OD Q&A: Barbara Horn, OD

August 13, 2015

My brother when he was a child, the oldest, got to have vision therapy at a little optometrist’s office. My mother and I would sit there and watch him go through his therapy, and I always thought it looked like so much fun. So, watching him I was jealous that he got to do it, and I didn’t.

Why optometry?

My brother when he was a child, the oldest, got to have vision therapy at a little optometrist’s office. My mother and I would sit there and watch him go through his therapy, and I always thought it looked like so much fun. So, watching him I was jealous that he got to do it, and I didn’t. [Laughs] I got interested from that. I know that my eye doctor enjoyed what he did, and I thought it would be a great profession for me even way back when.

 

Is optometry really high-pay, low-stress?

I think it is. If you own your own business, you get to set your own hours, you can be part-time/full-time, it’s a pretty flexible profession. The stresses that do come up is that I own my business. That in itself and having to hire and fire staff can be stressful. But I’m on-call pretty much all the time, not that I couldn’t go in every second of every day, but I make myself available as often as I can. I live really close to my office, just three miles away, so I can go in at any time when someone needs me, so it’s really great to be part of my community. People know that they can count on you. But it’s also stressful when you have to tell someone that he is going blind or he has a tumor in his eye. So, there are parts of the profession and your job that are stressful, but not the majority of it. The benefits outweigh that.

 

What are the pros and cons of being married to someone who shares your profession?

I don’t have any cons, to be honest. I think it’s a really great thing because we can talk about it and not have to do 20 minutes of background as to what I’m about to tell you. We just talk about it and be done with it in a couple minutes as a quick story. We understand the stresses, too. So, I think it’s a really good thing. I don’t have any negatives being married to an optometrist. I think it’s wonderful.

 

What advice can you give to women ODs trying to find a work/life balance?

Optometry is a really good career to pick. You can do part-time, full-time, you can raise kids. I have a lot of support around me, so just make sure that you’re married to the right person, that he is there to help you out if you need it. You need to definitely need to take the time with your kids because they’re only young once. I was doing a lot as an AOA trustee and on the board of my township. I served my term and then they asked me serve another term-I saw that when I was traveling so much that when I come home I need to be with my kids, not necessarily at yet another meeting for the township. So, it was very important to me but there are certain things that you might have to give up that you don’t want to. And I didn’t want to give that up but my children came first. There are some tough decisions that you’ll make.

 

 

When and why did you start rollerblading?

[Laughs] I was rollerblading in high school, just to get out and get some exercise and it’s something that’s out in the sun. We have a park that’s just a few miles from home that’s six-mile loop. I would put some weights on my wrist, and I would go around. And I found it’s really good exercise, it’s not hard on my knees. Running and biking for some reason hurts my knees, so I started doing that, it’s a great way to clear my head, and you can go faster than running. [Laughs] I really enjoy it. If I really need to get out some stress I just go.

 

What’s something your colleagues don’t know about you?

A lot of people do not know that I have two stepchildren. I have my own children, an 8-year-old and an 11-year-old. My husband has two children, one is 22 who just graduated from the University of Michigan, and another is 17 who just graduated from high school. So, I’ve got two other kids who I love very much.

 

As an optometrist, how do you see your community involvement benefitting you?

I think it benefits the students who are learning from presentations, it benefits the parents who learn about optometry, it benefits our office of course because I’m at a football game for my son, a child gets poked in the eye-this has happened multiple times already-and they send him up to me in the stands or he’s really not feeling good, I’m down on the field helping him out. I love taking care of patients and the kids. You get to know the families, the kids get to know all the other kids. It’s really good for community involvement for our practice and increased friendships just by getting to know people. It’s really nice to have optometry behind me as I’m at these functions and helping people out.

 

Why did you get started in leadership?

When I was in my first week of optometry school, the teacher in a practice management course asked us to pick a topic. I picked my own because I was confused by the alphabet soup of optometry-AOA, AAO, etc. [laughs], so I looked them all up. The teacher wanted us be more comfortable speaking in front of people, and I learned that all of these alphabet soup organizations are important to our profession, but there’s only one that really fights for advocacy, for parity, and safeguards our profession: the AOA. So I knew from the first week in optometry school that I wouldn’t just be an optometrist, I would be someone who volunteered any way I could to help continue to fight for the advocacy of our profession. 

 

 

Why is it important to encourage leadership and participation in women?

Optometry used to be a profession of men who just felt an obligation to join their professional organization. Like I said, the AOA and our state affiliates are the only ones that fight for our scope that allows us to do what we do. More women are now graduating than men, so we need to make sure that women are supporting the profession-part-time, full-time, doesn’t matter. We need women to have that same feeling of obligation to support their own livelihood by supporting the organization. I think we need women in leadership to be mentors for other women. Women or men should all try to be leaders or volunteer any way that they can, I think it’s really important.

 

What was the most frustrating part of the lobbying trip to Capitol Hill in October 2013?

With healthcare reform in the Harkin Amendment, which doesn’t allow people to discriminate against a single class of providers like ophthalmologists and optometrists, Andy Harris was an anesthesiologist who created a bill to not allow Harkin to be implemented, meaning that we could be discriminated against. Sometimes when you meet with legislators, you meet the staff. Well, Andy Harris himself was sitting there, and it was the longest meeting I’ve ever had with a legislator. We sat there talking as politely as we could trying to respectfully disagree with him. It was a very interesting meeting, so it’s frustrating but exciting that his bill had zero and still has zero support whatsoever. So we hit the Hill that day and we went around. So as frustrating as it can be to sit there and beat your head against a wall in a meeting [laughs], you leave there and find that by educating all the other legislators he did not have any support for his bill. Frustrating but a good result.

 

What’s one thing you would change about optometry as it stands now?

I think that we’ve got a lot of battles going on I wish we didn’t always have to fight. I wish we could always keep moving forward. There are a lot of changes going on, and we’re trying to make sure that we’re advancing the profession and sometimes we’re attacked. That’s one thing I’d like to change would be just let us be.

 

Do you have any regrets?

No, I think that there’s some things that sometimes you might do differently, but I don’t have regrets. I think you can’t let things weigh you down. I think you look back, evaluate what’s gone on, and move forward. I don’t think I have any specific regrets. You don’t want to be selfish, but you want to find your own happiness. You want to make everyone around you happy and your family happy. I wouldn’t probably move again for family. So I would find my own place, find where I was meant to be, and go there and not stick around for any other reason than me and my immediate family.

 

What’s something crazy that you’ve never done but would like to try?

I’ve always said that if I died skydiving, my father would kill me. My mom and dad have invested way too much in me to go do something that could really wreck my life, so nothing crazy like that. Maybe a world tour. I would take two months off. I’ve never gone backpacking anywhere. I’d love to hit a certain number of cities in different countries in a number of days. I think that that would be neat. I don’t know if it’s crazy, but it’s tough to do. [Laughs] I wouldn’t risk my life but anything that would be fun. I enjoy having fun.