Archived Story

Envisioning retirement [UPDATED]

Published 10:49am Monday, August 29, 2011 Updated 10:49am Monday, August 29, 2011

Tom Smith worked in Chicago for a specialty contact lens practice before moving to Fergus Falls in 1969, when he purchased the practice of Dr. Tyler Tillish. This was the start of a 42-year career in Fergus Falls as an optometrist.

“I’ve had the opportunity to serve some wonderful people and have worked alongside some excellent associates in the field of optometry,” said Smith, who is retiring this month.

Dr. Tillish’s practice had been located on West Lincoln Avenue but was on South Court Street when Smith took over in 1969. After six years at the Court Street location, he practiced with the late Dr. Jim Buckley for five years.

Optometrists, also known as doctors of optometry, or ODs, are the main providers of vision care. They examine people’s eyes to diagnose vision problems such as nearsightedness and farsightedness, and they test patients’ depth and color perception and ability to focus and coordinate the eyes. Optometrists may prescribe eyeglasses or contact lenses, or they may provide other treatments, such as vision therapy or low-vision rehabilitation.

Smith is a native of Chariton, Iowa, and attended the University of Iowa. He later attended the Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago, obtaining his Doctor of

Optometry Degree.

Smith worked independently in Fergus Falls, from 1981 to 2001, until Denise Hanson became a partner in the optometry practice. They became known as Fergus Falls Vision Care in 2002. Tara Kempfer joined the two optometrists in 2006. The business, with the three optometrists, became InVision Eye Care in 2009. They are located along Baird Avenue northwest of Kennedy Secondary School.

Smith was asked about changes in optometry the past several years.

“Retinal cameras came on the scene and we have instruments for glaucoma evaluation. Those are two big advances,” he said. “We also have the OCT which provides an MRI of the retina. From a consumer standpoint, it was a positive move when we went to keeping medical records electronically.”

Optometrists such as Smith also test for glaucoma and other eye diseases and diagnose conditions caused by systemic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure, referring patients to other health practitioners as needed.

“We can prescribe medication to treat vision problems, something we couldn’t do 20 years ago,” said Smith. “We encourage preventative measures by promoting nutrition and hygiene education to our patients to minimize the risk of eye disease.”

He and his wife, Sheryl, plan to move to Wasilla, Alaska, where their son Tom resides. Another son, Chad, lives in Tampa, Fla.

In retirement, Smith looks forward to hiking, traveling in the RV with Sheryl and getting more involved with his hobby of photography.

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