THE HUMAN SIDE OF OPTOMETRY
A Grateful Thread
A veteran's visit made this O.D. reflect on the common thread of gratitude that links us all together.
BY DENNIS J. LIGHT, O.D., COLORADO SPRINGS
"In 42 years I have never had anyone show so much concern and care for my right eye. Thank you."
These words, from a veteran, brought me a great sense of pride and satisfaction, but I quickly realized that I didn't deserve them. Those thanks belonged to two of my mentors, Drs. William Schuller and Robert Newcomb, and to the veteran himself.
PHOTO BY NICK VEDROS & ASSOC.
It started with my teachers
After my graduation from The Ohio State University College of Optometry, I completed a one-year residency in hospital-based optometry with the Department of Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic in Columbus and the medical center in Chillicothe, Ohio. During this time, I learned a great deal about optometry from Drs. Schuller and Newcomb, but they also taught me about the sacrifices our nation's veterans have made, and to repay them by providing the highest quality eye care with the deepest respect.
Serving those who served
The veteran who thanked me had seen me for an exam, and the eye he had referred to was a prosthetic. He had lost his eye in an accident soon after the Korean War. The prosthetic was a remarkable fit and it was in surprisingly good shape considering it was 42 years old. But his socket had a mild infection and a good deal of matter and crusting had accumulated on the prosthetic surface. I removed his prosthetic and gave it a thorough cleaning. I also cleaned his eyelashes and socket, prescribed an antibiotic for the infection and discussed the importance of hygiene while handling his prosthetic.
"Nobody has bothered to even look at my eye or my socket during my last several exams [performed outside of the VA]," he remarked. But I knew of two doctors who would have. Dr. Schuller had a gruff reputation, but he demanded your best effort, as he always gave his. He was the first doctor I saw remove a prosthesis and care for an eye socket. Frankly, it was a little disgusting because it too had been infected. He never flinched, and later stressed to me how important it was to "do the right thing and give your very best care to our veterans."
Dr. Newcomb also had a passion for serving. His enthusiasm for learning and his willingness to go the extra mile were contagious. These two men not only shaped my knowledge, but my attitude as well. They were the ones who deserved this veteran's thanks because they had trained me to care.
And the veteran himself deserved my thanks for his service to our country. I see patients daily who have made sacrifices for our benefit in ways that we can only imagine. One man was a prisoner of war for 33 months. He weighed only 80 pounds at the time of his release. A woman in the armed service shared the hardship of missing her daughter's birthday while she was serving in Turkey. Is it too much to ask to "serve those who have served" to the very best of our ability?
Recognizing a debt
Our lives are better because of the sacrifices of our teachers who invested their time and energy in us, and our veterans who provide and protect our freedoms. They are deserving of our thanks, our best efforts and our best care.
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LUTHE, SENIOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR OF OPTOMETRIC MANAGEMENT, AT (215) 643-8132 OR LUTHER@BOUCHER1.COM. OM OFFERS AN HONORARIUM FOR
Optometric Management, Issue: March 2004