By Rebecca Harris, OD, associate at Klosterman Eye Associates in Harrodsburg, Kentucky
My father Harvey Schleter, OD, was my mentor as I grew up. I saw that he was able to enjoy his career as an optometrist while also having time to be an active part of his family. He wasn’t gone every night. It made me believe that I could manage a family and have a career that I loved at the same time.
When I was 20, I had my first optometry-related job at a Lexington referral center. My dream was to work in that type of setting one day, where I could work with patients with ocular disease and pathology. After graduating University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry (UABSO), I completed a residency in ocular disease at VisionAmerica of Birmingham. This experience provided me with valuable experience in providing eye care and co-managing care.
But changes happen in life, and as they do, so do the plans. My husband, West Harris, DMD, and I wanted to find a place where we could both be happy practicing optometry and dentistry, respectively. After four years practicing in eastern Kentucky, we ended up here in Harrodsburg.
Jeff Klosterman, OD, and I knew each other from the Kentucky Optometric Association and we had discussed the possibility of working together when he had more room. He built the current office about six months before I joined him in 2014. Our original plan was a partnership. It’s still a possibility, but soon after our move here, I found out I was pregnant with twins. We welcomed another child to our family this past January.
Juggling career and families is tough for male and female ODs. Three of my four children are younger than 3, so I’m working three days a week now, and my mom helps me on the night where we have later hours. Even on those days when I get an emergency call from day care, I feel confident in knowing that I can pick up my child and do an eye exam with a two-year-old in the corner. I’m thankful that I work in a practice where my boss and the patients understand.
I have been fortunate throughout my career to practice with many progressive doctors with an emphasis on quality care. And while I’m not in the referral center I once imagined, this rural location brings a range of patients and pathologies. Kentucky’s law mandating children’s eye exams draws in many pre-K patients. I also manage a lot of dry eye issues, and this year, we’ve been making a move forward with Jeff specializing in orthokeratology.
Being a good parent and eye care practitioner at the same time isn’t easy. But from my father and others, I’ve learned it is possible.