The Right Career Choice

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School aptitude tests in the fifth grade determined I should either become an FBI agent or an optometrist when I grew up. Both sounded like cool jobs to me, but I really liked going to the optometrist and seeing all their equipment. So, I decided in the fifth grade, that I would pursue a career in optometry.

Serving My Country and My Community
Following high school, I got an ROTC scholarship to Kansas State University. After graduation, I served in the Army for five years on active duty and four years in the National Guard while I was going to optometry school. I left active duty after serving in Desert Storm to go into private practice, remaining in the US Army Reserves until I retired at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

I chose private practice because I liked being my own boss and having the freedom to make decisions that would make my practice successful. My main goal was to deliver top-notch care to my patients and the people in my community, and I feel like I’ve done that. Over the past 25 years, I’ve continually enhanced my practice, ensuring we stay on the cutting edge of technology and advancements in the field. And I’m actively involved in my community, providing free eye exams to those in need through the Lions Club.

COVID-19 presented a new opportunity to serve the community. Because our practice is 50 percent medically based, we never closed completely like the other practices in town and in neighboring communities. During the Shelter in Place mandate, we were able to help people from miles away who had eye injuries, broken glasses, or any type of eye care emergency. One young man with a piece of metal in his eye drove several hours to our practice after seeking care for two days. It's pretty rewarding to relieve somebody's pain and get them healed up so they can have a normal life and be able to go to sleep at night. And, like the Army patients I treated while in the service and the recipients of the free Lions Club eye exams, the people we have helped during COVID-19 have been so appreciative of our care.

A Partnership
Last month, we received a VSP Global COVID-19 Patient Care Program grant, which was created to thank doctors for taking care of their patients during this difficult time and to help offset some of the expenses resulting from the pandemic. This grant exemplifies the partnership we have had with VSP since the beginning. Coming from a family of CPAs, I understand the importance of maximizing a profit, and partnering with VSP and participating in the Premier Program has allowed us to work smarter. From the savings we offer our patients on frames and lenses, to the expedited service we receive from our VSPOne Lab, to the partnerships with vendors like CareCredit and Maui Jim, our relationship with VSP has benefited our practice significantly.

The Important Role We Play
As Doctors of Optometry, we play a vital role in the health and livelihood of our patients. I have had too many experiences where a patient has waited too long for care and comes in when it is too late to address a chronic condition. Just last week a truck driver from out of state came into my office because he thought his new glasses weren’t working and he wasn’t able to drive back home. It turned out that he had a severe diabetic retinopathy with retinal detachment, neovascularization, vitreous, bleeds, and scarring. It was terribly sad to tell him he was not going to be a truck driver anymore and may in fact be permanently blind. I have a lot of compassion for my patients and it’s really sad when they don’t seek out care that they need. In our practice, we have advanced testing with our Zeiss Clarus 500 wide-angle camera and our Zeiss Cirrus HD-OCT with optical coherence tomography, so we’re able to screen and detect conditions like glaucoma and diabetes, respectively. Providing this care could save someone’s life.

The Future
I am very optimistic about the future of my practice and our profession. When I graduated from optometry school, state laws were very limited regarding full scope optometry. Over the years, our roles have expanded and technology has continued to evolve, revolutionizing how we provide care. As I see it, a career as an FBI agent probably would have been pretty exciting. But there is nothing more rewarding than providing care for others in the way that my career in optometry has allowed me to do.

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