Alumni Focus on Julie Thums (OD’04)
DR. THUMS’ STORY
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?
We were fortunate to have so many gifted educators at Ohio State, but Dr. Mike Earley (OD/MS’88, PhD’92) and Dr. Nick Fogt (OD/MS’92, PhD’96) were my favorites to listen to in the classroom.
DR. THUMS’ CAREER IN OPTOMETRY
Name of your employer(s) and title, including location.
I am an optometrist and owner of HealthView Eye Care Center in Medford, WI where I began my career right out of school. I worked here as an employee for nearly 10 years before purchasing the business in phases from the previous owners. In 2020 I became sole owner of both locations in Medford and Colby, WI. This year I celebrated 17 years with HealthView Eye Care Center. We have 25 staff members and four full-time ODs and are currently looking for another full-time or part-time OD to join our team.
Give us a glimpse of your typical day as an optometrist.
Medford, Wisconsin is a unique demographic area. It is nearly an hour-long drive to a larger city where there is any competition. We have an excellent group of ophthalmologists who have a part-time satellite location in Medford, but we have maintained a mutually beneficial relationship whereas they offer primarily surgical services and refer back to us for routine care and optical services. Medford’s population is only about 4,500 people, however, we draw from a very widespread area including multiple smaller towns around us for not only routine eye care, but medical services and ocular disease. We have also worked hard to develop a good relationship with local hospitals, ERs and clinics, which results in frequent referrals for routine and emergency eye care.
In a typical day, I see a wide variety of patients. The original owner of this practice recently retired after more than 40 years, so I have inherited many of his long-time loyal patients. I often see 20-25 people per day, with more than half of these visits being management of ocular disease. We have VF and OCT units in each location and I can’t imagine practicing without them. Multiple triage slots are left open daily for walk-in emergency services and same day availability for foreign bodies, red eyes, dry eyes, referrals etc. The days are busy and unpredictable, but the variety keeps us on our toes and allows us to use our education to the fullest potential.
With one of my associates taking the lead, we launched Beyond 2020 Vision Therapy in 2019 at HealthView Eye Care Center. Dr. Meinel has a special interest in pediatrics and vision therapy and continues to obtain extensive training in this underserved niche. Adding this service to our community has been an incredible opportunity for our patients as well as myself and other ODs to have a referral for these challenging cases that can benefit from vision therapy. In the future, we hope to expand her services into sports vision training, concussion therapy, and myopia management.
Which optometric issues concern you the most?
Online sales of glasses and contacts always comes to mind when I think about challenges in optometry. However, if one good thing came out of COVID-19, it’s the community support of local businesses. “Buy local” seems to be the 2021 theme in our small community, and I think every business has come back strong because of it. I try to personally support every event and local fundraiser that I can, shop at our local hardware stores, and eat at our local restaurants. These efforts have proven to keep our patients loyal to us too.
I think the bigger challenges ahead are regarding managed care, vision plans and lower reimbursements from the larger insurance companies. We are fortunate to have a strong state association in Wisconsin along with the AOA to fight for our rights. We shouldn’t underestimate the importance of what we do especially with the scope of care we provide in our area.
Why did you choose a career in optometry?
I always knew I wanted a career in the medical field. While in undergraduate school, I accidentally stumbled upon a job at a local Lenscrafters as a technician. Although I had worn glasses since third grade, optometry had never crossed my mind as a career. When I started working for a young female OD at that time, I quickly developed a strong interest in the field and saw the benefits of the work-life balance that optometry had to offer.
Where do you hope to see your optometric career in five years?
In five years, I hope to be doing exactly what I’m doing. Seeing patients three days a week is a perfect work life balance in order to keep up with the administrative side of private practice and raise three active boys. I couldn’t ask for better associates, managers and staff to keep the business operating smoothly. We try to keep up with technology and changes in the industry, however we are outgrowing our current space as we expand our services. If there is anything we truly need in the next five years, it’s a new building with more space to accommodate for continued growth.
What is one piece of advice you can give OPT-IV students as they prepare to graduate and begin their optometric careers?
If I could only give one piece of advice, it would be that patience wins the race. In your early years, focus on absorbing everything you can from more experienced ODs, learn to communicate well with staff and patients, and stop worrying about when you’re going to make more money or buy into the business. Learn to take really good care of both your patients and your staff, and the financial rewards come naturally.
DR. THUMS’ OHIO STATE EXPERIENCE
What were your most memorable moments at Ohio State?
My best memories of Ohio State Optometry were at the EYE house! There were so many fun events where we really got to know our classmates and shared so many laughs. We worked hard in school, but putting the books down and having some fun was also a priority.
Were you involved in any organizations as an Ohio State Optometry student?
Yes, Epsilon Psi Epsilon
What do Ohio State and the College of Optometry mean to you and your family?
I will be forever grateful for my time at Ohio State. I’m a little jealous of the younger generation getting to do their time in a state-of-the-art facility…. But the education I received was top notch and I developed some lifelong friendships along the way. I can’t help but to remain a Buckeye! I love an opportunity to wear my favorite Buckeye gear when they play the Wisconsin Badgers!
How do you stay connected with the College of Optometry?
The Alumni Focus is a great way to stay connected with former classmates as well as what’s new at the college. I also try to get back every five years for our milestone reunions.
What has the COVID-19 experience taught you about patient care?
Navigating through COVID was challenging to say the least. Opinions regarding the seriousness of the pandemic, the necessity of the PPE, politics, and the safety of the vaccinations are still all over the place and unpredictable. We never let our quality of care waver, and we respect all staff and patients for their personal decisions during this unforeseen time.
How do you imagine patient care will change in the future, in light of the COVID-19 public health crisis?
Masks may never go away in healthcare. But since we recently stopped requiring masks upon entry of the clinic, it has been well received by patients in our area as well as my staff. I think we will all stand back a little further, wash our hands a little longer, and stay home when we’re not feeling well ... But in recent months, it’s great to feel comfortable giving out a hug to a special patient when needed!
DR. THUMS’ FUN FACTS
Tell us about your first-ever eye exam.
I can’t say my first eye exam was memorable in any way. But looking back at the pictures of my pink plastic glasses in third grade makes me appreciate how far we have come with lens technology for those of us with severe anisometropia. No wonder I was noncompliant!
What are your current hobbies, volunteer work and interests?
My husband Pete is a business owner as well, and we’re raising three energetic boys. Life can be crazy with work, sports and hobbies. When the boys aren’t playing hockey, football or riding dirtbikes, you can usually find us in the backyard by the pool.
Sports and fitness have always been a huge part of my life. Although I retired from competitive bodybuilding three years ago, I still hit the gym almost daily. Another hobby I took up after leaving Ohio State is flying. With our busy schedules, we don’t get up in the air enough, but the boys love to load up in the plane for a trip to Grandma and Grandpa’s house.
What was the first concert that you attended / most recent?
I can’t even remember the last time I went to a concert! The most recent musical event I went to was dueling pianos, which also brings back great memories of downtown Columbus. This or a local band playing here in town is more my style.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
I wish I could add more hours to the day, or more days to the week. I wouldn’t change a thing about my lifestyle, but some days there truly isn’t enough time to get it all done and stop to enjoy the ride!
What’s the best eye pun you’ve ever heard?
Don’t rub avocados on your eyes. You might get Guacoma.
If not an optometrist, I would be ...