My whole career I have felt like my true calling was to become the “old guy in the clinic.” I don’t know of any optometrist who made it through school without having a dozen stories about the old guy in the clinic. My classmates (PCO 1979) would love to spend a couple hours regaling you with tales about Dr. Hooten, or “Rybie,” and many, many others. We loved, and still love, those fine gentlemen who, through experience, knew more than anyone about the most important thing in optometry—the patients. 

The funny thing is, they were probably younger than I am right now when I was calling them the “old guys.”

Here’s a good one: After a particularly disastrous outcome on a test, Rybie called me into his office and asked, “Vickers, what are you going to do when you leave PCO?” My proud answer? “Be an eye doctor in West Virginia.” He looked right at me and said, “No, really.” Maybe I needed a little less Monty Python and a little more studying?  

But here I am, carrying forth the old guy tradition as the “old junior associate in the practice.” Cool. 

Take the Good with the Bad

There are pros and cons to being the old guy in the clinic:  

Pro: The younger doctors ask you for your advice on complex cases.

Con: You have to Google corneal hysteresis.

Pro: Staff think you’re wonderful.

Con: That’s why they ask, “Do you feel OK?” everyday. Right?

Pro: You can handle the angriest patients with the greatest of ease.

Con: They schedule you all the angry patients. 

Pro: You have a great work ethic.

Con: They want you to work every Saturday.  

Pro: You look awesome all dressed up in your doctor clothes.

Con: They want you to wear a fluorescent golf shirt. 

Pro: Staff understand when you take four bathroom breaks a day. 

Con: Each break is 15 minutes. 

Pro: You get to work with young, energetic people.

Con: You have to work with young, energetic people. 

Pro: You can help young partners make good equipment choices. 

Con: You just assume they want a Shiotz tonometer.

Pro: You have in vivo experience with multifocal contact lenses.

Con: You can’t drive in them either. 

Pro: Your children don’t want you to work so hard. 

Con: Your children don’t want to pay your bills either.

Pro: You confidently refer cataract patients to the best surgeons. 

Con: While you’re at it, you also refer yourself.

Pro: You enjoy a long, productive marriage. 

Con: You kind of thought she’d catch on and hit the trail by now. 

Pro: You can prescribe the most advanced meds to help patients. 

Con: You still prescribe chloramphenicol and pilocarpine. 

Pro: You have time to attend advanced CE courses.

Con: What the hell are they talking about?

Pro: You remember a lifetime of ophthalmic information.

Con: You forget to zip your fly.

I love being the old guy in the clinic, and I plan to stay at it. Remember, my wife never caught on. The young practice owners probably won’t either!