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    Q&A: Rohit Sharma, OD: President, Southern Eye Specialists, Atlanta, GA

    President, Southern Eye Specialists, Atlanta, GA

    Where did you grow up?

    I grew up in Nairobi, Kenya. At age 13, I came to the United States and grew up in San Diego. I did my undergrad in northern California at Berkeley, went to Boston to do my doctorate, and moved to the Philadelphia area to practice optometry right out of school. I practiced there for five years. In 2004, I came to Atlanta and have been practicing private optometry for the majority of that.

    How did your initial VOSH experience keep you working with developing countries?

    I’ve always known the need for eye care. Growing up in Kenya, a lot of people are impoverished and have a hard time accessing healthcare. My first mission in remote Chetumal, Mexico, was a fantastic experience…the gratification you get seeing people smile. I met a lady who was 90 years old, and the glasses she had were beat up, broken, taped—she had them like that for 50 years. It was ridiculous; how come she could not get another pair of glasses? This was an injustice to its core. From then on, I dedicated myself to helping others, and that led me to a second mission. You get greater gratification helping people in that part of the world as opposed to what I do on a day-to-day basis because what we do is expected of us. When you go to other parts of the world, it’s never expected, but it’s appreciated. Just the difference puts everything in perspective.

    Previous Q&A: Q&A: Diana Canto-Sims, OD, Owner, Buena Vista Optical, Wink and Save

    Why did you return to Kenya in 2002?

    In 2002, I was working in Reading, PA. I got bit burnt out working in commercial optometry, and I was given the opportunity to work with missionaries and nongovernmental organizations. My dad was involved in running eye clinics in three different countries, and he needed help. I worked six weeks in Tanzania and two weeks in Kenya and Tanzania. It was fantastic—I was examining 350 patients a day, providing refractive prescriptions. I saw things that you can never see in the United States. You have a real appreciation for what we have and the simplicity of life. These patients will sit in a room for eight hours not complaining before they see the doctor. From a personal point of view, whatever I contributed I think I got 10 times back out of it.

    What’s something your colleagues don’t know about you?

    That I’m very passionate about what I do. I was born for optometry. The other thing my colleagues don’t know about me is I love to dance, and I love Latin music. I used to dance in the exam room between patients to learn my routine. [Laughs] Salsa is my favorite. I love hiking. One of the things on my bucket list that I accomplished on February 18, 2014, was summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro. On one of worst nights ever, we had to walk through a blizzard. Up there at 19,000 feet, the snow comes down fast; you couldn’t see 100 yards in front of you.

    Why do you come back to having a private practice?

    My family is here in Atlanta. I love business in general, and I love striving to make a profitable business by providing the best healthcare. My mission statement in my office is to provide the best eye care in the city of Atlanta in the best atmosphere possible. Every day, I strive to be better than I was the day before.

    Related: Q&A: Lori Grover, OD, PhD, FAAO, senior vice president for health policy at King-Devick Technologies, Inc.

    What are the hallmarks of excellent customer service?

    My answer to that is a smile. We forget to smile in today’s world. We forget to say thank you, we forget to say please. In my practice, we come out and greet our patients with a smile; we say hello as if it’s a family atmosphere. We treat all our patients as if they were our family. If we treat them like gold, they will remember you forever, and we have patients coming to us year after year. Our practice is celebrating 59 years, and I’m the third OD to take over.



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