Dr. Klaus Ito, OD '21, was selected as a Visionary by the Contact Lens Institute

Optometry Alum Selected For Contact Lens Institute Honor

Dr. Klaus Ito, OD '21, was selected as a Visionary by the Contact Lens Institute

Klaus Ito, OD '21, was recently selected as a 2022 Visionary to advocate for safe contact lens use.

A leukemia patient arrived at the clinic in Charlottesville, VA, unable to keep his eyes open for more than a second at a time. He had recently received a bone marrow transplant, and the donor tissue was attacking his body, causing a number of symptoms, including eye dryness. The patient could not keep his eyes open long enough to safely drive.

Dr. Klaus Ito, OD ‘21, knew how to help. He fit the patient into scleral contact lenses, which keep the eyes engulfed in sterile saline solution all day. Currently wrapping up a residency program at the University of Virginia, Dr. Ito was recently selected as a 2022 Visionary by the Contact Lens Institute because of his advocacy work both online and in the clinic. He aims to promote safe contact lens use and expand awareness of specialty contact lenses, which can change lives.

The leukemia patient was able to resume driving. “I felt like I helped give him his life back,” Dr. Ito said. “That feeling is what motivates me to show up to work every day to be there for anyone who is struggling.”

Dr. Ito first learned about the use of specialty contact lenses during optometry school at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS). After he graduated from the Doctor of Optometry program in 2021, he decided to pursue an optional residency program to receive more focused training on the topic.

He was accepted into the Ocular Disease and Cornea and Contact Lens residency program in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Virginia, where he is currently learning about the treatment and management of anterior segment disease. At UVA Health in Charlottesville, he sees 10 to 25 patients a day who are interested in specialty contact lenses. 

As a Visionary, Dr. Ito will continue to raise awareness about contact lens health and safety by promoting best practices tools, tips, and research. He will communicate and share knowledge with practicing optometrists across the country by giving webinars on various topics. He recently spoke to his colleagues about contact lens myths and ways to build up the contact lens portion of a private practice.

“Contact lenses are medical devices that need to be used properly to avoid harming oneself and so people need to be educated on safe practices for wear and care of their lenses,” he said.

After residency, Dr. Ito will work at his family-owned private practice, Ocean Park Optometry, in Santa Monica, CA, alongside his mother who is also an optometrist. He hopes to eventually expand the practice with his sister, who is currently in optometry school.

“I’m sad that residency is coming to an end, but I’m excited to move from a hospital setting to a private practice setting,” he said. “My mom has been waiting many, many years for this.”

At the private practice, he plans to apply what he has learned in his residency and focus on the prevention of anterior segment diseases such as keratoconus.

“There will always be a need for a specialty contact lens service, so I hope to bring that to Ocean Park Optometry and expand upon it in the future, making it the majority of what I do there,” he said. “Specialty contact lenses are my passion.”

In the future, he would like to educate future generations of practitioners by collaborating with an optometry school and using his clinic as a rotation site.

The Doctor of Optometry program at our Worcester, MA, campus is a four-year, full-time program designed to prepare students with the requisite skills, experience, and confidence to practice and advance as a professional optometrist in a wide variety of clinical settings.