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    Q&A: Stuart Richer OD, PhD, FAAO Chief of optometry at DVA Medical Center, North Chicago; president of Ocular Nutrition Society

    Ocular nutrition, playing the piano, and almost dying on the river

    Where did you grow up?

    New York City in the Bronx. I was born in the mid 1950s a few miles from Yankee Stadium. My dad was a CPA, and my mother was a legal secretary. I had a very fine public education in the New York City school system; at that time, a lot of City College of New York professors ended up as high school teachers. I remember particularly Dr. Troyk, my physics professor. He had a profound effect in encouraging my interest in science. I try to do that with people who are in my charge, whether they’re optometry students or whether they’re residents.

    When did you discover optometry as a career?

    I originally started out doing a broad liberal arts education at Middlebury College, then I shifted to engineering. I did what was known at the time as photo-science; I studied optics, electrical engineering, and image formation. Somewhere along my fourth year, I had my own eyes examined. I was very impressed by the optometrist, so I applied to optometry school.

    Related: Q&A: Quy Nguyen, OD Director of Career Development and Minority Enrichment at SUNY

    Why optometric education?

    Optometric education is close to my heart because mentors are very important to students. Mentors will challenge students and push them into directions they may not have considered and that are important for the public and for scientific thought and direction. Our students are saddled with tremendous debt, so fewer students are going into advanced study for Masters and PhD degrees which underlie the foundation of our discipline. They are pursuing purely clinical directions, which are important, but they often will not help grow the profession as a whole in an independent fashion. I’m for independent optometry, independent private practice, and optometrists who want to move the profession in a direction that is cooperative with other healthcare professions but independent. 

    How did you get interested in aging and nutrition?

    I was seeing patients who had macular degeneration whose vision was improving when I placed them on Theragran-M (Bristol-Myers Squibb) vitamins, sometimes a couple of lines over a relatively short period of time. That was just a wonder to me; I couldn’t figure that out. I found that I needed a background in nutritional biochemistry. Today as president of [the Ocular Nutrition Society], we’re setting up a program for optometrists to learn more nutritional biochemistry and receive certification and monetize it in their practices. They get paid for doing nutritional counseling in their practices. I’m coming full circle in my life as far as what was important to me and pass that on to the next generation.

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