Last year I decided to try a different practitioner for my routine annual eye exam and this year had my second appointment with the same optometrist. A few months following my initial appointment, my wife had her annual exam last year with the same practitioner. The practice is Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care, and our appointments were with Vicki Wong, OD.
For those who are not among my regular readers, I’m a professor of US Political and Southern History by trade and a barefooted boy from the fields of the Hungarian Settlement, Louisiana, which is a rural community in Livingston Parish. I have been blessed with what I’ll term excellent eyesight, but there is a strong history of diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, and other conditions in my immediate family. Thus, I spent considerable time observing and listening to different optometrists including low vision specialists, ophthalmologists and other MDs in subfields such as vitreoretinal medicine. Shortly after I began graduate school, I had an appointment with an ophthalmologist who had been a student of one of my Dad’s specialists. He performed his initial examination so thoroughly that I later joked that he climbed inside my eye. Even during my doctoral work, I would travel down to Baton Rouge for routine vision appointments and could contact him directly for assistance when pollen levels affected my eyes to a degree that I had not experienced prior.
I type that because the only corrective lenses I have used are the non-Rx over-the-counter minimum magnification readers. It surprises many, but because of my professional field I have used these types of glasses for maybe 20 years. That was another benefit of my early visits to this younger ophthalmologist. He understood that I often encounter faded handwriting in my research along with fine print that I suspect fleas would need to magnify. He told me it was natural to have difficulty seeing some of what I read and not to worry about the need to magnify specific source materials when there was no change in how well I saw other documents or things in general. (Be at ease because I won’t bore you by pondering the proverbial if could fleas read philosophic ramblings).
To clarify, even with my vision, I feel that I have enough experience to differentiate between not just bad and good eye exams, but also those that are thorough by the practitioner. Keep in mind, however, that my opinions and observations here are through the lens of a patient. My field is not healthcare, and I have never worked in any aspect of the eyecare industry.
Let’s start with the review:
I was impressed by Dr. Wong during my initial visit, and she earned my confidence in her abilities as an OD along with a genuine respect for her as a professional. As noted, following my first visit, my wife had her annual exam with Dr. Wong last year, and I was returning patient this year. Hopefully unneeded marriage advice, but be confident about your commendations when you choose to recommend someone to your spouse.
I’ll detail the reasons for my opinion about Dr. Wong later in this essay, but I want to begin with the practice for which she works. While I’m not an established Marylander, Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care is an established practice in this area. According to their website, the practice dates back to the year 1964 and moved to its present location off of Shady Grove Road in the year 1998. You can read a brief summation of practice history along with that of Drs. Harold and Alan Glazier at the link below.
I do not know Dr. Alan Glazier and did not converse with him during my visits to his practice. During my initial visit last April, I did observe him interact with one of his patients, a young man of who appeared to be of high school age. Obviously, I wasn’t privy to their conversation, but it appeared to be relaxed yet professional amongst the doctor, patient, and who I assume was the young man’s mother. My impression was that all seemed comfortable with each other, and I’m of that school where I think communication is key to any type of relationship. It’s a two-way street, and both doctor and patient in this case share the responsibility. I saw a mutual conversation and not a lecture and that is something I want, respect, and honestly need with any medical office.
For readers who are not in the Montgomery County area of Maryland or the Washington, DC, suburbs and exurbs and will likely not be visiting this practice for yourself, I encourage you to take a gander at their website because it may prove useful regardless of where you reside. If you click on the “News” heading in the top menu, there are a number of brief but informative and easy-to-read pieces written by Dr. Glazier within the subtopics of “Eye Resources,” “Common Eye Problems,” “Eye Care,” “Eye Health,” and “News.” I’ve provided direct links below.
If in the future I would have a desire to conduct some oral history interviews about eye health, the care, and practice related to such, then Alan Glazier would be an individual with whom I would like to connect. I have little doubt that such an interview would be informative, but I suspect that it would also be enjoyable based solely upon my brief observation, personal experience at his practice, and a cursory perusal of his writings. One of my mantras is that attitude reflects leadership, and this practice of his exudes a positive and professional vibe.
This part of my review may not be the actual division of the practice as it exists, but I viewed the office as an interesting mix of retail and medical. That observation is not a criticism.
At my initial visit to the practice, I wondered if I entered the correct office because it looked like the layout one might find at a bookstore or coffee shop. Comfortable couches and other furnishings that do not give that vibe of a medical waiting room greet anyone walking through the door I entered. As I expanded my view, I noticed the eyeglass frames displayed on the walls with workers at what I’ll term generically as fitting stations. To the right near the center of the room is a circular station with multiple workers where patients check in. Fortunately for me, one of the workers at this station saw me enter and called out asking how she could help me. In no way am I suggesting any problems with the layout, but it is different from walking up to a sliding glass window or receptionist desk and signing your name to a piece of paper on a clipboard before being recognized. It’s different from the chain eyeglass businesses where one tends to see the “check-in service” desk immediately.
I had completed the “new patient” forms online from their website. At the location I merely reviewed a print out for accuracy, had my ID and insurance cards copied, and gave the individual checking me in a two-page document where I summarized my unique vestibular condition, the purpose for a couple of Rx drugs first prescribed by specialists at Johns Hopkins since I do not take these medications for the conditions for which they are most commonly prescribed, and a more detailed outline of my vision health and family history than asked for on the patient forms. It was a quick and easy appointment check-in, some friendly banter about my accent (I reckon that my Louisiana boy self sounds to Marylanders just like some of these East Coasters sound to my ears), an offer of refreshments, and directions to have a seat in that center area amidst the frames. The check-in for the second appointment was just as easy.
Both of my appointments were point on schedule, and my wife’s appointment was less than five minutes past the scheduled time which I consider as “on time” in a medical setting. My impression is that few patients will experience even minor delays of less than 15 minutes, and only in rare circumstances will any patient encounter an extended wait. For example, with any medical facility the practitioner may need to care for an emergency and doing so will throw everything behind schedule. Personally, I want that type of focus in medical practices of which I am a patient. Even if I’m the patient waiting, I’m still not the person in need of emergency care. Needing emergency care is a far greater inconvenience than merely waiting for something routine. I have no way of knowing firsthand, but I feel confident that I could see Dr. Wong without an appointment if I had an eye-related emergency. Depending upon the degree of emergency, I suspect a patient would probably be directed to any of the practitioners available in the office at that time.
For the first appointment, I had arrived about 20 minutes prior to my appointment in case of additional paperwork, but I only waited about 10 minutes before being called by a technician. Once on the other side of that circular station, it looked like a medical practice with various testing equipment visible along with some examination rooms.
The technician was friendly, and the testing equipment appeared to be modern, well maintained, and clean. Even though things looked clean, she wiped the machines prior to my placing my chin into the little placeholders. I liked that she explained the purpose of each test and described what I would see or experience with the test prior to beginning.
As most readers here know firsthand, the routine tests for a “normal” eye exam aren’t difficult for a patient. They’re quick and pain free. Even the “awkward” puff of air has more bark than bite or breeze than gale force to keep expressions in theme, but for me at least it’s reassuring to hear exactly what will happen in terms of air puffs, flashes of light, and even what you will be looking at when it’s your eye in close proximity to anything. The technician did a good job, and one thing that I’ll note is that she encouraged me to blink. To some that might seem minor, but I’ve seen some technicians and medical practitioners in the eye health area appear to get frustrated if the patient blinks. I’ve had others who perhaps unknowingly start a sound loop of “don’t blink, keep your eyes open” which for me triggers a blink. At Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care everything took place at a comfortable pace.
After the tests, the technician directed me to some seating on the “medical” side of the office and said that Dr. Wong would be with me shortly. In less than 5 minutes, the technician directed me into a small examination room. I had just settled myself comfortably into “the chair” when Dr. Wong appeared and introduced herself.
Now I had researched both the practice and the practitioners there, so I had an idea about how Dr. Wong looked and more importantly had a familiarity with her educational background and professional interests. In addition to the brief bio on the practice website linked at the beginning, you can learn a little more about Dr. Wong from this introduction video linked below.
Another representation of Dr. Wong as a professional can be heard in this short video from New Grad Optometry where she was one of several attendees of what I believe was the 2016 International Vision Expo Conference who discussed some professional challenges.
Her video is linked below.
My experience as department chair along with observations of some of the distinct challenges that my wife faces as a younger professional woman provides me with some additional insight into the points made by Dr. Wong in this video presentation. Some may disagree with me, but I do believe that a young professional woman may and often faces a few additional challenges than I have faced.
Here, I’m only referring to those encounters where a patient in this situation or a student in higher education doubts or questions the competency of the professor or practitioner based upon superficial perceptions. Dr. Wong enjoys a youthful appearance, and is a woman who I think is very attractive. Of course, those characteristics have zero to do with her ability or competence, but those aspects like so many others make everyone’s experiences unique even within the same environment.
Please don’t read more into the above. I’m only stating that I have seen some women have their professional abilities at times overlooked because some in society place an additional focus on outward appearance. Of course, an appeal, trust, or even reliance upon our personal confirmation bias isn’t limited to appearance, gender, race, or any single group. We all have our own obstacles and advantages, and I hope that we as a society can view those specifically to an individual and not across generic groupings.
I did not look at the dates of her medical degrees or think to ask, but I would guess that Dr. Wong has been in practice somewhere in the ballpark of five (5) years. I equate what I experienced in the office to what I felt at about the five-year period of teaching and what I’ve observed from my faculty at the same stage in their careers. It’s a fun stage of professional life because you remember your training as a student, assistant, intern, or resident like it was yesterday, but now you are discovering how to apply yourself to what you learned.
My second appointment the other day confirmed my initial impressions even though I failed to ask how long it’s been since she graduated. While this appointment was not as thorough as my first since I did not have my eyes dilated, Dr. Wong appeared more “experienced.” Do not take that observation as a criticism because at both appointments she was professional and confident. I just felt like I saw more of her personality shining through. The reasons for my perception are endless, but I know from my experience that she has voyaged beyond that “once, twice, thrice” cycle where it begins to feel natural to display both training and experience simultaneously without cognitive effort. Perhaps, I saw the personality because I was a returning patient and not new. Maybe it’s because I had my 10-year-old son with me for this appointment. I don’t know the reason I mentioned “experienced,” but I feel that Dr. Wong is progressing professionally and will continue to improve at her craft. Succinctly, she has not reached her apex as an OD.
Regardless of profession, I think we all experience similar transitions as we progress in fields. With Dr. Wong, I respect her as a professional and I also like her as a person. While I do not “need” to like someone personally to respect them, I find that a positive feeling decreases stress and anxiety. When it comes to medical relationships, I personally do not need any additional stress.
I recommend the medical side of Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care to everyone. You will receive appropriate and professional care from the optometrists and technicians in my opinion. While I do not have firsthand experience, I feel that a patient would receive the proper referrals to an ophthalmologist, other specialists, or MD if necessary. Dr. Wong knows the signs of conditions that are outside the realm of those in her specific area and is humble enough to not view herself as some self-anointed expert in every aspect of healthcare or vision care. I asked plenty of specific and generic questions about eye health during my initial exam, and she handled herself as good as any I’ve met in her profession and better than many. There is an ophthalmologist with the practice according to the website, but I have not seen this individual during my visits.
An opinion of what I term “the retail” side of the practice is harder to discern. It’s more difficult because the patient is in some respects more “consumer” than patient. As a patient, my primary desire is competency. Both needs and wants tend to broaden as a consumer. Also, the focus is not upon service only but also tangible goods on this side of the business.
The frames displayed appear to be high quality and among what are the latest fashions and most popular styles judging from the marketing materials. I suspect that the lenses offered reflect the most recent advancements in their craftsmanship. Naturally, the price of the “latest and greatest” will be higher than older or more generic options.
If I were someone who had a complex Rx that required progressive lenses or unique medical aspects, I would most certainly look closely at the offerings at Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care. Likewise, if I wanted the latest in styles, I could probably find something that I wanted here.
For some folks, however, the fit may not be the best match. To clarify, I’ll try to explain via some comparisons. If your computer usage is limited to a word processor and web surfing, you do not need chips like an AMD Ryzen Threadripper or 18-core Intel I-9. Those would be overkill for your needs. I would love to have a need, excuse, or the bucks to buy something like the Massey Ferguson 6700 tractor I saw recently on TV; heck I wish I had a need for the ole Farmall Cub tractors Grandpa had back on the farm. Historical muscle memory has me leaning to the right to see the ground past the steering wheel. (Note: my favorite tractors were the post-WWII configuration where seat and steering wheel were offset to the right to enable a clear view of the ground). Residing in exurbia, however, I do not have the need for any type of tractor.
What I’m saying is that there is nothing wrong with the style of a classic Rolls or modern sports car; sometimes you need the power of a modified V8, but sometimes any running vehicle will get you where you need to be. Sometimes walking or public transit has its advantages.
For me, the eyeglass offerings at Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care are not a good match. I’m lucky enough where I can find something to meet my wants and needs “off the rack,” but others may want or need the precise fit or look that a tailor can provide.
For example, my wife who has worn glasses for many years described her experience with picking glasses from this practice smooth and easy. She liked the feel of her old glasses and asked the young lady assisting her for frames that were similar. The employee directed my wife to one display, and she went to another. My wife picked out two pairs, and the young lady came back to the fitting station with about four pairs. Very quickly, they removed two pairs from the collection for different reasons and were down to three or four potentials. Nose bridge didn’t feel right on one, but the overall fit felt better. Her technician listened and retrieved what may have been last year’s model of that frame which had a different nose bridge.
My advice is to check out the “retail” section but realize that you have the power to walk away if the match isn’t there. Walking away may mean to try another technician or going to another establishment. The technicians have diverse personalities and tastes, so I think someone’s experiences might be as different as night and day. If you sit in that central area while waiting for your exam, you cannot avoid hearing the interactions between technicians and people trying to purchase. With some, it does sound like a used car salesperson pushing a specific model or package. Others had personalities that seemed a better match for me personally.
If you have a negative experience with a specific technician, I recommend speaking to your optometrist about what happened. I do not know the establishment’s chain of command, that is whether an office manager exists, but I know that the practitioners are a good resource. Obviously, Dr. Glazier is the owner of the establishment and would be the “final voice” inside his business, but I would speak to whoever was your OD if they were available.
Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care can serve the medical needs of most and the practitioners there should be able to provide necessary referrals to specialists when needed. I will continue to patronize the establishment and will recommend it and Dr. Vicky Wong.
If you are comfortable with your current eye doctor but have difficulty finding the “perfect” corrective lenses or frames, you might want to give the “retail” side of Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care a look. At worst, you lose some time. If you are comfortable with “off the rack” with limited special needs you might not find anything new in terms of retail.
With the quality of the exams, I think most will be satisfied. With Dr. Vicky Wong, I think most will leave thinking that they have met a qualified and sincere practitioner.
A final thought for those “old school.”
If you are there just for an exam and feel out of place waiting in the “coffee shop” styled area listening to the talk about frames and lenses, I suggest just taking a seat over on the medical side about 20 steps or so from the machinery or if that area is congested there is a little hallway on the other side of building that has a couple of chairs and televisions. I just feel more comfortable on that side, but I am sort of “old school” LouisianaBoy.
I’ll be seeing you (yep, bad pun intended) as I hope to return to more regular postings in the coming months. Thanks to all who have inquired about “what’s up?” Life does change with children and international adoption adds layers to the degrees of change. It’s been stressful. It’s been relaxing. I’ve wanted to yell. I’ve smiled and laughed more than I ever imagined possible.
Admittedly, it felt odd being the father on Father’s Day when it was the first Father’s Day after Dad passed away back in Louisiana while I was overseas. It’s new. It can be scary at times. Even the mundane, however, have become adventures.
We’re wrapping up with paying off the bills related to international adoption such as the airfare and such. I’ll include the Paypal link here because most readers will be local and many continue to ask about what we “need.”
For people who happened to find this review in a search engine, there are no obligations or conditions to read this or other entries. If you choose to comment, I ask for civilness and no vulgarity. Disagreements and discussions, however, are welcome. Again, I do not reap any financial compensation from this blog, and I doubt if I’ll ever see another AdSense check from the cat fountain video on YouTube. I just offer my opinions and like to keep the big lump on top of my shoulders from becoming more empty than it is. I also like to patronize local businesses who at their core are the “Mom and Pop” style establishments that played such a role in my upbringing.