Williston optometrist Tom Clark secures new patent

Observer photo by Phyl Newbeck Dr. Thomas Clark at his office in Blair Park.
Observer photo by Phyl Newbeck
Dr. Thomas Clark at his office in Blair Park.

By Phyl Newbeck

Observer correspondent

In 2009, Williston optometrist Thomas Clark received a patent for his Visual Alignment Device, which was designed to measure a patient’s vision and ensure an exact prescription for bifocal lenses. Six years later, Clark has patented the second part of his two-part process with a new device that can verify that the placement of lenses is correct.

“Historically, the measurements for bifocals weren’t that accurate,” Clark said. “With Progressive Addition Lenses, the measurements are much more critical because the area you see through is narrower.”

Clark said many patients have difficulty adjusting to new bifocals because the measurements aren’t accurate enough. “The measurements the optical industry has done forever have been physical and depend on the distance between the eyes,” he said. “I take into account the visual axis measurement.”

In laymen’s terms, the old system relied exclusively on objective measurements, while Clark uses a subjective one, based on the visual path of the patient.

Clark explained that the second patent, which he received on Aug. 11, is a complement to his first one. The second device verifies that the placement of the lenses is accurate and, if the lenses have not been placed properly, it provides the correct measurements so that the placement can be changed. A patient who receives bifocals using Clark’s first patent shouldn’t need the verification process, but those who have had their glasses longer or received them from other optometrists should find that it will help them re-align improperly placed lenses. Clark has been using the device for two years and said he has found great success with it.

A graduate of the New England College of Optometry, Clark has been in his Blair Park office for nearly 20 years, after closing his Burlington practice. He has fitted at least 500 pairs of bifocals using his first patent and found that the rate at which patients asked for them to be redone dropped 50 percent.

“It’s a product that I think will enhance the quality of the doctor/patient experience and make people more comfortable,” he said.

Clark recently recruited Kelly Quinlan, who has worked for many optometrists, to be his new assistant. She praised Clark’s patient-friendly system.

“It makes it easier for people to adapt to their progressive lenses,” she said. “When patients pick them up it may not be immediate, but there is definitely less anxiety when they put them on and it’s easier for them to start wearing their lenses.”

Quinlan noted that industry-wide, 10 percent of progressive bifocal recipients return to their optometrists for refitting. This happens far less often with Clark’s device, she said.

Clark realizes it’s hard for a layperson to understand the complexity of his two patents.

“The first is measuring and the second is verification,” he said. “They are two different prototypes that fit together as one.”

After a pause, he came up with an even better description. “People put their glasses on,” he said “and they like them and they don’t call back.”