Voices of the Industry: Eye Care and Optometry Blog Feature


By: Voices of the Industry on July 8th, 2020

Voices of the Industry: Eye Care and Optometry

Dr. Donald L. Buehler

31 Years in the Industry

Senior Optometrist, Illinois Eye Center 

In the early years of working at Illinois Eye Center (IEC), I would wake up and dress in my suit and tie. You don’t really imagine an eye doctor would be red/green colorblind, but I am. I’d always ask my kids “How do I look?” My youngest would get a mischievous look in her eye, and say “you look great, Dad!” I always knew she was trying to trick me into something that didn’t match or was out of style, but I’d go downstairs anyway only to have my wife ask me, “What are you wearing? Go change.”

I joined IEC in 1994, almost 26 years ago, as my third job out of graduate school at the University of Indiana School of OptometryAt the time, we had just 40 employees split between a main office in downtown Peoria near the local hospital medical center and a second smaller site. Expanding to support our community has always been top of mind, and we’ve since grown the practice to 12 ophthalmologists, 7 optometrists and over 150 support staff.  

We opened a standalone clinic in North Peoria in 2007 just a year before the 2008 recession. I don’t remember feeling the effects of that recession. We still had patients flowing through our doors daily because we specialize in glaucoma, retina and corneal treatment which didn't just go away because we were in a recession. But this year is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. 

When we were mandated to halt nonessential operations, the MD partners were forced to quickly make decisions affecting all the staff and to protect the future of the business and the patients they serve. Practically overnightthe OD’s (including myself) were out of the office and unable to see our own patients. The OD’s transitioned to directly supporting the MD’s, seeing only urgent patients. Thankfully we applied and received Paycheck Protection Program relief allowing us to continue to support our work family because IEC is like a big family. Although during the day we are busy and focused on keeping our schedules on time, the staff chooses to spend our free time together and functions as a true work familyWe now opt for a bi-weekly Zoom meeting just to keep connected.

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Above photos (L to R): Dr. Buehler with fellow Optometrist, Dr. Kirchgessner OD; Dr. Evan Lagouros MD, Dr. Pete Lagouros MD, Ron Moss, and Buehler; and Buehler with wife, Dr. Christine Buehler, and granddaughter.

Though things are starting to return to normal and I’m able to see my own patients again, there is no real end to COVID-19. I miss having a normal day. I miss spending Saturdays walking the neighborhood with my granddaughter, daughter, and son-in-law. I miss getting to travel to Atlanta to see my other daughter, but like everyone else, we’ve found ways to stay in touch. We even did a group FaceTime for my birthday and my granddaughter helped me blow out my candles. 

There have been a lot of challenges for everyone during this time, but I think there will be some positive changes. Like the new way we have patients enter and leave the practice, social distancing in the waiting room, and safety procedures that have been adopted to help keep us all safe, not just now but everyday going forward. 

In recent years, we switched to scrubs and now I no longer have to worry about matching my suit to my tie, but after 27 years of washing my hands 100 times a day, it’s nice to know I've always been “in style”.

Read all of the Voices of the Industry Series here


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