“ I just loved learning everything about the eyes.”
With both her parents working in healthcare throughout her youth, it seemed only natural that Optometrist Dr. Alyssa Invergo would eventually steer toward a similar professional direction… though neither of her parents were involved in eye care. But it was her father’s potentially serious eye disorder and her own experience with needing glasses at a young age the exposed her to a whole new realm within the medical field and awakened a passion that would set the stage for her forthcoming career.
“Healthcare was always on my mind,” Dr. Invergo said. “I knew I wanted to be an Optometrist when I was in high school. My dad and my aunt have keratoconus, so that played a huge role in my decision. I went with my dad to all his eye appointments.”
Keratoconus is an eye disorder that occurs when the normally round cornea becomes thin and irregularly cone shaped, preventing the light that enters the eye from being focused on the retina properly and resulting in distorted vision. Combatting conditions like this and a host of other eye disorders while improving people’s vision are what ultimately fueled Dr. Invergo’s urge to pursue a career in eye care.
Dr. Invergo was born and raised in Peotone, Illinois, a small town about 40 miles south of Chicago. In junior high, she became heavily involved in softball, continuing to play competitively throughout high school. She eventually caught the eye of a recruiter for Ole Miss and played second base for the Rebels while pursuing her bachelor’s degree. This was the beginning of her educational experience that led to fulfilling her dream of optometry.
Her fundamental motivation, however, remained the result of all those experiences with her father and the treatment of his keratoconus. With that firsthand exposure, Dr. Invergo fell in love with the multifaceted field, especially when she witnessed her father’s quality of life greatly improve with the right treatment.
“It changed his life when he finally got a pair of contact lenses that fit him properly and he could see well,” she said. “When I was young, he couldn’t really go to my softball games and other events because his lenses weren’t fitting well, and it was a dusty, windy environment that was terribly uncomfortable for him. Once he found a doctor who was able to fit him successfully, the comfort and vision improvement was a real game changer for him.”
After graduating from Ole Miss, Dr. Invergo continued her education at Southern College of Optometry (SCO) in Memphis, Tennessee, where it was solidified that she definitely chose the right profession.
“I had a really great experience with the school I went to,” she said. “I loved every part of it. I just loved learning everything about the eyes.”
While at SCO, Dr. Invergo naturally gravitated more toward conditions affecting the cornea, obviously stemming from her father’s experience with keratoconus. But she also had a surprising diagnosis of her own at that time followed by a revolutionary treatment option.
“Because of my dad’s condition, I was always more interested in the cornea, specifically contact lenses and medical contact lenses,” she said. “Actually, when I was a third year at SCO, I was diagnosed with keratoconus. Luckily, eye doctors caught mine super early, and now there are treatments to stop the progression that weren’t available when my dad was diagnosed. So I was able to get corneal cross-linking done on both my eyes while I was a student. Thanks to that, I still have great vision. But that was still quite an experience to go through. That’s what drove my passion in wanting to do a cornea and contact lens residency after graduation.”
In corneal cross-linking, eye doctors use eyedrop medication and ultraviolet light to make the cornea stronger. It’s called “cross-linking” because it adds bonds between the collagen fibers in the eye, working like support beams to help the cornea stay stable. The goal of this revolutionary treatment is to keep the cornea from bulging more over time.
Though corneal issues are admittedly her specialty, Dr. Invergo enjoys all aspects of comprehensive eye care. But it was her cornea and contact lens residency with Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon that gave her valuable experience to further her desire to improve patients’ quality of life, as was done for her father years before.
“With my residency being in cornea and contact lenses, I mainly only saw patients who need medical contact lenses – scleral lenses, RGP (rigid gas permeable) lenses, custom soft lenses, orthokeratology too – just a lot of people who need these lenses,” Dr. Invergo said. “I’ve had a lot of really great patients, but a highlight of my residency is that I finally got to fit my dad. We changed him from a corneal RGP lens to a scleral lens and it helped a lot. That was really exciting for me.”
At EyeCare Optical, a division of Drs. Campbell, Cunningham, Taylor & Haun, Dr. Invergo is excited about all the latest innovations and industry expertise made available through the practice.
“I’m excited about the state-of-the-art technology for diagnostics and treatments available to my patients as well valuable collaborations with the skilled Ophthalmologists at Drs. Campbell, Cunningham, Taylor & Haun,” she said. “I see a lot of patients who have medical corneal issues, and I also do a lot of comprehensive and preventative care.”
Dr. Invergo is also excited to bring more exposure with orthokeratology to the practice, which is a type of myopia management where a patient wears a rigid lens on the eye at night (like a retainer) to help minimize the amount of nearsightedness and improve vision during the day. Though not as prominent in East Tennessee, Dr. Invergo confirms there is most certainly a growing need for this kind of treatment.
Whether its orthokeratology, contacts lens fittings, glasses prescriptions, or the gamut of other vision correcting treatments available at EyeCare Optical, Dr. Invergo is just happy to be providing such a valuable service to the people of East Tennessee in a region that she fell in love with during her undergrad experience.
“Going to Ole Miss, I got to see a lot of the south through traveling, and I fell in love with the area,” she said. “I love the Smoky Mountains and all the hiking in East Tennessee. It’s such a beautiful area.”
In her free time, Dr. Invergo is a true lover of the great outdoors. She especially loves to hike, camp, and generally stay active. She’s also a self-proclaimed foodie and is always up for trying out a new restaurant.