By Maren Barney (UNLV School of Integrated Health Sciences Communications office)
Most people diagnosed with color blindness typically struggle with Deutan color blindness, red-green color blindness that makes up approximately 80% of all color blindness cases. The other common diagnosis is Protan Color Blindness which generally causes the eyes to have trouble differentiating between red and green. Doctor Van Whaley (Doc Doc), a professor at UNLV at the School of Integrated Health Sciences was born with genetic eye issues. After enduring several surgeries, Doc Doc was diagnosed as being Monochromatic. This makes Doc Doc's color blindness case extremely rare and means he can see no color. His world consists of different shades of grey, ranging from black to white.
During the Pandemic, Doc Doc was teaching online when his students noticed that he was using a red highlighter over the top of red muscles during his lecture. This sparked a class conversation, which Doc Doc described as a bit embarrassing until he decided to embrace it and ask for help if necessary from his students. Doc Doc's students embraced his diagnosis and took it upon themselves with support from Professor Lauren Dickey to jump through a series of hoops. These hoops included going to the Dean's office and the Provost's office for permission to conduct a unique fundraiser. The group purchased a pair of Enchroma Color Blind Glasses that allow people who struggle with color blindness to see color. Doc Doc did not know about this fundraiser or that the group had successfully raised five hundred dollars in an attempt to change his life forever. Doctor Whaley was shocked and completely overwhelmed when Professor Dickey presented him with a plaque, the fundraised money, and notes of admiration from his students.
After purchasing the glasses custom-designed with his prescription, Doc Doc exclaimed that "these glasses have changed my life; I've gone back to pictures. My students have been so happy and supportive and have sent me emails of their favorite pictures." Doctor Whaley was overcome with emotions, going as far as expressing, "Not only have the glasses changed my life, but the fact that during the Pandemic other people spent their money on me has been one of the most touching things. It's changed me as well. Not only has my vision changed, but I am so appreciative that other people thought of me, did this on their own, and even had to jump through hoops and get it approved. Doc Doc did share what could be considered one negative outcome resulting from this life-altering gift, "I hate going to sleep now because I have to take my glasses off."