Article Date: 1/1/2004

reflections THE HUMAN SIDE OF OPTOMETRY
Fate Stepped In
This doctor's bad eye sight as a boy led him to follow in his favorite doctor's footsteps.
BY JOSEPH RUSKIEWICZ,O.D., M.P.H., F.A.A.O., POTTSTOWN, PA.

Growing up in Wisconsin meant cold winters and inquisitive adults. The cold weather naturally draws people together in a friendly, helpful way, and adults would ask me what I was going to be when I grew up. As a seventh grader, I was too old to say I was going to be a cowboy and I began to realize that I needed to give some thought to a future career.

Other doctors caused pain

Being a progressive myope, I saw my optometrist on a regular basis. Maybe this was a possible career? The only other doctors I saw were the dentist and occasionally, the physician. The dentist was my least favorite. This man always seemed to find a cavity, which he would drill out without anesthesia! I would pretend I was being trained to withstand torture in case the communists ever captured me. I believe my Midwestern friendliness would fail me if I were to ever meet this man again.

As for the physician, every time I visited his office he seemed to be holding a hypodermic with my name on it. Waiting for the injection was like being asked to stand still so a wasp could get a bead on my arm for a powerful sting.

My optometrist, Dr. Sorenson, was a kindly older man who wore a crew cut with great dignity. He had a wonderful way of understanding kids and interacting with them. What was there not to like about this guy? No pain on the visits and I could see again!

Destiny presents itself as a postcard

My first indication that I had a vision problem occurred in sixth grade. Everyone else could copy assignments from the blackboard but me. After I'd suffered many headaches, my nun at Saint John Nepomuk grade school recommended an eye exam. My parents took me to Dr. Sorenson. He carefully examined my eyes with a great number of tests that measured things that I never even knew existed. Then I picked up my glasses and the fog lifted. I now had vision beyond five feet and I could see detail that I had never seen before!

What happened at my seventh grade visit to Dr. Sorenson changed my life. While waiting in the reception room, I looked around for something to read and saw a stack of postcards. They were from the American Optometric Association (AOA) and they told me to fill in my name and address in exchange for a booklet on how to become an optometrist. Soon after I mailed one in, the booklet arrived. It listed all the optometry schools in the country and included course requirements. I picked the Illinois College of Optometry and followed its course requirements through high school and undergraduate school. I applied and four years later had my optometry degree.

They made a difference

I still have that booklet after 40 years. It was my gateway to a career that continues to reward me in many ways every day. I will always feel gratitude for Dr. Sorenson and the AOA for helping me to become an optometrist.

DO YOU HAVE A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE? DISCUSS YOUR STORY WITH RENÉ LUTHE, SENIOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR OF OPTOMETRIC MANAGEMENT, AT (215) 643-8132 OR LUTHER@BOUCHER1.COM. OM OFFERS AN HONORARIUM FOR PUBLISHED SUBMISSIONS.

 



Optometric Management, Issue: January 2004