Optometry Podcast: Dr. Mark Dunbar Talks The Battle at the Sands
On this week’s podcast, Dr. Darryl Glover caught up with one of the pre-eminent ocular disease optometrists in the US, Dr. Mark Dunbar. He shares how he found optometry as a career, the decisions that shaped his passion for ocular disease, and his experience as the co-chairman of the Vision Expo conference advisory board.
Dr. Dunbar grew up in a small town in Northern Michigan: no stoplight, no McDonald’s. It was idyllic, kids played outside and local community was everything. When he was a junior in high school his teacher assigned the class to write a report on what they wanted to do when they grew up. At the time, he wanted to be a professional basketball player, but even then, he knew that he was too short to really make this dream happen. He needed a plan B. A student in the class ahead of him had written his report about being an optometrist, and this paper was used by the teacher as an example of what the report should entail. “Why not be an optometrist?” Dr. Dunbar thought, and he began exploring the career.
He attended Ferris State University in Michigan, and was planning to “figure it out”, but the more he looked at optometry, the more he realized it was exactly what he wanted. He could live in a small town, coach the local basketball team, and be really involved in his local community. Going into fourth year, he did an externship rotation at the Omni Eye Center in Kentucky, one of the first co-management centers in the US at the time. Through his time at the clinic, he was inspired by colleagues to apply to work at Baskin Palmer Eye Institute because the doctors that had worked there seemed so knowledgeable and advanced. He wanted to learn more about ocular disease and this was the best opportunity to do so, but he also was drawn to the sunny climate after that northern Michigan upbringing. “My goals in life were very simple. I just wanted palm trees in my yard.”
His plan was to only stay in Miami for a few years, but he fell in love with the city and his coworkers at Baskin Palmer, and 32 years later he can’t picture leaving this great community.
A Day in the Life of an Ocular Disease Optometrist at Baskin Palmer Eye Institute
Dr. Dunbar shares that his day is not that different from a typical primary eye care practice. He sees 25-30 patients a day, with a range of conditions including glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetes, and cataracts. For the most part it is more of a geriatric patient base, but he also sees a younger, healthier group of patients providing for the University of Miami staff and employees. Dry eyes, allergies, and refractions are still a foundation of his patient care, even in this medical setting. His biggest advice is to treat all patients with a medical mindset. “Put pen to paper and write a prescription.” Sampling medications or over the counter tears contributes to a major issue in how optometrists are perceived; medical doctors write prescriptions and don’t hand out samples from a drawer.
Why Should Students Consider Residency?
Dr. Dunbar is a strong believer that residencies help optometrists get an extra year of special interest education so that by the time you leave at the end of the year, you’re confident you can handle anything that walks into your practice. “It’s an investment in your education. That extra year of training gives you the best opportunity to move as our profession moves and truly manage patients of all kinds.” Dr. Dunbar encourages all students to consider residency, because this training opens doors and helps build relationships that may give your career opportunities you would have never imagined.
Why You Need to Make it to Vision Expo!
Dr. Mark Dunbar is co-chairman (along with Dr. Ben Gaddie) of the