By Diane Y. Welch
The eyes are truly the window to the soul, according to board certified optometrist Dr. Puneh Baha, who through 12 years of practice has diagnosed HIV patients, cancer patients, and those with diabetes and hypertension, all from her skillful eye examinations.
Even Lyme Disease and connective tissue disease may be detected in the eye, she said. When she sees the telltale indicators Baha can immediately send the patient for blood tests or an MRI to confirm the diagnosis and have them start treatment, sometimes saving lives. “This is what I truly love about what I do,” she said.
Baha reached a career goal when she opened Wink Optometry & Eyewear, located in the Albertson’s supermarket shopping center at Suites E and F, 2673 Via De La Valle in Del Mar. The store’s one-year anniversary will be celebrated in February. Some of the services offered by Baha include the diagnosis and management of ocular disease, pediatric optometry, treatment for eye infections, contact lens evaluation and fitting, expert evaluations for LASIK and cataract and glaucoma surgery, as well as routine vision checks.
The store also defines Baha’s niche for fashion with her eye-catching “Wink” brand, and up-to-date eyewear. Baha carries designer-label frames like Dior, Gucci and Fendi, and the very latest in fashion frames from famous eye couture designers, such as Loree Rodkin, and Mark Badgley and James Mischka.
Baha’s passion for optometry has its roots when, as a 9-year-old, she had her first eye examination. “When I received my first pair of glasses–even now I get chills talking about it–I could finally see the leaves on the trees. Before I wore glasses I didn’t even know that they were there. I truly thought that leaves on trees were just something I saw in coloring books. Everything appeared as a big blob,” she recalled.
A native Californian, Baha grew up in Agoura Hills. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biology at California State University, Northridge, where she conducted research on retinoblastoma, a congenital cancer of the eye. She earned her doctorate degree at the Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago, along with an additional bachelor’s degree in visual science.
Baha has served as an examiner for the National Board of Examiners in Optometry and is currently a member of the San Diego Optometric Society. She gives back to the community by volunteering at the Monarch School in San Diego, examining the eyes of underprivileged children.
It’s critical to examine children’s eyes from an early age, said Baha. “I can’t stress how important it is for children to have their eyes checked by the age of 2, if not by the age of 5. After that the eyes may become lazy with amblyopia and there is no corrective measures that we can make after the age of 7.”
Baha has been checking the eyes of her own children – she has twin boys aged 6, and a daughter aged 4 – since they were six months old. “I just gave one of my twins his first pair of glasses,” she commented.