Alumni Focus on Jeff Heninger (OD’07)
DR. HENINGER'S STORY
Which institution did you attend for your undergraduate degree? What was your major?
Brigham Young University - Bachelor's in Exercise Science
Which degree(s), related to optometry, did you earn at Ohio State?
Who were your mentors at the College of Optometry? Who had a positive effect on your education?
There were many who had a positive effect on my education, but I would have to say Michael Earley (OD/MS’88, PhD’92) was a significant influence. I was able to help in the anatomy lab and tutor the subject as well. I think my hand is still sore from trying to write down everything that Dr. Earley talked about during his lessons. My daughter is currently taking anatomy in high school and she questioned how I still knew all these random anatomy terms.
DR. HENINGER'S CAREER IN OPTOMETRY
Name of your employer(s) and title, including location.
Private Practice in Polson, Montana - Owner/Doctor
Give us a glimpse of your typical day as an optometrist.
I work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (or whenever I get finished with charts). Typically it is Monday through Friday, but sometimes half day on Friday (or even take it off) when chasing kids around the state for school sports. I see a broad range of patients during the day but have a very medically oriented practice. I have a great relationship with a large ophthalmology practice out of Kalispell, as they have used my office in the past to see patients. I do a lot of pre- and post-op care for them every month.
Which optometric issues concern you the most?
One issue that I have concerns about in the state of Montana is getting fair and equal pay for equal work. Currently certain insurances are trying to significantly reduce the amount they pay to optometry compared to ophthalmology for the exact same codes/procedures.
Why did you choose a career in optometry?
I wanted a career in the medical field that allowed me to work with people in a friendly and social atmosphere. I enjoy talking to people every day and do not think I could have worked behind a desk as my brother does in the tech industry. When I lived in Romania before I attended university, I was able to translate for a group of humanitarian optometry students who were doing eye exams for young children. That experience of seeing young children smile as they received glasses was something that pushed me toward this career. In 2018 I had the opportunity to travel to Peru with fellow Buckeye classmates Ray Hardy (OD/MS’07) and Brian Adair (OD’07) to do the same thing. Doing the eye exams for those young children, in the small villages, high in the mountains of Peru, reaffirmed my decision of choosing optometry!
Where do you hope to see your optometric career in five years?
I plan on being right here in Polson, Montana and continue with the successful practice that I have built. As all of my children will have graduated by that time, I hope to maybe have a little more time to chase them around wherever they may be.
What is one piece of advice you can give OPT-IV students as they prepare to graduate and begin their optometric careers?
Plan on being flexible. The great thing about optometry is that it is very customizable to fit your needs and you may find that you enjoy areas of the profession that you did not expect. Obviously your externships help you figure that out, but keeping your options open is something that everyone should plan for.
DR. HENINGER'S OHIO STATE EXPERIENCE
What were your most memorable moments at Ohio State?
Heated foosball matches in the break room provided memorable moments during our time at the school, but in all reality the friendships created in those few short years are the most remarkable. Moving from the west away from family to go to school at Ohio State was difficult. We quickly realized that we had other classmates in the same situation and they became our family. Some of us are still very close and we often get together for continuing education and recreation.
Were you involved in any organizations as an Ohio State Optometry student?
Having a young family made it difficult for me to be too involved with the many organizations available at the university. If I was not at school going to class or studying at the library, I was usually at home with Erin and the kids.
What do Ohio State and the College of Optometry mean to you and your family?
We loved our time over in Ohio and we love going back to visit. I am grateful to the College of Optometry for the training I have received and I feel I was well prepared for this profession.
How do you stay connected with the College of Optometry?
Living in the west does make it more difficult to stay connected with the college, but emails, newsletters, and the other publications do help. Other than the extended layover in Denver that made us miss part of the reunion activities, we still did have a blast going back and seeing everyone for our 10-year reunion. I am pretty sure we will try and attend future events.
What has the COVID-19 experience taught you about patient care?
Some people have been isolated with limited human interaction over the past couple years, more specifically the older patient population. It has been very obvious how important and needed these interactions are. I have noted that spending more time with these patients and having meaningful conversations really goes a long way. My staff maybe gets a little frustrated as sometimes it backs things up a bit, but I feel that it is totally worth it! As I said before, the social side of optometry was one of the reasons why I was interested in this profession, and I know many patients appreciate not feeling like they are just a number.
DR. HENINGER'S FUN FACTS
What are your current hobbies, volunteer work and interests?
Mountain Biking, Snowboarding, and Jeeping.
Mountain Biking has become my main hobby of choice and I will often ride four or five times per week. My family loves biking as well and many of our holidays are based around finding new places to ride. I like all types of trails, but steep gnarly technical trails are my personal favorite.
Snowboarding and skiing with the family is what we do with there is too much snow to bike.
Rock crawling in our Jeep is what we do when we are feeling too lazy to bike.
What was the first concert that you attended / most recent?
Most recently - Awolnation opening for Twenty One Pilots (who we have seen three times). I have been to many concerts in my lifetime and no one has even come close to putting on a better show than TOP. It would have been amazing to be in Columbus when they first started up.
If not an optometrist, I would be…
I would open a bike shop and be a bike mechanic. Still may be something that I end up doing in my spare time. Bikes are amazing and getting other people on bikes is something I enjoy immensely.