Dr. Rick Weisbarth, the UAB School of Optometry’s first Cornea and Contact Lens resident (1980-81), discusses how UABSO shaped his career path, his hopes for the future of the optometric profession, and gives insight to current students on how to be successful. Weisbarth currently serves as the Vice President of Professional Affairs-US Vision Care for Alcon.

Where are you from? I was born and raised in Fairview Park, OH, a suburb of Cleveland.

How did you become interested in the industry side of optometry? It was during my first year in optometry school. I had an interest in contact lenses and had always planned to go back to my hometown to open up a practice. However, as part of my residency program, I was able to participate in a couple of clinical studies that exposed me to opportunities in clinical research.

How did your time at UABSO shape your career? UABSO was pivotal in allowing me to get involved in the industry and the profession. The experience that the residency provided me opened the door to multiple opportunities and ultimately helped me obtain a position in clinical research. In addition, numerous mentors at UABSO encouraged me to get involved in the profession and make a difference.

What trends are you seeing in your area? Any thoughts about the future? Current trends I’ve noticed include a breakthrough in contact lenses materials, better multifocal contact lens options and dry eye treatments, as well as advanced technology IOLs (intraocular lenses).

Moving forward, I’d say that scientific and technological advances are really shaping the future of the optometric profession. So much has changed in the over 40 years since I graduated. It all translates into better diagnostic, treatment and vision correction options in years to come. Subsequently, ODs will play an even bigger role in managing the overall health and wellness of their patients.

What words of wisdom do you have for optometry students and early career optometrists? Be assured that magnificent opportunities await you. Optometry is well-positioned to continue to lead the changes in eye care, which are occurring as our health care system continues its endless transformation.

In order for optometry to continue to advance and to hold all of what has already been achieved, you must participate. Become active in professional or academic organizations at the local, state, regional, national and even international levels. Get involved with your local society, join the State Association wherever you decide to reside, and become a member of the American Optometric Association. Stretch to become a Fellow in The American Academy of Optometry and even challenge yourselves to the highest level and achieve Diplomate status in your area of expertise.

The UAB School of Optometry will give you an outstanding education.  And when you finish it needs your support. The continued strength of the school is its alumni – join the alumni association and help shape the future of the profession and the school. Attend CE events put on by the faculty and make it a point to come to reunion events and “keep alive” the friendships and bonds that you established over your four years. Time will pass, but your friendships will only grow stronger.

Is there anything you would like to add? The only constant moving forward is that things are going to change and change rapidly. So, remain current and competent throughout your career. Keep up on the latest clinical research and technology. Commit to lifelong learning and continuous improvement in all that you do.  One of the biggest lessons I have learned is that in order to grow and develop, you have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone. Do not be afraid to try new things.