Dr. Salm, Dr. Vrabec, and Dr. Nowak wearing Christmas jackets

Get to know Dr. Daniel Nowak (pictured right), one of the optometrists on our Valley Eye Associates team!

What has been your favorite thing about working at Valley Eye Associates?

I like the variety. I may see something as straightforward as a routine eye exam, to someone with glaucoma, or other potentially blinding conditions and helping them. It makes me keep up-to-date in eye care to provide the best possible care I can. Plus, I like the great staff we have throughout the clinic, from the business office to patient services, techs and surgery schedulers, and to the doctors, who are easily accessible to consult with when asked.

How do you relax after a long day at work?

It depends on the time of year. During the warm-weather season, I like being outside doing yard work and keeping the yard looking sharp. During the cold-weather season, I like doing woodworking, which I am just starting to take up.

What is your favorite holiday and why?

Christmas—the season for goodwill. The time of year that holds hope for humanity.

What is your favorite meal of the day? What would you be eating?

Lunch. I like the diverse restaurants in Appleton and getting to try something different.

What made you decide to go into optometry?

I always found vision and the eye to be fascinating. I decided in high school that being an optometrist was my destiny.

Valley Eye Associates is honored to once again partner with the Home Builders Association of the Fox Cities to collect new, unwrapped toys for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program. All toys collected in the Fox Cities will go to children in the Fox Cities area.

2018 Toys for Tots Local Impact: 16,906 toys distributed, 3,346 children supported

Starting Monday, November 11, new, unwrapped toys may be dropped off at the following Valley Eye Associates locations:

West Appleton
21 Park Place
Appleton, WI 54914

East Appleton
2100 S Kensington Drive, Suite 5
Appleton, WI 54915

Encircle Health
2500 E Capitol Drive, Suite 3500
Appleton, WI 54911

Oshkosh
719 Doctors Court
Oshkosh, WI 54901

Donations will be collected through Tuesday, December 10.

To make a financial donation, write a check to Toys for Tots and mail it or drop it off at:

HBA Fox Cities
920 W Association Drive
Appleton, WI 54914

Email toysfortots@hbafoxcities.com for additional information.

Thank you in advance for helping us spread joy to children in need this holiday season!

Mindy Harrington, OD

Mindy Harrington, OD

We’d like to welcome Dr. Mindy Harrington to the Valley Eye Associates team!

Dr. Harrington grew up in Ishpeming, MI. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Michigan Technological University and graduated summa cum laude. She went on to receive her Doctor of Optometry degree from Michigan College of Optometry at Ferris State University, where she graduated with distinction.

Dr. Harrington was active in many organizations during optometry school, including Student Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (SVOSH). In 2018, she took a mission trip to La Esperanza, Honduras to provide eye care to underserved members of the community. She is currently a member of the American Optometric Association and the Wisconsin Optometric Association.

Dr. Harrington has wanted to be an optometrist since she was in middle school. She loves being able to help patients better understand their eye health.  Her optometric interests include care for the whole family, contact lenses, and ocular disease.

In her free time, Dr. Harrington enjoys any activity that allows her to spend time with her family. She also enjoys being outside, playing tennis, crafting, and reading.

Dr. Harrington wants to help each and every patient achieve and maintain the best vision possible. She is excited to join and serve the community of Northeast Wisconsin.

25 years ago, we welcomed a visionary to our team. In his time at Valley Eye Associates, Dr. Michael Vrabec has led the way for eye care innovation in Wisconsin and completed thousands of surgeries. We’d like to thank Dr. Vrabec for his hard work, success, and incredible ability to care for his patients.

Here are a few special notes from staff members:

“It’s an honor to work with Dr. Vrabec. He is one of the most genuine and kind people you will ever meet. He is a phenomenal surgeon, with skills that are unparalleled to others. I’m proud to work with someone who is an exceptionally talented ophthalmologist and has a heart of gold. I wouldn’t want to work with anyone else. Congratulations, Dr. Vrabec, I look forward to seeing where you take Valley Eye Associates in the future and wish you all the best.”

“I’d like to thank Dr. Vrabec for his 25 years of service to the Fox Valley and beyond! His knowledge and experience are second-to-none. I also greatly appreciate the worldwide mission work he participates in. Dr. Vrabec is truly passionate about providing the best vision possible for every human being.”

“I have worked side by side with Dr. Vrabec 23 of the 25 years he has been here. I have learned so much from him over the years. He continues to teach me new things every day. He is such a skilled surgeon, and his energy and passion for eye care is astonishing. He is a great leader for the VEA team.”

“Dr. Vrabec is an excellent employer. I not only think of him as someone that I work for, but also as a teacher. He is always willing to take a step back with you and show you the “why” behind what we do. He is never too busy for a question and has a way of explaining things that just makes sense. I appreciate the time he takes to thoroughly explain things, as that is just the way my head operates. I have to know why, in order for it to “click”! He is a remarkable surgeon and it’s an honor to work under someone as knowledgeable and as talented as Dr. V!”

“I greatly appreciate the opportunity Dr. Vrabec has given me all these years at VEA. I have learned and grown a lot as an employee and person, being in his presence. Congrats on your 25 years with VEA!”

Happy anniversary, Dr. Vrabec!

Doctors and staff members at Valley Eye Associates are getting into the holiday spirit! For the past 8+ years, Valley Eye Associates has been partnering with the Home Builders Association of the Fox Cities to collect new, unwrapped toys for the U.S. Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots program. These toys are then donated to local children in need.

The Toys for Tots program began in 1947. Marine Corps Reserve Major Bill Hendricks’ wife, Diane, asked him to deliver handcrafted dolls she had made to an organization that supports children in need. When Major Hendricks could not find such an organization, Diane advised him to start one. He and the Marines in his reserve unit collected and delivered 5,000 toys in 1947. In 1948, all Marine reserve sites were directed to implement Toys for Tots campaigns.

Toys for Tots Logo

Major Hendricks’ civilian job was Director of Public Relations at Warner Brothers Studios. Many friends and celebrities, including Walt Disney, helped support the new program. In fact, Walt Disney designed the first Toys for Tots poster, which included a miniature three-car train that was later adopted as the Toys for Tots logo. Today, the U.S. Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots program delivers an average of 18 million toys to 7 million children each year. The goal of Toys for Tots is, “through the gift of a new toy, to help bring the joy of Christmas and send a message of hope to America’s less fortunate children.”

Surgery Manager Faith Lambie, has been in charge of the Valley Eye Associates partnership since its beginning: “Valley Eye Associates is a company that likes to pay to forward. Children are very important to us and we want to make sure they have something to look forward to during the holiday season.”

“Valley Eye Associates is a company that likes to pay to forward. Children are very important to us and we want to make sure they have something to look forward to during the holiday season.”

Donations may be dropped off at our West, East, Encircle Health, and Oshkosh offices now through Tuesday, December 11. Thank you in advance for helping us spread holiday cheer to local children in need!

The team at Valley Eye Associates has conceived a new way to help make money for local charities and keep “cool” over the summer months. On these special “Casual Charity Days,” VEA staff members dressed in casual attire and contributed $5 each to support local charities. These three charities were chosen by VEA doctors. Through the generous donation of Dr. Michael Vrabec, who matched the staff’s contributions, the team delivered over $3,700 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Feeding America , and the Children’s Cancer Research Fund. Dr. Douglas Salm, Dr. Jennifer Unger, and Dr. Sara Schalk provided additional donations.

Surgery Coder, Ivy Blue, explains why she thinks giving back is important: “I think it’s so important to give back to the community in any way that you can, by volunteering your time, participating in fundraisers, sponsoring others that are participating in events, or even paying for a casual day at work. I am very fortunate to have a healthy family and the means to provide for our daily needs. I like to do what I can to help others. I love the sense of community when we come together for a positive cause. Positive actions cause positive reactions and this world needs all the positivity it can get.”

”I love the sense of community when we come together for a positive cause. Positive actions cause positive reactions and this world needs all the positivity it can get.”

Ivy was one of the staff members who helped deliver the first donation to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. “Make-A-Wish is so close to my heart. My husband Bob and I have been involved with Make-A-Wish for many years. When I heard [Make-A-Wish] was a charity we were donating to, I jumped at the chance to go with to present the donation. I love the fact that it grants the wishes of local children. Kris and her staff work so hard for these children and their families. When we presented the donation, Kris took the time to give us a tour and explain what the donation was going to be used for. She also shared stories of past recipients. I had happy tears and sad tears when we left. It was heartwarming to know how hard this organization works for the wishes of the children!”

Valley Eye Associates staff members deliver a check to the the Make-A-Wish Foundation

Dr. Jennifer Unger made the recommendation of Feeding America. “Casual days are a fun way to serve our community. The VEA staff is so generous. Our Feeding America donation provided nearly 10,000 meals for Fox Valley residents. Every dollar counts and they add up faster together!”

Valley Eye Associates staff members deliver a check to Feeding America

At Valley Eye Associates, we believe in giving back to the community we live in. You’ll also find VEA doctors and staff members participating in youth sports programs, sponsoring local golf outings, and volunteering their time at community events. We’re incredibly grateful to this wonderful community for supporting our practice over the last 37 years, and we’re dedicated to supporting it right back.

Brianne Scanlon, OD

Brianne Scanlon, OD

Get to know Dr. Brianne Scanlon, the latest member of the Valley Eye Associates team!

Where did you grow up?

Park Falls, WI

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I was always torn between being an astronaut or a famous singer… those two things are so similar, I know ;-)

Where did you go to optometry school?

Illinois College of Optometry

What is your favorite food?

Any type of pasta!

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I love to just get outside and go for a walk or spend time with my family. Lately I’ve been trying to get a little crafty with some DIY projects, but I’m not very good at that yet.

What is your favorite sports team?

Green Bay Packers!

What are your optometric areas of interest?

I love taking care of all patients and provide comprehensive optometry, but I have a special interest in contact lens and ocular disease.

Why do you love being an optometrist?

I love being an optometrist for those moments when I can tell I’ve truly made a difference in someone’s life by bringing back a little happiness with improving vision. It’s one of the most rewarding feelings to witness a change in someone’s expression when they see something new.

While most people are familiar with the concept of organ donation, many do not realize that part of the eye can be donated and transplanted, as well. The cornea is the clear, dome-shaped outer surface of the eye. Every year, over 70,000 people receive a corneal transplant, and each of those transplants came from an organ donor. Unlike organ donation, most anyone can donate their cornea. The great thing about corneal tissue is that everyone is a universal donor. Your blood type does not have to match. It doesn’t matter how old you are, what color your eyes are or how good your eyesight is. Aside from those suffering from infections or a few highly communicable diseases, most people are suitable donors. To become a donor, all you need to do is mark a box on your driver’s license!

Dr. Michael Vrabec, a fellowship trained corneal specialist, transplants over 100 corneas every year. There are many reasons why a patient might need a cornea transplant, ranging from corneal disease to injury. Valley Eye Associates works with the Lions Eye Bank of Wisconsin, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the mission of restoring the Gift of Sight through recovery and transplantation of corneas. Without them, restoring sight to many cornea patients would be impossible!

For more information on donation and the Lions Eye Bank of Wisconsin, visit their website.

What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

AMD is one of the leading causes of vision loss in people over 50. AMD damages the macula, which is a small spot near the center of the retina—and is responsible for sharp central vision, allowing us to see objects that are straight ahead clearly.

In less advanced cases, AMD symptoms are mild and may not impact activities, while more advanced cases result in severe loss of sight in the central part of vision. AMD eventually creates “blind spots,” which are not correctable with surgery or glasses.

AMD will not cause complete blindness. However, the loss of central vision can interfere with many normal activities such as driving, reading, writing and doing any work that utilized close up vision. Peripheral vision is not affected by AMD, but is too low resolution to make up for lost central vision.

Who is at risk for AMD?

Age is the biggest risk factor for AMD, as it typically affects those 50 years of age and older.

Other risk factors:

  1. Smoking: Can double the risk of AMD
  2. Race: AMD is more prevalent among Caucasians
  3. Family history: If there is AMD in your family, you are at greater risk

How is AMD detected?

Early and intermediate AMD typically present little to no symptoms, so a complete dilated eye examination is critical in early detection.

Annual eye examinations with your optometrist or ophthalmologist are important, particularly if you fall into a high risk category. Early detection of age-related macular degeneration is vital, as it improves the prognosis and allows for possible treatments that can delay or reduce the severity of the disease.

Patients who already suffer from AMD do have treatment options available to them. Valley Eye offers several different types of injectable medications that can slow the progression of AMD. In end-stage cases, a surgical option called Centrasight might be appropriate. Centrasight is an Implantable Telescope that can help improve central vision in one eye.

For more information about these treatments, please call or visit our website.

Glaucoma, also known as the “silent sight stealer”, is a potentially blinding disease, often with no symptoms in early stages. If undetected, and the patient experiences vision loss, the damage is permanent. There are currently more than 2.7 million people in the U.S., and over 60 million worldwide, with glaucoma, the leading cause of preventable blindness.

Who is at risk?

While glaucoma can affect anyone, there are certain factors that may put you at more risk for developing glaucoma. For example, if you are over the age of 65, or are African-American, Hispanic, have a family history of glaucoma, are severely nearsighted or have diabetes, you are at particularly high risk.

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness and is an eye disease that can gradually steal sight without much warning. In fact, the most common form of glaucoma virtually has no symptoms until vision loss has begun. Glaucoma causes an increase in eye pressure, which will eventually damage the optic nerve, causing vision damage and loss.

Regular eye examinations are important

Glaucoma can be easily detected in the early stages with an eye examination. Routine eye exams are especially critical for patients who are at higher risk for glaucoma.

Treatment options for glaucoma have changed dramatically over the past several years, offering you a wide variety of possible options.  One of these options is the iStent, which both Dr. Michael Vrabec and Dr. Douglas Salm recommend to patients frequently.  The iStent is a device implanted in your eye during cataract surgery that can help control eye pressure.

Early detection is vital in preventing vision loss from glaucoma—schedule your appointment for an annual eye examination today!