clinical and didactic educator at the University of Houston’s College of Optometry, where she practiced in the binocular anomalies clinic, pediatric specialty clinic, and primary care clinic, and performed comprehensive eye examinations for Chicago Public School students.
A 1986 graduate of the Illinois College of Optometry, Dr. Weil underwent a yearlong residency in pediatric optometry and binocular vision at The Eye Institute of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry. She later completed two postgraduate programs – one in behavioral optometry with emphasis on the neuro-cognitive relationships of vision and the other in neuro-optometric vision therapy.
Dr. Weil’s goals at the Mind-Eye Institute are to broaden her experience and skill base and gain greater understanding of the optometric science and research being advanced at the Mind-Eye
Zemen S. Abebe, BSN, MSN
Longtime administrator for the Chicago area’s NorthShore University HealthSystem, has joined the Mind-Eye Institute as its president, effective August 5th , 2019.
Abebe is not new to health practice administration. She has nearly 30 years of experience in nursing and hospital administration. Beginning in 2010, she served as director of perioperative services at Skokie Hospital, which is part of the NorthShore health system and located in Skokie, Illinois.
Among Abebe’s achievements in the directorship role have been the planning and organization of both a surgical pavilion and an orthopaedic and spine-focused hospital at the Skokie Hospital campus, building of strong physician partnerships, establishment of an orthopaedic trauma program, participation in product-value-analysis teams, management of hospital accreditation visits from the Joint Commission and development of a highly competent, specialized surgical team.
She also has worked as a clinical nurse manager, case manager and urology team leader at Glenbrook Hospital, another facility in the NorthShore University HealthSystem.
Adam Zelinsky is taking the Mind-Eye Institute digital. That is why he was originally hired as the office’s project manager.
“I am helping Mind-Eye transition from physical to digital documents and files and modernizing processes to create more efficiencies between departments,” Adam says. “These responsibilities are particularly important because our aim as an Institute is to expand substantially within the next couple of years.”
On the surface, this is seemingly quite a task, especially for a 2020 University of Delaware business graduate, who is holding his first full-time position after college. But Adam is far from ordinary. In fact, while at the university, studying in the entrepreneurship program and serving at the same time as an entrepreneurship ambassador, he began work, with several other students, on developing a start-up company.
And the company was gaining traction until it hit a wall – the COVID-19 viral pandemic.
“Our intent was to map large corporate, school and institutional buildings and create internal blueprints and floor plans that would allow occupants and first-responders to safely navigate them in times of emergencies,” Adam says. “In fact, our business plan for the start-up won several new-venture competitions. We developed a marketing program, with national branding and messaging, and even mapped out the cancer research laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania. We were in process of meeting with local, private school boards and building facilities managers when the pandemic hit.”
The pandemic put an immediate halt to the group’s efforts.
“Our efforts required the ability to access buildings in order to map them, but COVID-19 kept many of these buildings closed. We were forced to abandon our plans,” Adam says.
But closed doors opened new opportunities for Adam, who says he is excited about working to move an internationally recognized program like Mind-Eye to the next level of operations.
When not digitizing and modernizing, Adam enjoys watching and attending sporting events, kayaking, hiking, camping, and just “hanging out” with his family's new puppy.
Shanta admits she is determined to achieve whatever she sets out to do, which is exactly why she moved up steadily from the front desk at a general Chicago area optometry practice – Rosin Eyecare – to the role of optician and finally optician manager at Rosin. All this within a six-year time span.
But, for Shanta, that was not enough. When she learned about an available optician managerial role at the Mind-Eye Institute, she applied – immediately.
“I was intrigued. I checked the Mind-Eye web site and learned that working at Mind-Eye would give me an opportunity to go beyond the standard optometry practice where emphasis is on 20/20 central eyesight to one that uniquely tests for integration of central and peripheral eyesight and synchronization of eyes and ears.”
The problem: Shanta knew nothing about the peripheral retina. And that is exactly what she told Mind-Eye executive research director and founder Deborah Zelinsky OD in her job interview. But her lack of experience in the new optometric science did not deter the Mind-Eye team from hiring her.
“To just about every question Dr. Zelinsky asked me, I had to answer honestly, ‘I don’t know,’” Shanta says. But Dr. Zelinsky says Shanta impressed her during the interview and has good critical thinking skills. “Shanta considered every interview question very carefully before responding. If she did not have the necessary information, she said so,” Dr. Zelinsky recalls.
What impressed Shanta was the willingness of Dr. Zelinsky and the other optometrists on the team to spend the necessary amount of time to prepare and train her for her new role.
“I had two other job offers at the time. I accepted the Mind-Eye position because of the willingness of the team to invest time in me. Why go anywhere else?” Shanta says. In fact, during her first week of training at the Institute, “Dr. Zelinsky took an hour or more out of her schedule every day to go one-on-one with me. And the other optometrists, Dan Myers and Carla Adams, carved out personal time of their own to sit with me and teach me what I need to know.”
Shanta is not new to hard work. She served as a mail sorter for a bulk mailing house in Chicago while still a senior in high school in the early 1990s, eventually achieving the role of billing manager before the company closed its doors. She moved on to a receptionist position for Mac Properties in Chicago’s Hyde Park and then to the front desk at Rosin.
The rest is history.
When she is not achieving, Shanta enjoys some down time with her husband, Reuben, and dog, Rio, at their Chicago area home. She also likes to be active, working out and playing basketball. Yes, Shanta was a point guard on the women’s basketball team at her Chicago high school.
And she appreciates cars – classic cars, particularly. “My dream job – to be a mechanic,” she laughs.
New Patient Advocate Manager
Jordan Bond joined the Mind Eye Institute Team in 2019 and has been an integral part of the patient experience as a New Patient Advocate. With a background in healthcare and hospitality, Jordan has always had a passion for helping people. Through his former experiences in nursing and working in hospitality, he has learned patience and empathy for others and tries to instill that in his daily work and overall life. He spent many summers volunteering for muscular dystrophy camp and continues to do what he can to support people in need in his community.
New Patient Advocate
CJ Seestadt is a veteran of the United States Navy and a New Patient Advocate and Veteran Outreach Coordinator for our clinic. He has worked with our team to put together the veteran and military program now available at the Mind-Eye Institute. He is also a player and the Assistant Team Manager for the Chicago Blackhawks Warriors (The military veteran team for the Chicago Blackhawks). CJ is also a Blue & Gold Officer for the US Naval Academy and he is a member of the advisory board for Chicago Veterans. He works to use his experience as a veteran to bring as much attention to veteran suicide to reduce, if not eradicate, the 20 suicides that occur within our national veteran community every day.
As an ex-professional athlete, CJ’s personal experience with head trauma and his passion for helping those patients who have suffered head trauma and neurological issues has been helpful to the many patients that he works with in helping to identify the beginning of their journey to regaining the cognitive abilities that they once had and hope to regain.
Grace Yoon OD
Patient Intake Coordinator
Even though she now resides in California, Grace Yoon, OD, did not want to sever the relationships she established with the Mind-Eye Institute while training as an optometrist between 2014 and 2017 under Deborah Zelinsky, OD, the Institute’s executive director of research. That is why she said “yes” to serving as a Mind-Eye consultant from her Orange County home.
“Doing clinical rotations as part of my optometry degree work at Western University of Health Sciences (in Pomona, Calif.), I had a chance to experience a variety of optometry practice styles, including the out-of-box thinking at the Mind-Eye Institute. What impressed me about the Mind-Eye is that the team there treats every patient as a unique individual. Staff there tailor care to each person’s specific needs,” Dr. Yoon says.
Equally important is the Institute’s advanced, scientific approach in successfully bringing comfort to patients who often have struggled for years with symptoms of traumatic brain injury and concussion or whose abilities to learn have been affected by attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorder, dyslexia, and other neurological challenges, Dr. Yoon explains.
“Mind-Eye renews the hope of patients who have come to the Institute believing this practice is their last resort,” Dr. Yoon says. “Patients are relieved to learn they do not have to live with their problems indefinitely; they often can get better.”
As a consultant, Dr. Yoon interviews patients by phone after they have been scheduled for a first-time Mind-Eye appointment.
“I take an extensive [clinical] history from each patient, including details of their problems and concerns, and answer each person’s questions,” she says.
“One of the goals, of course, is to determine whether Mind-Eye will be able to help a specific patient before he or she arrives. Many patients have to travel great distances to get to the Institute. We do not want them expending the effort and time if we feel their problems are beyond the scope of what we do or if we determine they need ancillary professionals and we must coordinate various practitioner schedules,” Dr. Yoon states.
Recording a patient’s medical history in advance also reduces the amount of time patients must spend in the Mind-Eye office during a first appointment. “The several hours of required testing is exhausting enough, especially for patients with brain injuries and other neurological disorders,” Dr. Yoon contends. “We do not want to fatigue them by asking a lot of additional questions on the same day as their initial visit.”
Dr. Yoon initially became acquainted with the Mind-Eye Institute during clinical rotation as a fourth-year optometric student. Deborah Zelinsky, OD, founder of the Institute and its research director, was impressed enough with Dr. Yoon’s work to contact her after she had earned her OD degree in 2014 and offer her a position at Mind-Eye. Dr. Yoon accepted and spent four years training in the advanced optometric science taught at the Mind-Eye Institute.
Why did she leave the Mind-Eye office? “Chicago’s chilly weather,” laughs Dr. Yoon. “And I got married to a Californian.”
A 2007 graduate of the University of California where she earned a Bachelor of Science in biosciences, Dr. Yoon “took a break” to determine next steps for her career. She became interested in optometry while serving as a volunteer for a church-sponsored medical mission in Mexico.
“I saw what proper eye care could do for people. I remember an older woman who received eyeglasses and, for the first time, could truly see details,” Dr. Yoon relates. “That’s why I later decided to continue my education in optometry.”
When not helping patients – or enjoying California’s “un-Chicago-like” climate, Dr. Yoon participates in yoga and Pilates exercises, serves at her local church, and, most importantly, spends quality family time with her husband and daughter.
Maria Palmerin is Mind-Eye’s Clinical Coordinator. Before becoming clinical coordinator Maria was an optometric technician who enjoyed working with children. Not a surprising finding, considering Maria managed free eye examinations in as many as 200 schools annually – preschool to high school — prior to joining the Mind-Eye Institute in July 2019.
“I started as an optometric technician for the company that provided the school examinations and then was promoted to field manager, working with about 40 different optometrists, each with his or her own style and method,” says Maria, who earned certification in California as a medical assistant.
Coming to Illinois from the West Coast – “I am still not used to the winters here,” Maria began work as a medical assistant for a pediatric urologist in Des Plaines in 2013 before moving on to the optometry field – and schools. But her work has not simply been confined to kids. She also formerly managed free eye examinations for residents of nursing homes.
At Mind-Eye, Maria is responsible for organizing and overseeing daily activities. Along with supervising and coordinating staff. She also manages patient flow; she makes sure the clinic runs smoothly and patients get seen on time.
When Maria is not working at the Mind-Eye Institute, you can often find her watching a baseball game. “Go L.A. Dodgers!”
Mely Peña calls the Mind-Eye Institute “a magical place,” primarily because of the positive changes that occur in patients’ lives when prescribed therapeutic “brain” glasses.
“I have never before been employed in a place where you can actually see major things happen in the lives of patients. That’s why I don’t want to stop working [for the Institute]. I love the patients who come here,” says Mely, who holds the title of Mind-Eye patient advocate.
A certified licensed practical nurse (LPN) who formerly cared for disabled and elderly patients at Chicago area nursing facilities and a teller for four years at Ban Industrial in Chicago, Mely joined the Mind-Eye Institute in 2016, initially serving as a front-desk receptionist for patients and visitors. Today, as a patient advocate, Mely is responsible for responding to patient queries, doing patient phone follow-ups, verifying appointments, processing payments and ensuring patients have the answers and information they need.
She attended Wilbur Wright College in Chicago before enrolling in St. Augustine College where she earned her LPN certification.
When not enjoying family time and caring for her daughter, Sophia, Mely does “a little shopping” as a stress-reliever in her spare moments.
Advocating on behalf of patients is what Victoria Soto always has been about. “That’s why taking advantage of the opportunity to become a patient advocate at the Mind-Eye Institute seemed the natural thing to do,” she says.
As patient advocate, Victoria is the friendly face and voice that patients see and hear when they first enter the Mind-Eye Institute and when they leave, oftentimes following hours of testing and interaction with Mind-Eye optometrists. “My responsibility is to greet patients, provide them information, answer their questions, and, most importantly, make their overall Mind-Eye experience a comfortable and satisfying one,” Victoria says.
Not a difficult task for someone who has made health care a career goal. Indeed, helping others is what has prompted Victoria to work toward earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology at National Louis University and why she opted to undergo 40 hours of unpaid training to become a certified medical advocate for a local counseling center. Although now serving as full-time patient advocate at the Mind-Eye Institute, Victoria continues volunteer work once a week as medical advocate to help survivors of sexual assault.
“The description of what a patient advocate does at Mind-Eye is perfectly in line with my interests,” Victoria says. But before joining the team, Victoria says she did some homework; she checked out the Mind-Eye website.
“I kept thinking ‘is this place for real?’” she recalls, after watching the videos and reading about how the staff help patients who have struggled for years with symptoms of head injuries, concussions, strokes, learning disorders and other neurological issues. But during the first month in her patient advocacy role, “I learned a whole lot about the advanced science behind the Mind-Eye Institute, and that knowledge has made me more aware of the forces that affect our patients and, so, more experienced in helping them find comfort.”
When not advocating, Victoria is studying and reading her psychology textbooks, preparing for school exams, or simply trying to relax. “My greatest joy is having a day to myself” – certainly, a rare commodity these days for a busy Victoria.
Tiffany Jones has made it her unofficial career to bring comfort to others. That’s why she is especially delighted with her official position as patient advocate at the Mind-Eye Institute.
“I am the first and last person that patients see when entering and leaving our facility. I also enjoy providing them information and answering their questions either at the front desk or over the phone, scheduling them for their next appointments, and assisting them in any other way that I can,” Tiffany says.
And the patients appreciate her efforts. “In fact, some of them have brought me little gifts — like the homemade mix of chocolate, raisins, and nuts that one patient gave me,” Tiffany reports.
Strong interest in attending to those with health difficulties developed early for Tiffany. She volunteered in the patient respiratory unit at Advocate-Aurora Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill., while still studying at Oakton Community College in Des Plaines, Ill. After earning an associate degree in applied sciences, she began full-time work at the same hospital as a nursing technician on the night shift.
Tiffany left the workforce for an abbreviated period to get married and raise a son. She resumed her career by first becoming an office manager for a home health care organization and then undertaking a brief stint at Federal Express.
“But I really wanted to get back into the health care field,” Tiffany says. In her job search on the Internet, she found the Mind-Eye Institute and applied.
The rest is history.
“My goal now is to grow within this organization, to add to its environment of bringing relief to patients,” says Tiffany.
Even in her off-work hours, other people are on her mind.
“My passion is cooking. I make people most happy when I feed them. It brings comfort to both them and me,” she says.
When not cooking, Tiffany enjoys spending time with her son, Mason, or working out at the local gym where this former high school MVP and all-conference basketball player likes to keep up her hoop skills. She also has played in an independent women’s basketball league in Chicago.
Advocacy always has been Marlena’s career goal. It is the reason why she focused on criminology and social welfare and justice while attending Marquette University, where she graduated in 2019. The very definition of an advocate is one who supports something or someone for the common good. And, providing support for the common good is what Marlena is passionate about.
Before joining Mind-Eye, Marlena put her interest in mental health to use as a counselor for adolescents recovering from eating disorders. Now, as a patient advocate, that passion spurs her interaction with Mind-Eye patients, “many of whom have symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), traumatic brain injuries and other neurological disorders,” Marlena indicates. And she calls it ‘fulfilling' when she is able to give hope and information to patients by phone or, when, at the front office counter, she can help patients, especially first-time patients, feel more comfortable about their visit to the Mind-Eye Institute.
For patients struggling with visual processing disorders, “a trip to the Mind-Eye clinic can be a draining process,” Marlena adds. “My goal is to make it at least a bit easier for them.”
When Marlena is not assisting patients, this Chicago resident enjoys drawing, sketching, and, yes, even playing a video game or two.
“I feel my work at the Mind-Eye is helping improve the lives of others. I am literally shocked every day by seeing how people’s lives have been changed for the better,” Marlena says.
Serving as a patient advocate at the Mind-Eye Institute feels natural to Olive Macwan. That is because, previously, she worked for several years in customer service and in similar positions that brought her into direct contact with people. Those “other” roles included work at a car dealership, a luxury-car touring company, and Dunkin’ Donuts.
“I always wanted to enter the medical field in some capacity. Then, I saw an ad for a job opening as patient advocate at the Mind-Eye. The responsibilities listed were very much like what I had already been doing in my other positions,” Olive says.
As one of Olive’s patient advocate colleagues aptly put it, patient advocates are the first and last persons patients see when entering and leaving the Mind-Eye clinic. Indeed, the patient advocate serves as an ombudsman, making patients comfortable by explaining what to expect before, during, and after the testing and care processes at Mind-Eye. The patient advocate also manages patient queries, including the care and wearing of prescribed “brain” glasses, replacement of lens filters, and the cost and financing of optometric services.
Olive calls the science practiced by the Mind-Eye team “impressive.”
“I was able to shadow the Mind-Eye optometrists when I started my position and watched them work with patients. I especially recall a patient who had difficulty even drawing stick figures [because of her neurological issues], and, now, after her care at the Mind-Eye, she is an artist,” Olive says.
In 2018, Olive received her associate degree in arts from the Des Plaines, Illinois-based Oakton College, where she earlier earned two cannabis-related certifications – one as a dispensary specialist and one in logistics management and training — when cannabis was permitted for medical purposes only. Indeed, Olive was one of the first individuals to become so certified in Illinois – about eight years before marijuana was approved by the state legislature for recreational, as well as medical use.
When not at Mind-Eye, Olive enjoys outdoor activities, such as nature walking and hiking, and workouts at the local fitness center.
Visual Rehabilitation Specialist
A visual therapist at the Mind-Eye Institute since December 2019, she tells how she went into visual therapy practice “because I wanted to benefit people and, at the same time, work in a new and interesting field.” She especially enjoys going one-on-one with patients, “helping them meet the care goals that the doctors here have given them and that they have set for themselves.”
Not a surprising admission for a professional who has spent time as an intern working in a refugee settlement in Milwaukee, Wis., and served for nine months as a consultant on a research team for the Chicago-based Mom Project before joining the Mind-Eye Institute.
In her current role, she designs activities – both exercises and games – to help patients meet prescribed goals.
“What we are doing at Mind-Eye is not just eye care; it’s about maximizing patients’ brain potential,” says Nicole, who follows up with each of her patients during their return visit to monitor progress. “Are they seeing changes being made in their daily lives?” she asks.
A Carol Stream, Ill. resident, Nicole graduated from Marquette University in 2019, earning a bachelor’s degree in political science and psychology. During her free time, she enjoys reading.
Visual Rehabilitation Specialist
Annalise Kucan has worked as a mechanic, enjoys classic cars, created oil paintings for exhibit, and draws portraitures on consignment. It is this unusual right-brain/left-brain combination that has made Annalise bien adapte´ – most suitable – for her multiple roles of visual rehabilitation specialist and patient advocate.
Actually, Annalise first joined Mind-Eye as an optometry technician. Technicians require both a detailed, technical mind and the sense of an artist in making precise observations when evaluating patients – talents that Annalise has. Technicians must not only mark testing results but carefully note patients’ attention, awareness, eye movements, posture, and mannerisms during testing; assess their emotions and fatigue or stress levels; even describe how the patients process and visualize information, particularly in the form of drawings as part of the assessment.
Her expertise as a technician prompted Mind-Eye’s selection of her as a vision rehabilitation specialist, who meets with patients in-person and virtually to encourage their use of exercises that can build the skills they are lacking, such as the use of both central and peripheral eyesight in tandem. Exercises can help patients with focal management, including the convergence and divergency of eyes; depth perception; posture; and balance.
Her work also involves some patient advocacy, spending time on the phone to check-in with patients and advise them on use of skill-developing games.
“I had never been in the optometry field before coming to Mind-Eye, but I applied for a position there because of the organization’s work with patients who have suffered brain injuries or struggle with learning disorders. I wanted to be part of this process of getting patients on a journey to health, and I am most grateful that the Mind-Eye team was willing to train me for my new roles.”
When it comes simply to “helping other people,” however, Annalise needs no additional training.
For example, despite her busy schedule, she continues painting portraits upon request. “Oftentimes, the portraits are of someone who has passed. The paintings help grieving families heal,” she says. Also, in her previous roles — teacher in a Montessori School and maintenance mechanic for the Skokie (Illinois) Park District – she has always found “something of value for other people. Seeing positive changes in people’s lives is special to me.”
When not assisting patients at Mind-Eye, an organization that she says cultivates a team environment – “everybody helping everybody,” Annalise can be found tinkering with car engines, gardening, and watching sports. She recently sold a 1961 Chevy Impala that she had kept in good running order and is now on the search for a 1949 or 1950 Mercury.
But when asked what she enjoys most, it is neither cars nor gardens. It is “spending time with my very large – and very close – family.”
Optometric Technician (Lead)
She wanted a job she could be “passionate about,” something that was “more meaningful” than her previous positions at other companies. That’s why Minda Goldufsky joined the Mind-Eye Institute team.
“I was totally intrigued by Mind-Eye and ‘wowed’ by the patient testimonials on the team’s web site. The organization’s out-of-box approach to patient care was unlike anything I had experienced before. Then, as part of my employment interview, I had an opportunity to shadow the Mind-Eye optometrists and witness the compassionate care they provided. I wanted to be part of that environment,” she says.
Minda was hired as a technician, a role that has proven perfect for her due to her extensive background in the optical field, dating all the way back to high school, and her diligence.
“Growing up as a competitive figure skater, I learned, at an early age, to be hyper-focused on details — a trait that serves me well as I observe and test patients, noting everything from their eye movements to their posture, level of fatigue or stress, and more. The optometrists depend on the technicians to provide them with very precise observations,” she explains.
Minda’s entire career in inside and outside sales and customer service has been punctuated by periods of employment as an optician and more recently as general manager of an optometry office – a position requiring 50 to 60 hours of work each week.
“I needed to find a better work-life balance and a job I could be enthusiastic about,” says Minda, who just moved to a new home with her husband as new empty nesters, “and I have found that balance and passion at Mind-Eye. With exceptional customer/patient care as my top priority, I hope to be an asset at Mind Eye. I am proud to be a part of such individualized care where we deliver the precious gift of hope to very special people.”
When not at the Institute, Minda enjoys spending time with family and friends. A perfect night out would be enjoying a delicious dinner outdoors with live music.
She has always been interested in science, having earned a bachelor’s degree in sustainability, environmental science, and biology from Roosevelt University in Chicago in 2019. So, taking on a role as an optometric technician at the Mind-Eye Institute – a position very much involved in advanced optometric science – proved no great leap of faith for Melissa Allegretti.
“The work being done at the Mind-Eye is amazing. The team here is opening up a whole new world for patients. As a technician who does testing, I see them first as struggling new patients and then, on follow-up, as persons changed in a positive way. To be part of their journey [to recovery of brain function] is fulfilling,” says Melissa.
Optometric technicians do patient testing and collect data before one of the Mind-Eye optometrists evaluates and interacts with the patient. Testing includes eye movement efficiency and eye tracking, eye aiming and gazing, use of peripheral eyesight, body shifts and posture when the patient’s perception of his/her surrounding environment changes, eye dominance, handedness, and visual perceptual skills.
“We must be as detailed as possible in our observations and findings to ensure the optometrists have full information before they evaluate the patient,” Melissa says.
Of course, detailed observations are no problem for a budding scientist like Melissa who spent time studying oceanography, including the ocean’s microorganisms and creatures. During her stint as a student at Roosevelt University, she worked as an assistant in the critical care unit of an animal hospital.
As a lover of nature, Melissa enjoys hiking and other outdoor activities during her free time.
Rebecca Zetzsche has spent most of her career in a corporate setting, but she also worked several years as a certified pharmacy technician. After many different roles throughout her career, she is finding her work at the Mind-Eye Institute to be her most interesting yet. “We see a full spectrum of patients with varying conditions and issues – all coming to the Institute for help with their struggles,” says Rebecca, who serves as an optometric technician.
Mind-Eye optometrists depend on the technicians to do patient pre-testing and make accurate observations. When patients arrive at the Institute’s clinic, technicians work with them first, using various tools (such as lenses, prisms, and filters) to modify the patients’ environment, all the while assessing how the patients adapt — mentally and physically – to the changes. Technicians also test patients’ visual perceptual skills, spatial awareness, mental imagery, and eye-movement control. Mind-Eye optometrists later analyze the information collected by the technicians to determine a final set of directions and typically a prescription for each patient.
Rebecca joined the Mind-Eye Institute after a 30-year career at Walgreens – first as a certified pharmacy technician then, later, as a corporate professional with a focus in customer service and business relations. “I wanted to get back out into the world; engage more directly with people and not sit in an office all day,” Rebecca says. “I saw that the Mind-Eye Institute needed an optometric technician, and though I had never been in that role before, the position sounded interesting, so I applied.”
Because of her past technical responsibilities, including studies at the Bel-Rea Institute of Animal Technology in Colorado to become a veterinary technician, her longtime work as a pharmacy technician, and advocacy work with customers, Rebecca earned a position at the Mind-Eye Institute.
Rebecca describes herself as an “animal freak” and spends much of her time outside work caring for her “furry, feathery, and scaly” friends. Her menagerie includes multiple dogs and cats, a parrot, two snakes, multiple fish tanks, and various other pets. She and her husband also enjoy road trips, especially to Wisconsin, and exploring new places.
Mariam Khan had been working full time as an optician at a standard optometry practice in Northbrook, IIlinois, but wanted to become more involved in the science of optometry and the care of patients. “At the time, I was working basically in sales, looking at patients’ prescriptions and then trying to sell them eyeglass frames and lenses,” Mariam says. But when she saw the Mind-Eye Institute was hiring optometric technicians, she checked the Institute’s web site and determined Mind-Eye was something special – as the tagline states, “Connecting optometry with neuroscience.”
She took the next step in her career by applying and being hired as an optometric technician — a move she says she is happy she made.
“The Mind-Eye Institute is interesting and so very different [from other optometry practices]. I see patients who came to us as a last hope and now have had their lives turned around. People who could not read [because of their brain injuries or other neurological problems, for example] are able to read again,” Mariam says.
Mariam relishes being challenged. She attended Triton College on a basketball scholarship and obtained an associate degree in sociology. She worked part-time as an esthetician, before becoming a full-time optician at a Northbrook optometry practice. On her off hours, she enjoys what else – playing basketball – and, of course, specializing in her other main interest – cosmetics and skin care.
“I also like traveling and hanging out with my family,” she says.
For Fred Fequiere, accepting a position as lab assistant at the Mind-Eye Institute proved an easy decision – “I worked in optics in the past” — and made even easier by what he terms a “welcoming” Mind-Eye team.
“I had never experienced such a friendly staff in any of my previous companies. They have been very patient with me during my learning and training process at Mind-Eye,” says Fred, who just joined the Institute in September 2021.
Fred had worked in an optics laboratory for about eight years, grinding and surfacing lenses and assembling them into frames, until his Buffalo Grove, Illinois firm was sold in 2021 to two competing companies, and his place of employment closed its doors.
“I wanted to remain in an optical role and learned about the Mind-Eye Institute from [job-searching on] the Internet. I was especially interested because Mind-Eye seemed a completely different type of [health care] organization – very much focused on optometry as it impacts the brain,” Fred says.
In his current Mind-Eye position, Fred’s overall responsibility is to make sure patients’ therapeutic eyeglasses are ordered, prepared, and verified precisely as prescribed. “I sit down with each patient, helping in the selection of frame styles; ensure the order goes out in timely fashion; and verify that the eyeglasses are exactly as ordered before they are given to the patient,” Fred states.
If needed, Fred also places filters – according to the prescribed location and density — on the patient’s eyeglass lenses.
Quite a different role from the one Fred thought he was going to assume after graduating from Lincoln Technical Institute where he earned an associate degree as an electronic service technician. “In fact, my first job was that of a machine operator, placing parts on circuit boards. I did that for about three years before I took a position in the optics laboratory in Buffalo Grove in 2013,” Fred recalls.
Of course, Fred is not only about work and career. “I live near Lake Michigan in the Rogers Park area of Chicago and that gives me plenty opportunity to swim and get in some beach time,” he says. He also enjoys riding sports bikes, spending time at Chicago’s Field Museum where he is a member, and attending local stand-up comedy programs.
But what Fred most likes doing in his spare time is “barbequing with family and friends. I especially appreciate watching someone who is good at barbequing. I am hoping to pick up the skill as a hobby.”
Fred adds, “I strive to be sensational in everything I do,” including service to patients.
For Helen Arena, accepting a position as optician at the Mind-Eye Institute was an easy choice. Not only had she been working in the optical field for more than 40 years, but the Mind-Eye Institute “incredibly intrigued me.”
“I pulled up the Mind-Eye website after seeing its advertisement and learned more about an organization that is helping people in their recovery from traumatic brain injuries, concussions and learning disorders,” Helen recalls. “I was literally driven to become part of that team – even more so after spending two-and-a-half hours shadowing Mind-Eye founder and research director Deborah Zelinsky OD. I said to myself, ‘Wow! This is fabulous.’”
In her optician role, Helen assists patients by helping them in selecting appropriate eyeglass frames, ensuring their therapeutic brain glasses are expeditiously ordered and received in strict conformance with their individualized prescriptions, and positioning the correct filters on eyeglass lenses when filters are considered necessary.
She is uniquely suited to her optician responsibilities because of her years of work in boutique retail for smaller optometry practices in Chicago and suburbs. “I would be one-to-one with patients, helping them select the right eyeglasses that oftentimes cost $1,000, $2,000, or more,” Helen says. “Basically, I provided a concierge service and, in doing so, developed strong, interpersonal relationships with patients. I knew what each of my patients liked – and needed.
“I also have been in the optical field long enough to see how eyeglass frame styles and lenses have changed,” Helen says. “For example, during the past 10 years, lenses have been manufactured with increased coatings.”
Of course, Helen is not all about work She enjoys special times with her daughter and other members of her family; vacation days at the ocean front, particularly on St. George Island off Florida’s panhandle; peaceful strolls through the Chicago Botanical Garden; amateur photography; movies; and a good novel – “especially when I can read it underneath an umbrella on the beach.”
Yuliia Radchuk has a strong desire to help people remain vigorous and fit. That’s why she has worked in a variety of health-related positions since coming to the United States from Ukraine and why she decided to join the Mind-Eye Institute as an optician.
In that role, Yuliia carefully measures the face and eyes of patients to ensure the special “brain” glasses they are prescribed by Mind-Eye optometrists fit exactly as intended. She also provides patients with important instructions on how to wear and adapt to their new lenses.
Mind-Eye glasses play a critical role in addressing patients’ brain imbalances. For that reason, the manufacture and wear of lenses have to be exceedingly exact. Deviations are not okay for Mind-Eye patients who have small — sometimes no — tolerance ranges and require more precision in lenses than standard eyeglasses.
After receiving lens prescriptions from eye care professionals, Yuliia has the responsibility of determining the specifications necessary to provide a patient with the appropriate therapeutic benefits as prescribed by the optometrists. Ophthalmic appliances offer many choices that only experienced opticians like Yuliia can help patients make successfully. Opticians must consider lens and frame material, frame shape, lens design, coatings, filters, and other options.
Yuliia is not new to the field of optics even though she earlier earned a master’s degree in organizational management from Kherson National Technical University in Kherson, Ukraine. She later obtained a college associate degree as an optician. After coming to the United States, she worked as a trainer of personnel for a company that provides nutritional meals to people who want to eat in a healthy way while on the go. She later served as an optician at Pearle Vision, eventually joining the Mind-Eye Institute in 2019.
Her work at Mind-Eye was interrupted for two years, thanks to the birth of a daughter, but she returned in 2022 “because I appreciate what the team does there and the [Institute’s advanced] processes for helping patients,” Yuliia says.
When not at Mind-Eye, Yuliia can be found teaching yoga as a certified instructor in a small studio in Wheeling, Illinois. She also enjoys watercolor sketching and, weather permitting, snowboarding.
Clinic Business Hours:
Closed Saturday & Sunday
During Business Hours:
Northbrook Clinic Address
1414 Techny Rd,
Northbrook, IL 60062, USA