For someone who has only been in the industry for over a decade, Dr. Elise Kramer — optometrist, contact lens specialist, and musician — has a very impressive resume. If you search her name online, you’ll find that her expertise and versatility go beyond her practice.
After obtaining her doctorate in optometry, Dr. Kramer opened her own practice specializing in contact lens design and fitting, as well as ocular surface diseases, such as dry eye syndrome.
“I had never thought of working in someone else’s practice,” Dr. Elise shared. “Even when I was still in university, I pictured myself having my own practice and doing it my way. There is nothing more fulfilling than being able to do what you love most, on your own terms. With my own practice, I can decide the type of work and time I spend on my patients, and determine my own schedule.”
Of course, starting her own business was not easy. Dr. Kramer had to do everything from scratch. “I had never taken any business courses, so I had to learn the trade as I went along,” she said. “Yes, it is a lot of hard work if you’re both the doctor and the business owner, but it was a rewarding journey.”
It’s all in the family
“My father is a pediatrician and I have uncles and aunts who are cardiologists, radiologists, and other medical practitioners,” shared Dr. Kramer. “I always knew I wanted to be a physician, but I decided to specialize in the eye when my mother suddenly developed a benign tumor behind one of her eyes in 2007.”
Her mother had double vision and sought every alternative treatment possible to have the tumor removed for fear that she would lose her vision. “Finally, an oncologist suggested to do a series of radiotherapy treatments to shrink rather than remove the tumor,” Dr. Kramer continued.
“From this experience, I became very interested in the eye and decided to take up optometry in university,” she confirmed.
A passion for eye health
Dr. Kramer graduated in optometry from the University of Montreal in Canada and proceeded to do her doctorate in optometry. She received a grant from the Scholarship Program of the Québec Ministry of Education for short-term university studies outside of Québec. In the summer of her second year, she participated in a humanitarian mission in Laayoune, Morocco, where she helped hundreds of impoverished people by giving them free eye examinations and glasses.
Her residency at the Miami VA Medical Center included training at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, the nation’s top eye hospital. After which, Dr. Kramer became a fellow of the Scleral Lens Education Society (SLS), where she now serves as secretary.
“I was privileged to work with a cornea specialist and helped fix contact lenses on patients. I didn’t take up contact lenses for residency because I already had very good training in contact lenses from my university years. Instead, I decided to do a residency in ocular diseases,” Dr. Kramer shared.
She decided to specialize in ocular surface diseases and contact lenses, in particular designing lenses for a variety of specific conditions. “Montreal had very advanced contact lens programs. I felt quite comfortable fitting and designing contact lenses and wanted to continue to work in that specialty,” she added.
“Most of my patients who have suffered from vision loss are now wearing custom-made contact lenses I have designed using advanced technology,” she said.
Not surprisingly, Dr. Kramer devotes her practice to helping patients, many of whom are have keratoconus, refractive surgical complications (such as LASIK), corneal transplant surgery, eye trauma, chronic dry eyes, corneal dystrophies, degenerations, and many others.
At the forefront in the fight against DED
Dr. Kramer is constantly at the forefront of the latest developments and findings for dry eye syndrome. According to her, a large study TFOS DEWS II that was conducted a few years ago had given a new definition for dry eye syndrome.
Dry eye disease (DED) affects approximately 1.5 billion people worldwide and is the most common disorder of the ocular surface. A common cause of DED is meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), which is typically treated with lid margin hygiene, or the removal of the meibomian gland obstruction.
“Redness, burning, and gritty sensations are all common among patients with DED, as well as sensitivity to light, blurred vision, and the accumulation of water and/or mucus in the eye,” explained Dr. Kramer. She added that these symptoms are often most severe among people who wear contact lenses, and can cause persistent irritation, pain, and decreased quality of life.
She noted that DED doesn’t have to be debilitating for patients who wear contact lenses. However, she added that the condition remains somewhat underdiagnosed, and symptoms range essentially limitless due to patients believing the symptoms they experience are normal and therefore do not need to be discussed with their eye care practitioner.
One of Dr. Kramer’s specializations is designing scleral lenses — large-diameter gas-permeable lenses that vault over the cornea and rest over the sclera (the white of the eye). Scleral contact lenses provide a smooth optical surface that works to correct vision problems caused by keratoconus and other irregular cornea problem.
Besides using scleral lenses, Dr. Kramer also specializes in diagnosing DED and prescribing different treatments for dry eyes. Her focus is on finding ways for anyone to tolerate their contact lenses if they have allergies, dry eyes, or ocular surface conditions.
She is able to identify the underlying cause of dry eye and treat it based on specific equipment and customized treatment. “DED is chronic,” she said. “It is not a condition that can be cured but needs to be managed properly. Therefore, patient education is one of the most important aspects of my practice,” she enthused.
Mastering the art of co-management and education
Dr. Kramer works closely with ophthalmologists. She has patients who have had surgeries or are scheduled for surgeries. Cases that involve retinal detachment vitreous issues and cataract surgery are more complex, thus she has many patients that she co-manages with ophthalmologists.
What is truly rewarding for Dr. Kramer is patient care. She strives to assist each patient with quality and advanced eye care whether they require a basic eye exam or specialized vision care.
Besides improving her patients’ quality of life, Dr. Kramer’s other passion is education. She enjoys being at the forefront of education and technology to make a difference among other practitioners — to teach them and to raise awareness about different treatment options and available technology.
“In the last 15 to 20 years, there was a lot of new developments [in optometry], and people realize the benefits for patients with various conditions,” she shared.
Her advice to young aspiring optometrists is to specialize in an area of their interest. “There is so much more to optometry than refraction. And there are many more things we optometrists can do. We can specialize in fields that demand more specialties, and thus help more people with needs,” she added.
This year, Dr. Kramer will be focusing more on her practice at home. At the same time, she is involved in many virtual optometry-related conferences and activities.
Her practice — Miami Contact Lens Institute — was launched in 2013. Five years later she expanded by opening a center in a second location, in Weston, about half an hour’s drive from Miami. These days, she divides her time between the two locations.
Enjoying a life outside practice
One may be surprised to know that this single mother to a seven-year-old boy has so much energy, not just in her career but also in living life to the fullest.
Dr. Kramer can speak seven languages: English, French, Spanish, Italian, Hebrew, and Portuguese. She is also an avid singer and musician who has released a few singles online under the name of Elise Gabrielle (Gabrielle is her middle name). Dr. Kramer has been singing and playing the piano since she was 4 years. Playing mostly classical music, Dr. Kramer has participated in various concerts and regional competitions.
“I guess you can say I have lots of passions and energy to spread,” she smiled.
Editor’s Note: This article was first published in COOKIE magazine Issue 10.