I went to school in Jyväskylä, a small Finnish town where the oldestFinnish Girls' School brought up girls to become academic citizens and good housewives. We had an extra year in child care, music, home economics etc., all of whichhas been very helpful in my work with young children.
Quite early in life, at about 14-15 years of age, I decided to become an eye doctor,because they could - those days - have their offices at home and could restrict theirworking day to a few hours, so there would be plenty of time for my own and my extendedfamily.
To get a residency at the Eye Hospital required a thesis, mine was in experimentalfluorescein angiography after which I left with my husband to Baltimore without knowingthat I had been offered a fellowship at Wilmer Institute. This important letter waslost in mail. I had a laboratory waiting when we arrived, had wrong visa and waspregnant in 3rd month but could not resist the temptation to create the first clinicalfluorescein angiographic laboratory and spent two rewarding year as Dr. Maumenee'sfellow, having the privilege of being the only fellow he ever had.
Fluorescein angiographic studies often investigate retinal problems that causevisual impairment. At Wilmer patients were seen by Louise Sloan before I was allowedto ruin their vision for the rest of the day. Quite often I had to run down to LowVision Clinic to plan my day and sometimes waited there to get a patient with meupstairs. Louise was kind enough to give special tutoring in visual field testing,visual adaptation and low vision devices.
When we returned home 1969 and I started my residency the following year, I didnot find any Low Vision Clinic at the Eye Hospital. I started to fit high plus lensesand other devices without any previous experience and with help from a good opticiansoon became a "low vision expert". In 1976 I was asked to start the firstLow Vision Clinic in Finland, at the Finnish Association of the Visually Impaired.I run it until 1979 when our research work on visual deprivation and the Nordic StaffTraining Centre for Deaf-Blind Services required all my time.
The experimental work with my late husband, Juhani Hyvärinen, on monkeysdemonstrated the importance of early use of vision, otherwise tactile and other modalitieswill take over the structures that normally use vision. It is the foundation on whichI build our present work in early intervention.
Work at the Low Vision Clinic showed how poorly designed most pediatric visiontests were. With the help of the Dept. Psychology, Prof. Veijo Virsu's group, I startedto design tests, first visual acuity tests, then contrast sensitivity tests and latera color vision test, that would also function in the assessment of abnormal vision.This work started in 1976 and has produced some 30 tests for pediatric examinationsand half a dozen for occupational health services. At present the tests that we developtoward clinical tests, are flicker sensitivity and motion sensitivity testing.
Over the years international contacts have increased, interest in early interventionand team work in it has been steadily growing. I teach now a third of my workingtime and use all my spare time to develop teaching materials, mostly in pediatriclow vision but also in vision screening and vision testing at home.
A lot of time is also used in further technical development of tests. Some daysI feel myself more like an industrial designer and teacher than an ophthalmologist.This work with disabled persons from different cultures has been - and will be -most rewarding.
My work as one of the members of our Vision Group, an interdisciplinary groupof research workers in psychophysics, physiology and psychology of vision, supportedby Finland's Academy, has been another fascinating collaborative effort.
I balance the long days at my desk by working on the veranda as often as the weatherpermits and by doing most of the gardening myself during the nightless nights ofour summers.