“The eyes are the portal to the entire body.”
When Lauren Joy Stone, O.D., peers into the eyes of patients at EyeCare Optical, she’s typically looking for serious medical conditions that commonly reveal themselves through visual impairments. After personal experiences and a background in managing eye care for all ages, Dr. Stone knows all too well how lives can be enhanced and sometimes saved by taking a closer look into the eyes of patients.
Dr. Stone grew up in Oneida and didn’t always plan to be an optometrist. An accomplished French horn and mellophone player, she attended the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Music degree with a concentration in music education. While at UT she performed with the Pride of the Southland marching band, football and basketball pep bands, and the University’s Wind Ensemble and Symphony Orchestra. She taught music for a short time, but when a friend experienced a serious eye condition, her thoughts turned to a career in eye care.
A good friend developed a severe ulceration of her eye after sleeping in her contact lenses which eventually required a corneal transplant. Throughout her friend’s long treatment program, Dr. Stone became highly interested in the science of eye care and treatment of eye disease. So she headed back to UT to take the science courses she would need for optometry school.
She graduated magna cum laude from Southern College of Optometry in 2010, and spent an externship working with Drs. Campbell, Cunningham, Taylor and Haun. She thoroughly enjoyed the experience and quickly came to appreciate the value of a comprehensive eye care practice.
She spent six years working with Drs. Foster and Steele in Newport, where she treated patients for a variety of eye diseases as well as performing general vision examinations. Her youngest patient was two days old, and the oldest was more than 100 years old. She also got a lot of experience treating various injuries to the eye.
“I had a great relationship with the physicians of Tennova Newport Medical Center,” said Dr. Stone. “I gained an incredible amount of experience in treating eye injuries and performing intensive testing of the eye to help rule out, or in some cases, to confirm a diagnosis. Many times, we had patients in for one problem and discovered a completely different and oftentimes potentially fatal medical condition, all through eye examinations. It is truly remarkable.”
She gained a wealth of experience in treating patients with eye injuries, diabetic eye disease, strokes and other conditions. “It’s fascinating,” she says, “to be able to identify the area of the brain affected by a stroke through observing the pattern of vision loss.”
Dr. Stone sometimes can help a patient feel better about themselves as well as improve their physical health. “Helping patients feel more confident in their appearance through the recommendation of quality eye wear and contact lenses can greatly enhance their quality of life,” she said.
“I had one 8-year-old boy as a patient and when he came in he held his head down. I quickly discovered that he didn’t like his thick glasses, so much so that he held his head down throughout the examination,” she recalled. “I recommended contact lenses to the parents and he quickly adjusted to the lenses. He began to hold his head higher even before leaving the office. I see him for his yearly exams and he certainly doesn’t look like the shy, reserved boy he was a couple of years ago. He’s just the opposite, confident and outgoing.”
Dr. Stone is happy to be part of an eye care practice that has served East Tennessee since 1952. She says the remarkable amount of expertise within one organization is impressive and she is thrilled to be able to work with ophthalmologists, a retina specialist, as well as other optometrists.
“When I did my externship here, I saw just about every aspect of eye care being performed all within one organization,” said Dr. Stone. “I know I can lean on each of our doctors and can discuss potential treatment options with some of the finest surgeons and specialists in the country. It’s a huge advantage.”
Dr. Stone has been a member of the Tennessee Air National Guard since 1999, first serving in the 572 Air Force Band as an instrumentalist and vocalist. She commissioned to the rank of Captain in 2012 and began serving as optometrist in the 134 Medical Group. Her current rank is Lieutenant Colonel. When she isn’t working, Dr. Stone enjoys life with her two sons.