by Caleb Jones

Two UAB School of Optometry class of 2012 alumni, Dr. Thomas Pinkston and Dr. Aimée McBride, are celebrating the completed renovation of their North Carolina optometry practice, Haywood Family Eye Care.

“For more than 60 years our office has been located on Main Street in historic downtown Waynesville,” Pinkston said. “It served us great for many decades, but we were running into two major problems: office space and parking. Our new facility will allow us to improve our patient experience and serve more patients.”

The new facility boasts eight exam lanes and approximately 5,000 square feet to house Haywood Family Eye Care’s staff of 17. “We look forward to continuing to serve the population of western NC for decades,” Pinkston said.

Haywood Family Eye Care, the only locally owned optometric clinic in Haywood County, was established in 1955 by Dr. Eugene Harpe and later joined by UABSO graduate Dr. Leroy Roberson. When Dr. Harpe retired, Dr. Roberson took ownership of the practice and remained its owner for many years.

McBride—UABSO class of 2012’s valedictorian—moved to western North Carolina after graduation to work with Roberson. In 2014, Roberson retired, and McBride took over ownership of the practice. She was joined by Pinkston in 2016 and the two have co-owned the practice ever since.

“We actually did a rotation together at the Tuscaloosa VA after random pairings during our fourth year,” Pinkston said. “During that time, we would carpool to Tuscaloosa and discuss our dreams of practice ownership and thoughts about optometry. Little did we know that years later we would end up practicing together as partners, classmates and friends.”

When McBride and Pinkston purchased their new office space in 2020, they had no idea the pandemic would start to escalate weeks later, hindering progress.

“The pandemic slowed us down dramatically and we didn’t do much of anything with the building until late summer of 2020,” Pinkston said. “Once construction began, it took about 12 months of renovations and construction to upgrade the facility for our clinic.”

Around the same time that renovations were taking place, Pinkston was in the midst of training for his first Ironman Triathlon. When COVID-19 canceled the 2020 race, he had to make peace with the pandemic putting both the race and the renovations on hold.

PXL 20211018 122635691“I had to adjust and overcome the pandemic and accept the idea of competing in 2021,” Pinkston said. “Both experiences were filled with ups and downs, triumphs and frustrations. In both experiences, it was important to focus on the end goal regardless of the current situation.

“The main lesson I learned from both experiences is that it is important to set your goals high and go after them every day, regardless of outside factors. You will experience things outside of your control; plan as best you can and attack those issues head-on. Most importantly, don’t let those setbacks stop you.”

In addition to being community-oriented optometrists striving to create the best practice in the state of North Carolina, Pinkston and McBride are both parents. McBride has three boys with her husband, Ragan, and Pinkston has two girls and one boy with his wife, Jacqueline.

Click here for a virtual tour of the new facility