Training for the NFL and Other Insights from My Dad

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I went into optometry because of my dad, Henry Makini, OD. As a child, I wanted to be a doctor like he was, although my understanding of his job was just that he went into an office every day and helped people. I developed a deeper appreciation of his role in high school when I was required to shadow a professional and, of course, chose my dad. That day, I got to help give glasses to a cute little three-year-old who never had glasses before. The first thing he did was look at his mom and say, “Mommy, you're beautiful.” From that moment, I knew this is what I wanted to do. 

I began my journey into optometry armed with the experience of working in my dad’s practice in virtually every role through optician, as well as the guidance of a man who has spent more than 35 years finetuning his craft. Today, as a practicing OD, optometry professor, and executive director at Student Optometry Leadership Network (SOLN), I’m proud to say that I am carrying on my father’s legacy of improving patients’ lives through vision care. 

My dad has given me lots of great advice over the years, but one message really resonated with me, especially given my interest in helping children. With all his experience treating kids and his knowledge of the connection between vision and learning, my dad explained it like this: School for kids is like training camp for an NFL player; it’s the prep for their future and their decisions about what they want their future to be. And the connection between vision and success in school is huge.

With back-to-school season upon us, I find it especially timely to remind parents of that connection. I explain to them that an eye exam goes far beyond checking whether a child can read a chart. We ensure the child’s eyes are lined up the way they should be and ask whether they’re having issues when doing a lot of reading up close, writing, or when looking across the classroom at the board. If a child is struggling in school or having trouble paying attention, I explain that it could be due to something in their body—vision, hearing, balance—and, as part of the child’s healthcare team, it’s my job to investigate those things. I’ve had a patient go from getting Ds to As because of a simple prescription change! Like my dad said, we as optometrists have an important role in preparing kids for “training camp” so they can succeed in school and beyond.  

VSP does a great job of amplifying this message to parents and caretakers, reinforcing the connection between eye health and success in school. It’s one of the many ways they support private practice optometry—something I first experienced as a child in my dad’s practice, then as an optometry student, and now as a practicing OD in a Premier Edge practice. From financial and career support for students, to educational/CE opportunities for ODs, to rebates, discounts, and marketing resources to save practices money and attract patients, VSP supports us at every step of our journey and continues to be an integral player on my team. 

As Eye See It, I am so fortunate to have the practical experience of growing up in my dad’s optometric practice. That, coupled with my education, was my “training camp.” Now I’m ready for the pros, and as I carve my own path, I look forward to winning the game!

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