r. Julie Lam shadowed an optometrist as a youngster, and one thing struck her: Patients aren’t afraid to see their eye doctor.
“I’m a people person, and that fits with the profession,” Lam said. “I communicate with people. It’s a rewarding profession, and that was my goal.”
In 2013, Lam founded Eye Care North in Cave Creek to treat patients like her grandfather, who suffered from eye disease. She specializes in ocular disease management, dry eye treatment and Neurovisual Medicine.
Lam is the only optometrist in Arizona currently practicing Neurovisual Medicine. As a consequence, many patients travel a distance, including from outside the state, to see her.
“Neurovisual Medicine is a new subspecialty,” she said. “It helps people who have misalignment of the eye muscles. On a routine exam, when you get your regular eye exam, it might not be detected. Most people have compensated for it, but when you’re constantly doing it all day long, every day, it can cause dizziness, headache, nausea and anxiety.”
Many patients who suffer from those symptoms get frustrated due to lack of a proper diagnosis. Lam treats that with glasses with prism, and she has had up to 90% to 100% improvement in people who have gone through a gamut of specialists.
“Most people are familiar with prism,” she explained. “What we work with is microprism, which is a lot more accurate with smaller increments. It’s a different technique than what we were taught traditionally in optometry school. I like doing this type of treatment. It’s integrative, as we work with different specialists. You have to look at the whole picture—balance and how the ears play a role with how we see as well.”
Born in San Diego, Lam moved to North Scottsdale in middle school. She attended ASU, where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree and graduated Summa Cum Laude. At the Southern California College of Optometry in Fullerton, California, she earned her Doctor of Optometry degree and was also awarded honors for academic excellence. She studied optometry in California because, at the time, Arizona colleges didn’t offer the field of study.
Lam completed externships at the Center for the Partially Sighted in Los Angeles, Hu Hu Kam Memorial Hospital in Sacaton and Southern Arizona Veterans Hospital in Tucson.
Following college graduation, Lam returned to the Grand Canyon State—right in the heart of the recession.
“That was challenging, because there weren’t too many job opportunities,” she said. “I was lucky enough to find a job filling in at first at retail places like Walmart and Costco.”
She then landed a position at a large medical clinic in Sun City, where she was inspired to work with geriatric patients. There she treated and managed complex eye diseases such as macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.
When it came time to open her own practice, she found the perfect spot in a former yogurt shop.
“We started from scratch,” she said. “It was all orange. We had to tear down the dispensers and things. My dad did the buildout. That’s why I wanted to have my own practice. My parents have always been self-employed. That was set in my head since I was young.
“We really like our patients in Cave Creek. We get a broad range from young to old.”
At Eye Care North, Lam and her husband, Bryan Barber, created Cave Creek Eyewear with frames named after hotspots around town—Foothills Food Bank (to benefit the nonprofit), local schools, hiking trails and streets.
“We tried to get creative with it,” she said. “My husband and I, when we were creating the line, went around town and took photos of the frames with their namesakes. We hiked up to the top of Black Mountain and took photos, too. The patients have really liked the frames.”