It’s difficult to fathom the number of eyeballs Dr. John Collins has peered into over the past 50 years – some brown, some blue, some old, some new.
But his long career of eye exams was originally inspired by Collins’ own case of childhood nearsightedness in the second grade when he was struggling to see the chalkboard.
The mild-mannered, bespectacled doctor will bid farewell to the practice Associates in Optometry on Friday, Dec. 29 at the Urbana office on North Main Street. The open house is set for 3:30 p.m.
Most older locals remember his affiliation with Dr. Charles “Chick” Evans – an optometrist significantly older than Collins who became his partner in the early-1970s. Evans and Collins were a fixture in Urbana for many years before Evans retired and Collins remained.
Collins, a native of Dayton, started his practice in 1966 in the Springfield suburb of Northridge, but soon realized it would be beneficial from a business standpoint to team up with Evans, who was established in Urbana. Collins said it was difficult to build a solo optometry practice at that time, partly because there was no eye insurance or Medicaid reimbursement. He began helping out in Urbana on Saturdays in 1967, adding more days of the week before ultimately becoming Evans’ partner. The practice also had an office in West Liberty until about 10 years ago.
Deciding in high school he wanted to become an optometrist, Collins graduated from Ohio State University and became licensed in 1965 with a bachelor’s degree in optometry back when only a bachelor’s degree was needed to practice. Over the decades, optometrists gradually gained the right to administer eye drops and the exams that follow, and also gained the right to treat acute eye issues as well as do limited prescribing of medications limited to eye treatment. These new responsibilities required additional education and licensing.
As a result of the changes in the law, some conditions previously treated only by ophthalmologists with medical degrees moved into the sphere of Collins’ office.
Acute illnesses such as red eye, metal fragments and other debris lodged in the eye from workplace incidents, and contact lenses “lost” behind the eyes of patients who mistakenly fell asleep wearing them became part of the routine at Collins’ practice. As time progressed, new diagnostic tools were added in the practice to identify glaucoma and fully examine the shrouded but essential retina. In his 50-plus years of practice, the most unusual case he diagnosed was a man with malignant melanoma of the retina – which is relatively rare.
Collins has been paring back his schedule over the past several years after Dr. James Grove joined the practice. Dr. Bethany Bloemhard, an Ohio State graduate from Urbana, was added to the practice recently as Collins has transitioned into retirement at the age of 75.
“I’m leaving here happily and without any regrets,” Collins said. “It’s been a great run, but I’m just ready to move on.”
Collins and his wife plan to enjoy retirement in their suburban north Springfield condominium and travel occasionally to visit family.