This is the second in my series of interviews of local business owners for the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization.
One day a young man walked into Eye Site Optometrists because he’d lost his glasses. He complained of blurry vision, dizziness, and fainting spells, which he attributed to not being able to see without his glasses. Dr. Linh Hoang-Braley, the owner of Eye Site Optometrists, started to give him an eye exam. She checked his vision and determined the right prescription for new glasses. Then she noticed his optic nerve was swollen. She stopped the exam and checked his blood pressure, which turned out to be sky high. Dr. Linh immediately sent the patient to the emergency room, where he discovered that he was experiencing kidney failure and required dialysis to save his life.
Who knew that optometrists kept blood pressure cuffs on hand? What Dr. Linh loves about being an optometrist, and what she wishes people better understood about her profession, is that optometrists have medical training too. They’re not just people in white coats who give you glasses. Dr. Linh also works closely with a team of doctors who specialize in laser surgery, retinas, glaucoma, and cataracts, among other eye diseases, and follows up with patients who she refers.
“We look at your eye as a whole. Your eye tells us a lot about what’s going on inside your body,” she explains. “Optometrists’ training is very similar to medical students’. We learn topics such as anatomy, microbiology, biochemistry, neurology, and pharmacology. We cut a cadaver and study the pathways of nerves and organs. It’s like the workload of a medical student, but with more emphasis on the head and neck and treatment of eye diseases.” Dr. Linh says the main difference between optometrists and ophthalmologists is that optometrists do not perform surgery. Optometrists are similar to general physicians because they are gatekeepers to specialists, typically ophthalmologists who can perform surgery for problems related to eye diseases.
“It’s fun being a doctor to find problems and solve them,” Dr. Linh explains. “What I love about being an optometrist is that I can be a doctor and a business owner. I enjoy helping patients with not only prescribing their eyeglasses or contact lenses, but also talking to them about their overall health. I will go 100% to help the patient. You can’t afford to miss anything.”
The diverse responsibilities of diagnosing diseases, running a business, and selling glasses and contact lenses make for interesting workdays for Dr. Linh. She bought the practice, which had operated on Columbia Pike for 15 years, in 2003. Previously the practice existed as an optometrist’s office operating separately but alongside an optical retailer. When Dr. Linh took over she combined the two.
She also combined the skills and savvy she had acquired throughout many years of working during the week for an ophthalmologist in private practice and on the weekends for a large national optical chain. From the ophthalmologist Dr. Linh had learned the art of working and developing relationships with patients, conducting thorough exams to understand how diseases present themselves, and seeing how patients improved after treatment. Meanwhile, at the corporate optical chain, management was more concerned with running an efficient operation, which meant measuring how many pairs of glasses and contacts employees sold daily rather than whether patients received comprehensive eye care or were diagnosed correctly. Dr. Linh took the best elements of both her experiences when she opened Eye Site Optometrists.
Eye Site Optometrists is a full-service optometrist, providing comprehensive eye exams, a full optical lab, and a wide selection of quality eyeglasses and sunglasses. Dr. Linh is available for laser surgery co-management, dry eye therapy, and specialty contact lens fittings to meet needs such as astigmatism, multifocal, and keratoconus. Eye Site Optometrists is located at 2805 Columbia Pike in Arlington. Its hours are Monday through Friday 10am to 6pm. Learn more at www.eyesiteoptometrists.com or call 703.486-2620