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    Q&A: Justin Schweitzer OD, FAAO—Cataract, cornea, refractive, and glaucoma surgery specialist

    Ocular disease, Australian licorice, and running 36 miles in 24 hours


    How did Intrepid Eye Society get started?

    When I joined Vance Thompson Vision, I wanted to get a group of optometrists together who were interested in research, interested in integrated care, and interested in educating our colleagues who had a passion for providing lectures and articles and doing research. I reached out to colleagues who gave me ideas about other colleagues they thought would be good for the idea, and it spiraled from there. A group of 18 of us came together and have been together for a little over two years, and we share ideas, have an annual meeting, and talk about ways we can continue to move our profession forward. We do it through continuing education lectures that a lot of us provide, writing articles, doing research, and collaborating together.

    Why is a professional group like Intrepid Eye Society important to optometry?

    One reason it’s important is to make sure that we continue to have our voice talking about collaboration between optometry and ophthalmology. One of our mission statements is the medical model. A lot of us work in practices that are medically oriented, and we have an opportunity to speak about that. A lot of our members are speaking at large national optometry meetings, so they have a voice to talk about the medical model, which I think is so important in optometry, and speak about collaboration. A lot of our members are future leaders of optometry. They are passionate about where the profession is moving, and they want to be at the forefront of it and the forefront of technology. Although it’s a small group right now, I think it’s a motivated group that can continue to move our profession forward.

    How do you integrate your private and your professional lives?

    It is not easy. But when you’re passionate about something—I’m passionate about my family and my profession—you learn to prioritize and balance. I use early mornings to get some work done. I do my clinic day, and I try to reserve evenings after work to spend with my family. So, I prioritize times throughout the day when I’m going to do work and I prioritize times when I’m going to spend time with my family. I feel like if I’m organized in that way, I’ll do it. If I don’t prioritize and don’t have a set schedule, one or the other is going to suffer, and to me that’s just not acceptable. It’s hard for me to say “no” to things. It might take me getting up an hour earlier, it may take me staying up an hour later at night when the family’s in bed. Sometimes, it’s just that sacrifice of a little bit of sleep.

    Related: Chris Lievens, OD, MS, FAAO—Chief of Internal Clinics at The Eye Center, Southern College of Optometry

    Do you have any regrets?

    One regret looking back is when I was finishing up optometry school, trying to make a decision on whether or not I should go right into private practice or do a residency right out of school. I look back now and wish I would have done a residency then. At the time, you don’t know exactly what your passion is—I knew it was optometry, but I didn’t know it was ocular disease. I think I would have found out that this is what I love to do. I just didn’t know it then. I think an ocular disease residency would have shown it to me immediately. It took me being in private practice to show me.

    What one thing about optometry would you change?

    I love our profession. Nothing comes to mind. I mean, I think there are so many different avenues you can take in this profession, whether you want to be on the commercial side, you want to be in industry, you want to be in an OD/MD integrated care practice, or you want to be in private practice. I’m proud of our profession because we’re continuing to move forward whether it’s at the national level or the regional or state levels. So, I’m not answering your question the way you wanted [laughs], but I don’t have a lot of things I would change right now. I like our profession, I’m proud of it. It gives opportunities to people in different ways, and students coming out can do whatever they want to do in a practice setting they want to be in.

    What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

    Ugh, gosh. I’m not a crazy guy. I don’t do crazy things! [Laughs] It’s probably crazy. I’m a distance runner, so I did a 200-mile Ragnar Relay with a six-person team instead of a 12-person team. Instead of doing it to enjoy ourselves, we wanted to race it—and we did win. I wound up doing about 36 miles within a 24-hour period with zero rest. We did the Great River Ragnar Relay in Minneapolis. My first leg was 16 miles, then five runners went, then I did 11 miles, then five runners went, and then I did 13 more miles. The crazy part about it is you didn’t sleep, and it was 200 miles overnight. We raced it, so for me I was running a six-minute pace per mile for each one of those miles. It wasn’t like, “Hey, let’s go out for an easy walk or jog,” it was go hard the whole time.

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