Dr. Rob Pate is the husband of Dana Pate and father of 5 kids, Claire, Ellie, Jenna, James and John. He practices optometry at Basden Eye Care in Auburn, AL. He is the Immediate Past President of the Alabama Optometric Association, Legislative Committee Co-chair, SECO Board of Trustees, Auburn Community Church Elder and UABSO Alumni Association Board of Directors. Dr. Pate also enjoys participating in Auburn athletics. He is the Auburn University Athletics Team Optometrist, Columnist and host a Radio Show discussing Auburn athletics. He is also a member of Auburn Football Lettermen Club Board of Directors, Auburn Parks and Recreation and Football Board of Directors.

Degree Awarded: OD

Graduation Year: 2007

Why did you choose UABSO?

I chose UABSO for several reasons. First, I am from Birmingham and knew what an impact UAB has on the city and state as a whole. Second, I was well aware of UABSO's pecking order in regards to quality of optometric education delivered and the fact I was being taught by the people that had written the books and set the curriculum for optometry schools nationwide. Third, as an in-state student, the cost of UABSO was a no-brainer. I never even applied any place else. I was always UABSO or bust.

Why did you choose a career in optometry?

I chose optometry because of the impact it had on my life—academically, athletically, and socially. The worst grades I made in life were as a myopic second grader in the back of the classroom. Crisp vision was a game changer. As a seventh grade athlete, contact lenses helped me participate with a confidence and clarity I'd never known. And as a thick-lensed adolescent, having peripheral vision and coming out from behind the glasses gave me a freedom and an appearance that made meeting new people less awkward. The impact the profession had on me as a patient was eye opening, but also the opportunity to enhance, protect, and preserve the most vital of all senses while also having a family life was too intriguing to pass on.

What has surprised you the most about your career so far?

I have been most surprised by two things in my career thus far—No. 1 being so few optometrists feel obligated to contribute to their state associations and their state PACs. There's simply no good excuse to look at your colleagues in this profession and expect them to carry the burden of advocacy while enjoying the fruits of optometry. Optometry would cease to exist without the advocacy efforts of a few when the participation rate should be close to 100%.

No. 2 most surprising is the near constant drumbeat of fear seemingly always present with regards to this profession. The next threat is always the cataclysmic nuclear bomb to the profession. Yet, optometrists continue to not just survive, but thrive. It's a simple as taking great care of people. People can spot a phony and quickly identify when their best interests are not being realized.

What’s some advice you’d give current students?

My advice to current students would be this: I encourage you to maintain the proper perspective as you transition into your career. Don't sacrifice your integrity, your marriage, or your children on the altar of the god of optometry and "success." I chose optometry over my wife and family for years--not doing bad things, but really doing far too many things for "the sake of the profession." Don't grow further and further detached from the reason you work so hard to begin with. I am a strong advocate for involvement in this profession, but not subservience to this profession at the expense of marriages and families. I challenge you to serve your God first, your marriage second, your family third, and keep optometry in its proper place. And the only way that happens and optometry doesn't lose the legislative and grassroots steam that we currently enjoy is by more and more people choosing to become involved to do their part, so someone else isn't asked to carry an unhealthy load.

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

If I were not an optometrist I would probably be a writer or a football coach. I have written two sports-related books and continue to write as a columnist for the Auburn 247 Sports Network. I have always been better at expressing my thoughts in written form than verbally and it is enjoyable for me to see others enjoy things I write. Football coaches have had the greatest impact on my life than any other people besides my parents and my own family. Coaches have the incredible opportunity to mold and develop in ways that are incomparable. The lessons I learned from football coaches from peewee through the NFL shaped me into the man I am today and prepared me for most of life's challenges. It's a special calling that, when utilized properly, can impact generations.