I was born midmorning on a snowy February day in 1951 in the newly opened Washington County Hospital on North Street in Fayetteville. Dr. Hathcock was much annoyed with my mother because of the lateness of my arrival. This is not surprising to my family and friends.
I grew up outdoors with dogs and cats; caught crawdads in the creek, and watched bumblebees play in the clover of our front yard. A little later I raised pigeons, honey bees, and tropical fish. Once I collected freshwater jellyfish and kept them in an aquarium until my guppies ate them. Later in Africa, I had a pet baboon and a dik-dik deer for pets. Once I kept a chameleon in my bedroom window for a while until the neighbors complained. I had a baby praying mantis that set up shop on a lampshade above my reading chair, feasting on the critters that came to the light. When he got as big as my hand, I let him go because I noticed he was contemplating me way too much. I have always been fascinated by life. This love of life, preserving and treasuring life led me through a BS in Zoology at the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville) and into medicine.
Drs Joe Hall and Morriss Henry were influential in my choosing medicine and ophthalmology. I will ever be grateful to them.
After medical school in Little Rock, my wife Pat and I took a gap year and worked in a missionary hospital in Nalerigu, Ghana West, Africa, run by the Baptist Missions of the SBC. They were kind enough to overlook the fact that I was a Methodist. It was a lifechanging experience, where I learned to adapt and be flexible. Malaria, malnutrition, and infectious diseases were the things I treated most. This has had an enormous impact on my life and medical practice. I came into ophthalmology mindful of its place in the wholeness of medicine, not as if in a vacuum. While there I experienced typhoid fever and my first and most serious episode of a family curse, Celiac disease. This began my career-long interest in malnutrition: general and ocular.
Returning to the US I took a 3-year residency on ophthalmology at the University of Missouri in Columbia Missouri. There I trained under good teachers and clinicians. Dr. Robert Burns was our program director, and his wife Dr. Lynette Feeney-Burns was a nationally known researcher in macular degeneration. She advised me that the primary treatment for preventing and slowing macular degeneration would be with vitamins and antioxidants. Following her direction, I have studied and extended that work over my career applying it to diabetic retinopathy.
In 1981 I returned to Fayetteville and opened a private ophthalmology practice. In 1986 Dr. Singleton and I merged practices to form The Eye Center, building the current building in 1995.
I have had a long and rich career, doing thousands of surgeries and lasers, and caring for countless patients, sometimes 4 generations in one family. This has been very rich and many wonderful friendships came of it. Over the last 40 years, I find it has been my patients who have been my teachers. I have been blessed to work with wonderful colleagues and I will never be able to adequately express my gratitude to all the people that have worked with me at The Eye Center serving our patients and community. But I do want to especially thank 4 colleagues: Dr. Joe Hall, Dr. Mitchel Singleton, Dr. Kellye McElroy Smith, and Dr. Patrick Risch who made it all possible. Thank you!