Meet Dorothy L. Hitchmoth, OD, ABO, ABCMO, FAAO.
1. Where did you grow up?
My father was career military so I grew up all over the world. I was able to live in Europe, I was able to live in Japan and when my dad retired we all moved back home. Home was in the greater Boston area, both of my parents are children of immigrants. I ended up completing all my education in the Boston area and the I ran for the hills. I now live in rural New Hampshire and really have been here most of my adult life.
2. Why private practice now?
The real story is that I’m crazy. [Laughs] I was at the VA for 22 years, the VA was a labor of love for me. From day one I was like “these are my peeps”, I understand the language, my father was career military, that’s what I grew up around. I thought it was an honor and a privilege to take care of these guys. I kept saying “I’m only going to stay a few years, I’ll leave next year.” I’ve had a private practice and been full time at the VA for that entire tenure.
About half way through my time at the VA I started consulting work because of the privileges that you are handed for being a VA doctor is professor appointments in a variety of places. I started a big teaching program. I'm also a bit of a fighter and became involved in organized optometry. I’m a past state president and have been involved with the AOA for 25 years. I love seeing patients! I get to visit with different, interesting people all day, everyday. In a rural area, there’s a real need. I have a lot of elderly patients with complex eye diseases and that’s really all I did at the VA. So it’s good.
3. Why did you choose to share space with another doctor for your second location?
It was really a simple decision. We were a 45-second walk from each other’s office in a really high rent area and I said, “hey Dr. Sam, why don’t we put everything under one roof and reduce costs and merge equipment. That took one or two sips of bad, brown liquor and the deal was done. [Laughs]
So we still have a partnership going and I’ll be shameless and say we need help up here! It’s really difficult to recruit young doctors to rural areas but I’m like hey, guys this is great! They’re safe areas, people need you, there’s like no crime, you know everything is good up here. We would love to have a partner or two. We are about 4 and a half hours from New York and a couple of hours from Boston. Not too bad, you can still get your city fix. With my consulting business, I actually travel all over the country. So I tell people you can go anywhere you want, airplanes are really cool technology, it’s great to be able to just come back home and just chill.
4. What's your favorite city?
That’s a tough question. San Diego’s pretty nice, I would say that’s pretty high on my list of places to visit. But Boston’s my favorite. Maybe because it’s more familiar, it’s an old city with a lot of history, there’s a lot of personal history for me. It’s almost like not a city but you have all the amenities of a city. The weather is great, it’s on the coast, great food, there’s a heavy immigrant population so it’s a multi-ethnic area which I like very much. That’s probably my top.
5. What is your guilty pleasure food?
So my mom’s Italian, the list is really long. Chocolate. What else am I going to say? [Laughs] Dark chocolate to be really specific.
6. How do you educate patients that overall health affects ocular and vision health?
The conversations I have with patients all day long are really quite simple. Don’t smoke. Eat your fruits and veggies. Little bit of wine’s ok, not too much. Drink some water. Go outside. It’s that simple. [Laughs] Nobody believes me but these are the things you need to do to prevent going blind if you’re at risk for blinding eye diseases. My family is at risk for macular degeneration, there are millions of people at risk for this in North America.
And we know what the risks are that are associated with vision loss from that stuff so even if you get dealt a bad hand, you have the bad gene, eating fruits and vegetables everyday in a good quantity can actually slow these diseases down and prevent the devastating visual effects. No smoking! That’s the other big one. I go on the radio and talk about smoking and the eye. Members of the public think “oh, smoking’s bad for your lungs” but it’s one of the number one implications of eye disease, particularly eye disease. That’s my number one message.