Alumni Focus on Eric Stocker (OD/MS’82)
DR. STOCKER'S STORY
Which institution did you attend for your undergraduate degree? What was your major?
The Ohio State University. My major was Chemical Engineering, but then I switched to Pre-Optometry. I got accepted into the College of Optometry after my sophomore year and never got a Bachelor's Degree.
Which degree(s), related to optometry, did you earn at Ohio State?
OD/MS'82. I was in the Opt 7 program.
Who were your mentors at the College of Optometry? Who had a positive effect on your education?
John Schoessler was my advisor for my Master's degree. All of my professors were influential in my career. Since a lot of my career has been focused on the clinical applications of contact lenses, Drs. Hill, Scheossler, Andrasko, and Barr were very influential.
DR. STOCKER'S CAREER IN OPTOMETRY
Name of your employer(s) and title, including location.
I've been self employed in a small group, and now individual private practice in Amherst, Ohio for 30 years. I also have supervised the Contact Lens Clinic at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center for 36 years.
Give us a glimpse of your typical day as an optometrist.
What I love about my private practice is that there is no such thing as a typical day. I might have an infant with concerned parents followed by a 90-year-old with macular degeneration and dry eyes. I enjoy co-managing post-surgical patients, one of the many things we weren't permitted to do when I first started practicing that now provides better care for our patients. When I was early in practice I used to hope for a day full of “normal” patients. Now I actually look forward to trying to help solve issues for more challenging patients. At the Cleveland VA Medical Center I supervise optometry residents who work with veterans with all sorts of medically necessary contact lens needs. It's an honor to serve those who have so bravely served our country, and I really enjoy interacting with the newly graduated optometry residents. It forces me to keep up with the ever-changing innovations in contact lens care.
Which optometric issues concern you the most?
Legislative issues that impact patient care. Also lack of bargaining power when it comes to insurance reimbursement.
Why did you choose a career in optometry?
I wanted a career that would allow me to work directly with people who needed help, but not people who were gravely ill. Having spent some time in the hospital when I was a teen I didn't particularly like hospital settings, but ironically my first job after leaving OSU was with University Hospitals in Cleveland.
Where do you hope to see your optometric career in five years?
Retired, perhaps, or at least working a little less. We'll see how I feel about that as I get a little closer to 70.
What is one piece of advice you can give OPT-IV students as they prepare to graduate and begin their optometric careers?
You have to truly care about your patients. People sense that and appreciate it. No doctor is the best at everything, so just listen to your patient and do the best you can to try to make things better for them. That's really all you can do anyway. If what you try at first doesn't work, be positive and keep trying to help. Some of my most loyal patients are people who we had to keep working with to satisfy them.
DR. STOCKER'S OHIO STATE EXPERIENCE
What were your most memorable moments at Ohio State?
I was fortunate to be in school with lots of great people. We studied hard, but we certainly enjoyed ourselves, too. I loved going to the football and basketball games. I was a member of Epsilon Psi Epsilon, which was a great way to meet people outside of my own class and was a lot of fun, too. Academically, nothing compared to handing in my Master's thesis at University Hall.
What do Ohio State and the College of Optometry mean to you and your family?
Our ties to OSU are quite tight. My father was a professor of Dairy Science at Ohio State. He didn't start his graduate studies until he was in his 30s, and got his PhD in 1976, the same year I started undergrad at OSU. I had been going to the campus for a variety of events for years before I became a student. I have four siblings, all of whom went to OSU. We had at least one member of the family enrolled as an Ohio State student for 19 consecutive years. I have a sister who earned her medical degree and a brother who earned his dental degree from OSU. My wife, Sara, graduated from OSU, as did my daughter Anne. I have many lifelong friends from Ohio State. My life would be entirely different without Ohio State and the College of Optometry.
How do you stay connected with the College of Optometry?
I am adjunct faculty at the College of Optometry because I work with OPT-IV students when they rotate through the Cleveland VAMC. The Alumni Magazine is very informative as well.
What has the COVID-19 experience taught you about patient care?
We certainly have become experts at disinfecting about everything in the office. We had to be flexible as we adjusted our schedule and office flow to account for social distancing. We got some - but surprisingly little - pushback from patients regarding the safety protocols. I appreciate the great staff I'm blessed with even more!
DR. STOCKER'S FUN FACTS
What are your current hobbies, volunteer work and interests?
I exercise every day. When the Northern Ohio weather permits I golf with a group of friends once a week. I'm a really lousy golfer, but the goal is to have fun, which we always do. I've been an active member of the Amherst Rotary Club since I started working here in 1991. I'm quite involved in my church in a variety of ways. Other than that, my gardens, yard, and family and friends keep me busy.
What is a fun fact about you?
I was the first OD ever hired by the Case Western University Department of Ophthalmology in 1984. Since then I've given over 200 ophthalmology residents their first instruction in how to refract. Every year I get three hours to do it, including hands on practice. It's not easy! They start writing glasses prescriptions for patients a couple days later.
What’s the best eye pun you’ve ever heard?
Why do optometrists live so long? Because they dilate.
If not an optometrist, I would be…
Less happy as an engineer.