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Why Optometry?

By Dr Janelle J. Brown, OD

As a patient of Dr. Bryan Stoller’s for years, I was always interested in how the instruments in the office worked, what he was looking for in my eyes, and how he determined the correct eyeglasses prescription. When he allowed me to job shadow during high school, I thoroughly enjoyed witnessing his interactions with patients, how he educated about ocular conditions, and prescribed medications or eyewear to solve their concerns. It was a job I could see myself enjoying as I love interacting one-on-one with others, am a patient listener, and enjoy solving problems.

As I set off to college with a pre-optometry major in mind, the liberal arts curriculum at Augustana College urged me to reflect on my career choice and if it was in line with the way I wanted to live my life. They used the word “vocation” to describe a career chosen with the considerations of both my unique talents and the needs of the community in mind. Still, optometry fit this criterion as a way I could serve my home community as well as perform a job I felt passionately about.

Then came the real deal: optometry school at Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago. Between the tough classes, challenging practicals, and demanding clinical schedule, it would be impossible to graduate without a true love of optometry and a desire to serve others. Here, I was thrilled to learn about the challenges & variety that optometry offers.

To date, I’ve seen thousands of patients ranging in ages from 6 months to 102 years of age in Pediatric, Contact Lens, Advanced Care, Veteran’s Hospital, Low Vision, Developmental Disability, and Primary Care settings. These patients vary greatly in socioeconomic status, race, religion, and mental capabilities, yet I get the unique opportunity to care for each individual’s eye health. Having the opportunity to manage conditions ranging from cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma, binocular vision problems, corneal ulcers, and others while performing routine health and refractive services keeps the workday busy and full of surprises.

Since graduating in May as a doctor of optometry, the question has turned into, “Why Pontiac & Fairbury?”

The simple answer is the people. Patients here are so cooperative, kind, and appreciative. It is a true pleasure to converse and develop a relationship with each of my patients. Similarly, the staff at Pontiac Family Eye Care & Fairbury Vision Center is second to none. The employees here are dedicated, extremely knowledgeable, and truly care about the patients we serve. The same goes for my colleagues Dr. Coady, Dr. Stoller, and Dr. Radford who are excellent role models of professionalism, compassion, and intelligence. They continue to keep the practices equipped with the latest technology allowing us to make early diagnoses and manage complex conditions. Furthermore, the rural setting allows me to practice full-scope optometry, only referring conditions that need further testing or surgical treatment by a specialist. Most patients can be cared for and monitored locally, allowing me the challenge and variety of managing difficult cases.

At the end of each work day, I come home exhausted, but happy. It’s the best feeling imaginable to spend your day chatting with “friends”, offering advice, and impacting lives in small or large ways. I know I’ve found my calling as an optometrist because it really doesn’t feel like work at all.

Dr Janelle J Brown is a new Associate Optometrist at Pontiac Family Eye Care and Fairbury Vision Center