How I Became an Optometrist

I’ve had many jobs in my life… I’ve worked in fast-food places, I was a pool cleaner, I’ve worked in a bank and a credit union, etc. Eventually I was a pastor for a long time, and now I teach music and play it, and somehow get to make a living at that. But today, a new career path opened for me. Today I became an optometrist.

At our medical clinic today, I not only got to be the pharmacy gopher again (one of my favorite jobs so far), but I somehow ended up being the guy who gave people reading glasses. We have a box full of reading glasses in various strengths, and when a person says they need glasses, or they’re having trouble seeing or trouble reading, we bring them to the “eye doctor.” Today, that was me.

My diagnosis and dispensing system isn’t complicated. It’s a technique I’ve carefully developed over a long period of time; like,  about 10 minutes. The person sits down, and hopefully a translator comes along with them. I make sure they understand the glasses are for reading only, and not for driving (because we don’t need the Kampala streets to be any crazier than they already are, with people trying to drive wearing reading glasses). Then I pick out a pair (usually a cool pair, in my opinion), and ask them to read something. We try another pair a little weaker, and maybe another pair a little stronger, until we narrow down the best pair for them (given what we have on hand, of course).

But I need to point out that I never once referred to myself as a doctor. I was just the guy handing out glasses. However, our team leader Sherry has a way of promoting people, so when she asked a woman, “Can I take your picture with the eye doctor,” and I realized we didn’t actually have an eye doctor, I figured out that must be me. On our team, anyone can be an eye doctor.

It was a great day today – we saw a lot of people and were able to help with a lot of medical needs. We were even able to send a woman to the hospital to get help for a life-threatening HIV/malaria problem, and help with the costs. In some ways it’s becoming routine, but by that I mean, it’s becoming efficient. It feels like we’re starting to know what we’re doing.

Of course, I have no idea what all we did at the clinic today, because being an optometrist is hard work and requires a lot of focus (HA).

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