Alumni Focus on Vince Driggs (OD’85)
DR. DRIGGS' STORY
Were you the first optometrist in your family?
Which degree(s), related to optometry, did you earn at Ohio State?
Doctor of Optometry (OD ’85)
Who were your mentors at the College of Optometry? Who had a positive effect on your education?
I lived at the Epsilon Psi Epsilon house during my four years at the College, and my first year, there were 17 Opt Is (including myself) at the house. As most of us had not gone to Ohio State for undergrad (I went to Miami, graduated in ’81 with a degree in Chemistry), it was great to have fellow classmates to lean on and work through the issues of our first year, as well as form bonds that remain to today. The few upperclassmen (including Sarah Yoest, Greg Fair, John Hlavaty and others) were there to help when needed, while also impressing on us a “work hard, play harder” mentality. Somehow, we all still graduated!
As for professional mentors, I would start by saying I had a very different residency experience. I completed the Columbus/Chillicothe VA Residency in year in which my original chief at the Chillicothe VA left for a position at a large ophthalmological center halfway through the year, so I worked under three different chiefs in one year, all unique in their own way.
Dr. Jim Thimons was my initial chief at Chillicothe, and his incredible depth of optometric knowledge was so vast that he could be, without intending to be, intimidating; however, it has always motivated me to this day to keep learning.
Dr. Thimons was replaced at Chillicothe by Dr. William “Wild Bill” Schuller. Dr. Schuller always stressed the need for exact detail, and could be very direct in trying to pull that detail from residents and externs when needed. But you were a better doctor because of it.
Dr. Robert “Buckeye Bob” Newcomb was Chief of Optometry at the Columbus VA. He always pushed for accurate, complete records, especially in a multi-disciplinary setting – the records must “tell the story,” he would always. And, for everyone that has had the privilege of meeting Dr. Newcomb, you learn to appreciate just how lucky we are to be an optometrist every day. Especially an Ohio State Buckeye optometrist.
DR. DRIGGS' CAREER IN OPTOMETRY
Name of your employer(s) and title, including location:
The Chalmers P. Wylie Columbus VA Ambulatory Care Center (4/2016 – present)
Staff Optometrist, Columbus, OH
The Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, Parma and Brecksville Divisions (2001-2016)
Staff Optometrist, Parma, OH (2012-2016)
Staff Optometrist, Brecksville, OH (2001-2012)
The Ohio State College of Optometry (1986-2001)
Assistant Professor of Clinical Optometry
Give us a glimpse of your typical day as an optometrist.
Most of my days are spent delivering direct patient care to our nation’s veterans. Patients at the Columbus VA are scheduled starting at 8:00 a.m., with patient care going through 4:30 p.m. or so every day. I also participate in preceptoring the externs and residents of our clinic, which given my background at the College is something I truly enjoy.
Which optometric issues concern you the most?
Given my bias toward the VA and medical optometry, it may come as a surprise that one of my concerns is that optometry, and optometric education, seems to be leaning too far toward the medical eyecare model. It is important that Optometry remain the broad scope primary care specialist of the eye. As part of the focus, we need to keep carving out academic time for the underlying theoretical courses – no matter how boring or underappreciated they may be to current students – which provide the backbone for lifelong learning. There is not a day in which I wished I understood some fine detail in anatomy, neurology, or optics more thoroughly, because it would help me be a better doctor for that patient with the difficult diagnosis or management.
Speaking of optometric education, we need to find ways to decrease our students’ debt service. Even at our College, a public school, it is becoming dangerously close to the point where even with the opportunities in our fine profession, the debt service may start to outweigh the longterm benefits, and we could start to lose our top students to other professions.
Why did you choose a career in optometry?
Although I at least considered several business-related degrees, I was always most interested in medical professions. I most seriously considered medicine – I wanted to be a small town General Practitioner (that would be a Family Practice Specialist in today’s terminology) – along with Optometry. Given my “big E” vision since early childhood, it’s easy to understand my interest in Optometry. In the end, a talk with, of all people, our family doctor – who was also a close friend of our family, such that his son and I were in the same Boy Scout and church youth groups – ended up convincing me that Optometry would also be a great option. I have never regretted the decision.
Where do you hope to see your optometric career in five years?
Is there a VA clinic on Key West (Florida)?
What is one piece of advice you can give OPT IV students as they prepare to graduate and begin their optometric careers?
I’m admittedly biased, but I am big believer in postgraduate residency programs. Whatever your area of interest – medical optometry, contact lenses, geriatric care/low vision, pediatrics/vision training, and others – there are programs available that can help jump start a young optometrist’s career. I would include fellowship (MS) programs in this category for those with academic and research interests. Besides the obvious intensive, advanced hands-on training, in the best residency positions the primary mentor takes great pride in finding postgraduate opportunities for their residents.
DR. DRIGGS' OHIO STATE EXPERIENCE
Why did you choose to attend Ohio State?
The Ohio State College of Optometry has always had a fantastic academic reputation. Plus, as an Ohio resident, it provided economic advantages along with the chance to stay closer to home. I also considered Indiana and ICO; however, as soon as I got the acceptance from OHIO STATE, I cancelled my applications for those schools. And then there are the football tickets!
What were your most memorable moments at Ohio State?
My most memorable moments would include certain EYE Activation parties – sorry, I cannot provide any details here so as to protect the guilty! – football games with our optometric section, evenings at Spinnakers (don’t bother looking, it’s long gone) and other establishments with "3 for 1" deals or free buffets, four-hour Opt II exams, and three years in old room 33.
As an instructor for 15 years, there were always entertaining and sometimes exasperating students, but most memorably was one of my evening classes when two of my students came in about 30 minutes late, very inebriated, and proceeded to, well, entertain the class. As hard as I tried to maintain a professional, stern decorum, even I eventually broke up laughing at the situation. Needless to say the lecture plan for that class was shot. And yes, after some apologies, both students graduated and were, in fact, two of the best students in their class.
What lesson did you learn at Ohio State that has affected you the most so far in your career?
I have always taken great pride in being accepted, and graduating, from the College of Optometry. My association with the College has afforded me professional opportunities, as that degree almost always assures one of an interview and strong consideration for almost any optometric position.
How do you stay connected with the College of Optometry as an alumnus?
I have over the past ten years or so become involved in our College’s Optometric Alumni Society and their functions, in particular the Reunion Weekends and the annual awards banquets. In addition, I am on the alumni board for Epsilon Psi Epsilon.
DR. DRIGGS' FUN FACTS
What are your current hobbies, volunteer work, interests?
Ohio State football. I have only missed two home games since 1981, and I am still upset about those (even though the reasons were admirable). I enjoy Saturdays on campus on gameday - the energy, the tailgating with longtime and new friends, the excitement of the games, along with the spectacle of the event. I always tell people that even after all these years, I still love seeing band come down the ramp from the north end of the stadium to start the official pregame. It’s gametime!
I enjoy walking/hiking for both exercise and, for me, relaxation. During my 15 years in the Cleveland area, I especially enjoyed the Towpath Trails, which followed the old Ohio-Erie Canal from Lake Erie to around New Philadelphia. I am still relearning the parks and trails of Columbus - Blendon Woods is my current trails home – so suggestions are welcome!
If not an optometrist, I would be ...
A family doctor. If not that, most likely, some sort of business person/owner. My parents ran an A&W Drive-In Restaurant when I was in high school and undergrad, and I would help run it in the summers. I actually always thought I would end up in a small, two- or three-doctor private optometric practice, which would have given me the best of both worlds, or so I thought.