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Mirror, mirror on the wall

November 15, 2012

My father had a 20-foot exam room, and I think it worked very well for him. However, in our office we have folded exam rooms, and for us it works very well. As many of you know, that means a shorter room, and there is a large mirror on one end of the room that the patients look into to see the eye chart.

I mention this because I was thinking the other day that nearly everything I do as an optometrist can be seen in that mirror. In a way, it is a way to look into my profession – and I like what I see. What do you see in your looking glass?

Of course, there are a few warts, wrinkles and bumps that keep us from looking perfect and, yes, there are many folks working to make those blemishes go away. But, wow, there are a lot of things I see that look amazingly good. We can be very thankful about the good things in our profession.

As Thanksgiving sneaks up on us this year, let’s take a look at what we have to be thankful about in our profession. At the end of the day I would have to say that we are pretty lucky or smart to have chosen this profession.

When you look in your mirror on your exam room wall – or the mirror in your bathroom – what would you say is the very best thing about our profession? What would you put on your “I’m thankful I’m an optometrist because” list? What would be on the top of your list?

Is it that we are respected professionals and looked up to in our communities? Is it that we generally make a very nice living to support our families and loved ones? Is it that we are independent decision-makers about the care we provide? Is it because we get to visit with lots of different kinds of interesting people every time we enter our exam rooms?

Is it because we get to work with new technologies – or because we get to use our brains a lot to figure out what a patient needs? Is it because we get to be both scientists and also psychologists? How about because we get to be detectives to figure out the “case” or the “puzzle” of every patient we see (one of my favorites)? Is it because it isn’t particularly challenging physical work that doesn’t take a toll on our bodies and that we can do comfortably for many years? Is it because we get our glasses or contacts at a reduced cost? Wow, this list is getting long!

Is it because we get few emergency calls? Or because we are a leading part of a health care team and when needed we have many partners helping us provide our services? Is it because most of us can set our own schedules? Maybe it is because we have a career that allows us a very satisfying personal life?

Is it because our scope of practice has been constantly expanding and we have more and more to do? Or because the need for our care and services continues to increase? There are a lot of good things in our mirror.

I know I am thankful because we are each part of a particularly unique professional family that has an amazingly large percentage of us who voluntarily give their personal time to make our profession even better.

I think each one of those descriptions of our profession is an excellent reason to be thankful for being an optometrist, and I see every one of them when I look in my mirror. Every one of them is on my list this Thanksgiving, and every one of those reasons helps me get past the everyday stresses and challenges of my career.

But I think that long list, that very thorough list, that very impressive list, a list that makes many other occupations very jealous – misses the single very best reason. So let’s add the truly great reason to be thankful we are optometrists: Each of us, at the end of our day, in whatever role we play as optometrists, has the deep-in-our-soul satisfaction of knowing we are making this world a better place. We are helping our patients enjoy better, healthier lives; that we are caring for, improving and protecting the most highly valued gift of all our human senses – sight.

So even with our few warts, wrinkles and bumps, because of that long list, when I look in our profession’s mirror, I know we have a lot to be seriously thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Ronald Hopping, O.D., MPH
AOA president

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