By PYOUNG K. YI
Mass Communication Specialist Seaman, USN
SAN DIEGO — A 1993 graduate of North Kitsap High School is the Navy’s top optometrist.
Lt. Cmdr. Tyler Miles, research director and clinical optometric liaison for the Navy Refractive Surgery Center at Naval Medical Center San Diego, is the latest recipient of the annual Stanley H. Freed Navy Junior Optometrist of the Year award. He was nominated by Cmdr. Rick Zeber, executive officer, Naval Ophthalmic Support and Training Activity in Virginia.
“Miles is an exceptional officer and leader who exemplifies Navy Optometry’s mission to support operational forces and provide impactful leadership to Navy Medicine,” Zeber said.
Miles’ most notable achievement in 2012 was his leadership in obtaining more than $600,000 in research funding and publishing results of two vision science protocols for the Navy Refractive Surgery Center.
During Miles’ time at the Naval Training Center in San Diego, he oversaw research projects such as a telescopic contact lens and heads-up display sunglasses for soldiers in combat.
“The telescopic lens is a very new type of nanotechnology,” Miles said. “They put a reflective telescope into a large contact lens. It’s designed to give someone a 3X magnified view, like using light-powered binoculars.”
The heads-up display sunglasses provide a computer readout from the wearer’s temple, and allows for constant communication and threat detection during firefights, according to Miles.
Miles is passionate about giving service members in combat an edge by researching ways to optimize their sight-seeing capabilities.
“We enhance the warfighters who are out there by helping their vision get better,” Miles said. “Our studies involve that, trying to improve our outcomes.”
Miles, a native of Poulsbo, first became interested in optometry while an undergraduate at Brigham Young University in Utah.
While majoring in molecular biology, Miles visited an optometrist to undergo an eye exam. It was this visit that sparked his interest in pursuing a career in optometry and exploring the science behind human vision.
“I went and observed an optometrist during my first eye exam when I was 19 years old,” Miles said. “I thought it was really cool. I liked all the equipment and the work environment.”
In addition, optometry gave Miles a way to combine his interests in separate studies of science.
“In college, I was trying to figure out what do with my life,” Miles said. “I was interested in biology. I was interested in physics. I found optometry combined both because it has a lot do with optics [the branch of physics involving the behavior and properties of light].”
After earning his bachelor of arts degree, Miles applied and was accepted to University of California, Berkeley’s School of Optometry.
It was at a Berkeley conference on optometry schools in the West Coast where Miles first seriously considered a career in the Navy.
“My buddies and I were investigating the military as an option,” Miles said. “At this conference, I met a naval officer from San Diego. I talked to him and got enthused about it. He told us about some of the programs in the Navy.”
Miles’ encounter with the naval officer made an impression; soon afterward, he signed up for the Navy’s Health Services Collegiate Program to become an optometrist in the Navy.
Following his commissioning in 2004, Miles worked as a staff optometrist at Naval Hospital Sigonella in Italy.
In 2007, he was accepted as a student into the Naval Aerospace Medical Institute’s Aerospace Optometry program in Pensacola, Fla. Miles was the 19th person to go through the six-month program.
During his time in Pensacola, Miles helped Navy and Marine Corps pilots meet vision standards so they could fly aircraft.
“Aviators have a lot of vision standards they need to meet,” Miles said. “Their vision is very important to their job.”
After his time in the Aerospace Optometry program, Miles was assigned to the program as a staff member and taught flight surgery courses.
According to Miles, being on staff at Aerospace Optometry required awareness of the standards pilots must meet to move on to the next phase of their training.
“Part of the job was good knowledge of the standards and waiver processes,” Miles said.
Miles also administered exams, taught classes, and provided training to the pilots. His principal role was to make sure they were vision-ready.
“If they weren’t 20/20, we would investigate, and see if it was a temporary or permanent problem,” he said.
In 2011, Miles transferred to Naval Medical Center San Diegoto assume the duties of research director at the Navy Refractive Surgery Center.
Miles revealed his reaction upon learning he had been selected as the Navy’s Junior Optometrist of the Year for 2012.
“I was surprised,” Miles said. “It’s a good honor to receive. I know there are a lot of military optometrists out there. And there’s a lot of very good optometrists.”
The award is named after Freed, a retired Navy captain who made significant contributions to Navy Medicine and the profession of optometry during his career.