Article Date: 6/1/2010

Top of The Chops
reflections
THE HUMAN SIDE OF OPTOMETRY

Top of The Chops

Optometry has enabled me to pursue music.

ELLIOTT J. CAINE, O.D., LOS ANGELES

When I attended college I knew I wanted to become a full-time trumpet player, though I also knew that making a living on music alone would be a challenge. Because I excelled at Science, found the eyes interesting and learned that optometrists made a good living and had flexible hours (enabling me to continue to pursue music), I decided to become one. Little did I know, however, that pursuing an optometric degree would transform me from a very na�ve, straight-laced Jewish boy into a jazzbo.

Discovering jazz

After one semester at Indiana University as a pre-med student, I discovered jazz by checking out the dorm library's records, which consisted of recordings made by trumpeters, such as Miles Davis and Clifford Brown. I also, by chance, saw a local jazz quintet led by IU jazz music professor, David Baker. Soon, I devoured every Miles Davis, Clifford Brown. Charlie "Bird" Parker, Fats Navarro, Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk record I could get my hands on, and I practiced my trumpet fervently.

The year before I entered the Indiana University School of Optometry, I started playing jazz semiprofessionally, and I continued balancing academics with music for the next four years.

Gigging around

When I graduated from optometry school, I moved to Los Angeles. Since Los Angeles is the entertainment capital of the United States, I thought it would be an ideal place to continue to pursue a music career while finding part-time O.D. work to make ends meet. My plan worked.

Through several years, I worked for various eyecare practitioners and institutions. When I wasn't flipping phoropter dials, fitting contact lenses or prescribing prescribing medications for various conditions, I was pushing trumpet valves in various bands. I started out in several "garage" bands. Then, I played with an array of Latin bands — stylistically varying from Cuban, Puerto Rican (Salsa) and Mexican (Ranchera) to Central American, Colombian (Cumbia) Bolivian, Brazilian and more. Incidentally, I was already fluent in Spanish — having done my optometry externship in Mexico City. This definitely helped me in the "Latin" phase of my music career as well as in my optometry career.

Soon, I toured Japan with the "ska" band, Jump With Joey, and worked with the Beastie Boys, Beck, Bobby Matos and the Solsonics, among others.

Most recently I've begun concentrating on my own jazz group and have thus far recorded and released three CDs (www.myspace.com/elliottcaine).

Dr. Caine now has his own jazz group, which has thus far recorded and released three CDs.

Practice "combo"

Out of a desire to be my own boss, I recently opened my first private practice in Los Angeles. My music career has helped with this endeavor, as several of my patients are Spanish-speaking and/or are musicians I've gotten to know through the industry.

One of the reasons I think the musicians have become my patients is because they know that as a musician myself, I'm aware that many don't read music at the typical 16 inches, (it can be considerably further depending on their instrument), so I ensure very accurate near testing.

Another reason: I may be the only O.D. in town who plays Miles Davis and the like throughout the office. OM


DO YOU HAVE A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE? DISCUSS YOUR STORY WITH JENNIFER KIRBY, SENIOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR OF OPTOMETRIC MANAGEMENT, AT (215) 628-6595, OR JEN.KIRBY@WOLTERSKLUWER.COM. OM OFFERS AN HONORARIUM FOR PUBLISHED SUBMISSIONS.

Optometric Management, Issue: June 2010