Alumni Focus on Bill Thomas (OD‘66)



Gallipolis, OH

Were you the first optometrist in your family?

No. My father was licensed to practice in Ohio in September 1937. We practiced together from 1967 until 1992.

Which degree(s), related to optometry, did you earn at Ohio State?

BS in Optometry, 1966

Who were your mentors at the College of Optometry? Who had a positive effect on your education?

Two mentors were Dr. Richard Hill and Dr. Fred Hebbard at Ohio State. My classmate Gerald Lowther had the most positive effect – he taught me discipline during optometry school and began my real education when he had me appointed as a clinical instructor for the Ohio State College of Optometry in 1973. The best education was being able to teach others.


Name of your employer(s) and title, including location.

Dr. William B. Thomas Optometrist, Inc. My practice is located on 346 Third Ave, Gallipolis (I have been there since 1970).

Give us a glimpse of your typical day as an optometrist.

Mostly seeing patients for vision exams and contact lens exams (including fitting gas permeable lenses), managing glaucoma patients, and other medical problems. I also co-manage patients with the local retinologist and cataract surgeon and have since developed a friendship with them. We are all surprised about the friendships, as it would not have happened 20-25 years ago! This is a benefit of the therapeutic law in Ohio and the U.S.

Tell us a special story that relates to your career now.

The story has to do with 50 years of practice and being in a practice that is nearly 80 years old! Not a day goes by without seeing a patient of 30+ years, not a week that I see one of my 40+ years. Monthly, I will see patients my dad saw in the 1940s and 1950s. In 2011, I saw a woman that had an ACTIVE record from 1939; she was 91 and had her first exam at age 19. (I held her exam forms that were done in 1939). The relationships are unmatched in any other profession.

Which optometric issues concern you the most?

The nearly overwhelming complexity of the medical care system, especially at the federal level.

Why did you choose a career in optometry?

I always thought that I would become one. My grandfather sold his farm in 1934 during the Great Depression to send my dad to Optometry school and encouraged me to do so on a regular basis. He was a rural mail carrier and a good man.

Where do you hope to see your optometric career in five years?

I would like to be working part-time seeing my loyal patients. It would also be nice to practice with a young professional OD.

What is one piece of advice you can give an OPT IV student as they prepare to graduate and begin their optometric career?

Optometry is a wonderful career that can last 50+ years. Find a mentor who can help you see ahead. Do not get bogged down in the day-to-day of your practice. Get long-term accounting, legal and financial advice and set goals for five years, 10 years, etc.


Why did you choose to attend Ohio State?

I’ve always been a Buckeye and followed Ohio State in the Columbus Dispatch since I could read. I never considered anywhere else.

What were your most memorable moments at Ohio State?

March of 1961, meeting Jerry Lucas, watching the 61-62 basketball team were standouts. Additionally, seeing the example that Johnny Johnson (who was 29 years old at the time) made for a bunch of 18-year-old boys. Finally, making close friendships with my classmates that have lasted over 50 years.

What lesson did you learn at Ohio State that has affected you the most so far in your career?

The importance of life-long learning.

What does Ohio State and the College of Optometry mean to you and your family?

They are my alma mater in the best sense of the phrase.

How do you stay connected with the College of Optometry as an alumna?

The magazine [BuckEYE] is excellent and Dean Zadnik encourages connection among alumni.


What are your current hobbies, volunteer work, interests?

I am a big fan of “motorhoming” all over the eastern U.S., especially using the motorhome to attend Ohio State football games, which I have been doing since 1977, is high on the list. I am a 52-year Mason and am very active at Morning Dawn Lodge #7 F & AM in Gallipolis. I am also a 60-year member of Grace UM Church and I am very active in the Welsh activities in the Midwest. I have made three trips to Wales and have found birthplaces of all of my great-grandparents.

If not an optometrist, I would be ...

A teacher. I teach my patients about eyes every day as well as my children and grandchildren as often as they are willing. I teach others in many other life areas as well. I try to teach Sunday school as often as possible.