What did you want to be when you grew up? A firefighter? A ballerina? A magician? It’s probably safe to say that the majority of us didn’t dream of a career in optical when we were children. But the lucky few? They knew. From family legacies to doctors who made a real impression, we’ve rounded up just a few eyecare professionals who remember the exact moment they knew this is what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives. It just goes to show: You could be influencing the lives of your young patients for the long-term beyond the gift of sight. Perhaps you’ll leave them with the gift of purpose.
This article originally appeared in the May 2016 edition of INVISION.
Eye Guys for Generations
Zachary Moscot, Moscot Eyewear, New York, NY
“Since I was a boy, I knew I wanted to be a part of the club — our family business — but I didn’t want to be an optician or a doctor. I wanted to participate in a way that was true to myself and my interests. The Moscot generations before me were ‘eyes guys.’ First generation Hyman was an optician, as were second generation Sol and third generation Joel. My father and fourth generation, Harvey, is an optometrist. In high school, I was interested in art, design, fashion and technology, and spent a lot of time in the art studio. Growing up a Moscot, I wanted to help evolve the brand and story but it was entering college when I had my ‘Aha!’ moment. I realized I could do something I was passionate about, didn’t directly deal with eyeballs and still placed me at the center of our family business. I spent my college years in the studio pursuing a degree in design with a focus on eyewear. Today, I am the brand’s chief eyewear designer and oversee all creative designs for the company, as well as help develop strategy and goals, alongside my father.
A Carrot, Not a Stick
Texas Smith, OD, Dr. Texas L. Smith & Assoc., Citrus Heights, CA
“I’ve had a high cylinder Rx (3 dptr. cyl) since kindergarten. Over the years my family optometrist (who went to high school with my parents) was asking how I was doing in high school. I told him that I was doing well in math and science, and he suggested that I look into optometry. That’s when I decided to become an OD. The rest is history. I have been in practice since 1965 and when examining a middle school or high school patient who shows interest in my work, I give them info on becoming an OD plus a packet of carrot seeds in case they don’t wear their Rx.”
Making Dad Proud
Jessica Prather, Eyes on Camp Bowie, Fort Worth, TX
“My dad was an optician who ran his own shop and the plan was for me to take over for one day. He got ill and ended up having to close his shop. He passed away when I was 15, and I knew after that I wanted to follow in his footsteps and make him proud. I started working in a small local lab the next summer (the owner was friends with my dad) and then moved to the retail side of the industry a few years after I graduated high school. Eighteen years later, I am the lead optician and optical manager. I love what I get to do every day and I think my dad would be proud of what I have accomplished!”
Just Like Magic
Ann Marie Gallagher, OD, Professional Vision of Ellicott City, Ellicott City, MD
“I knew that I wanted to be an optometrist when I had my first eye examination at age 11. I remember being fascinated by the phoria testing. It seemed like magic! It was also very clear that my doctor, Benjamin Hendin, OD, absolutely loved what he was doing. What could be better? I have worked in this practice for 20 years and just acquired it.”
A Little Bit of Everything
Kathy Maren, Combs EyeCare & EyeWear, Western Springs, IL
“I had started working as a receptionist for an optometrist at 16 while still in high school. He had a practice in a nearby town and started a second, which is where I worked. Back then, the doctor did everything. There were no pre-testers or opticians, but being a doctor ahead of his time, he thought that if he trained me in frame selections and pre-testing, he could see two patients an hour instead of just one. In the beginning, I was answering phones, pre-testing, doing contact lens insertion and removal training and frame selections with patients after he finished their exam. When we got busier, I hired a new receptionist and continued as both his tech and optician. He went on to start an associate degree program for ophthalmic technicians at the local community college and I helped teach adjustments, Rx transpositions, etc. I continued to work for Dr. Jordon Beller (pictured above) for seven years until I had my children and went back to work for him when they got older. I worked with him until his retirement in 2002. I stayed there until 2013, when I moved to the practice where I currently work. I still love and enjoy my career choice. He taught me a passion for what I do. I can’t ever imagine doing anything else.”
Astrid Chitamun, European Optical, Laguna Beach, CA
“My dad would bring home eyewear from his optical shop when I was 8 years old and teach me how to warm the frame over the stovetop to properly straighten them. At 14, I was running his second store, a sunglass shop in the next town, selling high-end sunglasses over the less expensive brands, convincing clients that best quality would always outlast inferior quality. He’d pick me up at the end of the day, and when I told him how much I sold, he would be so excited that his daughter was not only a great saleswoman but was learning the family business. When I was 24, I decided to study for my optical degree and work full time with my dad. Twenty-two years later, I’m now the owner of the family optical business in the same location since 1974.”
Pretty Cool Landing
Joseph Smay, OD, Family Eye Care, Pittsburgh, PA
“When I was a kid, I had dreams of going to the U.S. Air Force Academy and becoming a fighter pilot. When I was diagnosed as myopic at age 8, that dream disappeared since you had to have 20/20 uncorrected vision. I went to my local optometrist and thought, “This is pretty cool too!” I knew by age 10 or so that I wanted to be an OD. In fact, I did a whole presentation on the profession using an overhead projector in eighth grade!”