Transplanted Tennessean Nicole R. Lamb, O.D., admits she has a lot to be grateful for in her adopted state. The native New Englander has come to truly appreciate the Volunteer State – everything from the rich culture, food and music of Memphis (where she also met her fiancé at Southern College of Optometry) to the urban pulse of Knoxville and the four-season outdoor lifestyle of the Great Smoky Mountains. Dr. Lamb is excited to be building a life here with her future husband, while getting the opportunity to practice Optometry at EyeCare Optical in East Tennessee. In short, she says, “Tennessee has been very good to me!”
Dr. Lamb was born and raised in the small town of Hopkinton, Massachusetts, known throughout the runner’s world as the starting point of the Boston Marathon. Throughout her childhood and into high school, she took riding lessons and competed in the equestrian world. The highlight of those experiences, however, was getting the chance to help her riding teacher work with special needs children through equine-assisted therapy.
As a volunteer in the program for eight years, she worked with children with all kinds of physical, mental and emotional needs. She valued the challenge of working with kids on the autism spectrum, teaching them how to tack up horses, and at the same time, encouraging connection and mentoring responsibility, accountability, and the satisfaction of learning skills while doing an important job.
Dr. Lamb remembers one child, in particular, a little girl who was born in China and had been swaddled too long as a baby which left her with no lower body or ab strength. “By the end of our time working with her and the horses, she was able to walk without any help, which was incredibly gratifying to be part of,” Dr. Lamb adds.
From being around horses so much of her childhood, Dr. Lamb initially felt a calling to be a veterinarian and after high school, entered the Biomedical Science program at Marist College, a liberal arts college on the Hudson River in Poughkeepsie, New York. After spending her freshman year abroad on the Lorenzo de’ Medici campus in Florence, Italy, she returned to the New York campus to complete her Bachelor of Science degree, graduating summa cum laude.
It was during her undergraduate program she was introduced to the field of eye care by an Optometrist who was a guest speaker for her class. “She was so enthusiastic about every aspect of the profession,” Dr. Lamb explains. “She inspired me with her passion and made me want to be a part of it.” The Biomedical science program required two shadowing experiences. After shadowing first a veterinarian and then an Optometrist, Dr. Lamb felt pulled toward the field where she could make a difference in someone’s life through improving their vision – and she set her sights on Optometry school.
After investigating both an Optometry school in Boston and the Southern Optometry School (SOC) in Memphis, she chose SOC for many reasons, one being the on-campus Eye Center. During hands-on experiences, serving first at the college campus center, and then through internships and volunteer opportunities, Dr Lamb has worked with homeless groups, nursing home residents, Special Olympics competitors, Memphis school children, and underprivileged families in Mexico with VOSH (a global eye care volunteer organization). For these various groups, she performed comprehensive eye health examinations and managed primary ocular disease, provided prescriptions for eye wear and contact lens options, performed various testing and imaging, as well as vision therapy and therapy evaluations to manage eye disorders.
“In Mexico, I had the privilege of providing free eye exams to a population in dire need of health services. I rotated between stations performing chair skills, refractions, direct ophthalmoscopy, and giving out donated spectacles. It was a wonderful opportunity to make a positive impact on such a deserving group of people’s lives.”
After graduating Optometry school magna cum laude, Dr. Lamb did her private practice externship in Stowe, Vermont where she managed ocular diseases, fit soft contact lenses, performed foreign body removals, conducted pre- and post-surgery exams, and observed LASIK® procedures.
After her externship with a Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic in Daytona Beach, Florida, Dr. Lamb did her year-long residency at the James H. Quillen Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Mountain Home, Tennessee, performing comprehensive eye exams for veterans of all ages, along with pre and post-surgery exams and managing ocular disease such as macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma.
At the VA medical center’s low vision clinic, Dr. Lamb worked with veterans with a wide range of issues, from those who were vision impaired to those who were legally blind, fitting them for low vision aids such as sunglasses with solar shields, electronic magnifiers and hand-held lit magnifiers, and, most exciting, virtual reality goggles. “I demo-ed and trained our veterans on this new, budget-friendly version of a wearable magnifier and reading device, just for veterans, so that they could once again get to see the face of their wife or grandchild, or enjoy hobbies they had given up like cards or gardening, watching a movie or reading.”
One younger veteran and his wife, who were just coming to terms with his sudden and severe vision loss, became favorites of Dr. Lamb. “He and his wife always tried to schedule appointments when I was there. He kind of reminded me of my dad, who loves classic cars, and that was a passion of this veteran. So, I wanted to help him and his wife in any we could to regain some normalcy in his life. First, we worked on getting his prescriptions through the VA to help their family budget, and second, we worked to find the best vision aids for him so that he could recover some of the joy he felt in hobbies like his classic car.”
Dr. Lamb and her fiancé, who has joined his family’s eye care practice in Knoxville, are taking full advantage of the East Tennessee lifestyle. “We love the Saturday Farmer’s Market in Market Square and I already have my Dollywood season pass – which is almost like getting your Tennessee driver’s license around here,” she laughs. And now we are enjoying hiking the Smokies.” And, the New Englander confesses, “cheering for the UT Vols!”
Dr. Lamb provides comprehensive eye exams and contact lens and glasses prescriptions for patients of all ages, along with general eye care, screening patients for eye issues and treating eye trauma at EyeCare Optical and the offices of Drs. Campbell, Cunningham, Taylor and Haun.