Alumni Focus on John Stehulak (OD/MS’07)

DR. STEHULAK'S STORY

Hometown

Defiance, Ohio

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

OD/MS'07

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

Many people at the College of Optometry had a positive effect on my education. I returned to the College recently, and I was pleasantly surprised to see many familiar faces. This speaks highly of the culture of the College of Optometry and the relationships that have been built between faculty, students, and staff.

Dr. Barbara Fink (MS’85, PhD’87) was my master’s graduate advisor. My thesis was on corneal oxygenation and silicone hydrogel contact lenses. It was an incredible experience to work with her, and she introduced me to other researchers who shared her passion for corneal and tear physiology and contact lens design and materials. Working with her sparked a passion for prescribing contact lenses for optimal eye health and has become a robust part of my practice.

DR. STEHULAK'S CAREER IN OPTOMETRY

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

Owner of Wauseon Eye Care, Wauseon, Ohio

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

I am extremely fortunate to practice full-scope optometry in a fiercely independent private practice – just like I always wanted. It is a privilege to provide a patient’s very first eye examination. There is something almost magical about the first time someone can really see the world clearly, and I enjoy that I am often the first person in their life who knows how their world could look. In the same day, I get to have that experience with another patient as they get their first pair of contact lenses, and again at a one day refractive surgery or cataract post-op. I find resources for those with low vision, fit specialty contact lenses, and have discussions about when it really is a good time to stop driving with someone’s aging mother or father. I remove more foreign bodies, write so many letters to primary care providers for diabetics that my fingers get numb, and show young moms how to patch their amblyopic kiddos. Private practice has its challenges, but my amazing staff takes care of most of them for me. I am beyond blessed.

Which optometric issues concern you the most?

Currently, the issue that concerns me the most is Federal Trade Commission’s Contact Lens Rule proposal (https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/federal_register_notices/2016/12/contact_lens_rule_published_frn12716.pdf). The plan continues to threaten to impose an unnecessary and burdensome mandate on the practice of optometry. If you have not contacted your senator about sending a letter to the FTC opposing the proposal, you should do it now.

Why did you choose a career in optometry?

The first time I looked through a slit-lamp I was 16. I was job-shadowing Dr. Thomas Sandy (OD’86). I remember viewing the iris through the oculars and thinking that it was the most beautiful thing that I have ever seen in my entire life. It didn’t hurt that those beautiful irides belonged to a cute girl in my class who was there for a comprehensive exam. I knew that this is what I wanted to do with my life.

Years later I would marry that cute girl, and we would have a daughter, Olive, and son, George. Our daughter has eyes just like her mother, and they are still the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.

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

If you asked me this question the first day of optometry school, I never would have said that in five years I would be practicing in Germany. I could never imagine that I would have ever answered this question by saying in five years I would live on a Bulgarian military base, or work at NATO. I never would have said in five years I will practice in Hawai’i, or in five years I will be deployed to Afghanistan to take care of the greatest patients on the planet. I would not have said in five years I will round with other physicians in the ICU of a German hospital. I would never guess that I would have said in five years I will be working in a community clinic in Vietnam, or in five years I will be on a humanitarian aid mission in Thailand. If you told me five years ago that I would own a private practice in Wauseon, Ohio, I would not have believed you. History has shown that I am terrible a predicting where optometry will take us in five years, and to be honest, I like that.

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

Keep your head up in failure, and your head down in success.

DR. STEHULAK'S OHIO STATE EXPERIENCE

What were your most memorable moments at Ohio State?

The most memorable moments were shared with my classmates. I have never been in a learning environment quite like it – and after spending so much time with such smart people in one of two classrooms, I know a lot about these people. They also know a lot (maybe too much) about me. They are the first people I seek when I need advice.

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

I went to Ohio State for seven years and had a great experience! Ohio State provided me with a skillset that I have been able to use to make my community a better place. I will always be thankful for that, and I am positive that had I gone to school somewhere else, my life would not be the same. Abby (my wife) is a Boilermaker and bleeds Old Gold and Black. It is only a matter of time before we make our children choose sides.

How do you stay connected with the College of Optometry?

Last year was our 10-year reunion. Abby and I went to the alumni weekend and had a great time catching up with friends. I have been fortunate remain connected to current students through Dr. Mark Wright (OD’80)’s class. I look forward to the alumni magazine and read it cover to cover. I enjoy seeing classmates and faculty at conferences.

DR. STEHULAK'S FUN FACTS

What are your current hobbies, volunteer work, interests?

I love being a dad.

What was the first concert that you attended? 

Deep Purple/ELP/Dream Theater August 22, 1998 at the New World Music Theatre in Tinley Park.

What is your favorite outdoor activity?

I am not fast and have never claimed to be, but I do enjoy triathlons. I like swimming, biking, and running!

If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

I wouldn’t need sleep.

What’s the best eye pun you’ve ever heard?

Never date a person with strabismus. They might be seeing somebody on the side.

If not an optometrist, I would be ...

A golf course superintendent.