Your Story

What is your hometown? 

Greenville, Alabama

When did you graduate from UABSO?

2008

What would you say is your greatest accomplishment outside of the field of Optometry?

I would have to say that convincing my wife, Sarah Ellen, to marry me is my greatest accomplishment outside the field of Optometry.

Your Career in Optometry

Name of your employer(s)/ Practice title, including location

Gardner Eye Care, LLC in Greenville, Alabama

Why did you choose a career in Optometry?

As a senior Athletic Training undergraduate student at Troy State University, I got to know Dr. Hamlin, a local optometrist who encouraged me to consider the profession. I shadowed him, then a few other ODs and fell in love with optometry.

Where do you hope to see your optometric career in 5 years?

I am building my practice to a point where an associate or partner will be necessary, in which case I will buy new or build a larger facility to allow for continued growth. I am dedicated to practicing full scope optometry for my rural Alabama patients, and I will continue my education and training to enhance patient care as state law allows.

Which optometric issues concern you the most?

Optometry seems to be getting squeezed from every side right now. Every major concern comes down to the laws that govern our profession. The single greatest issue, then, is maintaining good relationships with our legislators.

Your UABSO Experience

What were your most memorable moments at UABSO?

I was chosen to represent UABSO in Optometry’s Super Bowl in Boston. We were poor college students like everybody else, so we looked for the cheapest way to travel. My sister-in-law was a flight attendant, and she got us stand-by tickets for free. Well, it’s a long story, but there were storms across the country which led to delays and we wound up finally buying tickets to somewhere in Rhode Island, then rented a car to drive to Boston. Bad traffic had us at a standstill and as the beginning of the Super Bowl approached, we were still several miles away from the venue.  I saw a commuter train near the interstate, so my wife dropped me off at the station. The train was stopping too often and I knew I would still be late, so I jumped off the train and got a taxi, which took me to within two blocks of my final destination. I ran those last two blocks and entered the conference hall in a dead sprint just in time to walk on stage and, unfortunately, lose in the first round of the Super Bowl.  Planes, trains, and automobiles – very memorable!

Who were your mentors at the School of Optometry? Why?

Dr. Beth Steele, Dr. Jesseta Cargus, Dr. Ernest Bowling and Dr. Jim Marbourg. All of the faculty poured knowledge and wisdom into me and helped to shape who I am as an optometrist today, but these four stick out in my mind. Dr. Steele led CEVS, where I learned most of the clinical skills that I use daily now. Dr. Cargus gave me a part time job working at her practice, which was a great learning experience for me. Dr. Bowling taught me a very practical approach to clinical decision making. Dr. Marbourg demonstrated what proper co-management should look like and how to build an optometric office from scratch, beginning with a single roll of toilet tissue.

What is one piece of advice you would give current UABSO students?

Never fly stand-by.

Fun Facts About You

What is something that few people know about you?

I was an Olympic Torchbearer for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. I have the torch in a display case in my office.

If you could have a superpower what would it be?

I would want Wolverine’s ability to heal himself from any injury, but I would want to be able to use that instead to heal others.

If you were not an optometrist, what would you be?

An over-educated basketball coach, or perhaps an athletic trainer, or even a stay-at-home Dad.  For my children’s sake, hopefully one of the first two options.