Q&A: Ocular aesthetics injections, Irish whisky, optometric legislation, becoming a master gardener

November 11, 2019

Meet Selina McGee, OD, FAAO, President Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians

Meet Selina McGee, OD, FAAO, President Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a small town in western Oklahoma. I graduated with 18 people in my high school class and nine of us had been together since kindergarten. My dad worked in oil and gas for 40+ years, he just retired, and my mom is a retired school teacher.

How did you land in optometry?
I knew I wanted to do something in health care, I didn’t know the right fit. There was a summer between my freshman and sophomore year in college that I spent with my older brother in Pennsylvania. I came across an ad for an optometric technician. I might have put in my cover letter that I wanted to go to optometry school. [Laughs] I landed the job, and a week later I was like, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.

Why private practice?
I have always been an entrepreneur at heart and that’s the other part that drew me to optometry because I could marry those together. I worked my first five years of my career in a large nonprofit referral center. I loved the patient interaction but not the bureaucratic slowness. I knew that wasn’t going to be a long-term fit, so I left and opened a practice with another ophthalmologist with whom I have been in partnership for 17 years until just recently. And now I’m in private practice, full-scope optometry for the first time in 17 years, which is really cool.

Why don’t more ODs get involved in legislative changes?
I had a mentor when I started optometry school-Dr. George Foster was our dean. The first day of optometry school the conversation was around how important it was to be involved. If anyone has ever heard Dr. Foster’s three-legged stool talk, the school consists of our school and our state, the association and the members, and then the Board of Examiners. If any part of the three-legged stool teeters, the stool falls over. I had no idea optometry was such a heavily legislated profession. I learned very quickly because in 1998 we went to battle over our laser law. I hit the ground running with that knowledge, and I have never looked back. The fact that I’m president of our association and I spend as much time lobbying as I do anything else has been an interesting journey.

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How did Botox and aesthetics injections win the OK in the state of OK?
I was working at the time with a technician who had worked with a plastic surgeon. I pulled out our law to double check, and it says ODs can’t do cosmetic lid surgery. Doesn’t say we can do functional surgery, doesn’t say we can’t do cosmetic injections. I called the Board of Examiners to ask. After several board meetings, I got good news that yes, we can do this. I tried to open accounts to get the product, but I couldn’t get anyone to sell to me. It took four months of letter writing, and I finally got Allergan to sell me the product. Two companies refuse, so it’s still a battle.

How do your patients respond to you offering ocular aesthetics?
I’ve been pleasantly surprised because they say, “It makes perfect sense. I trust you to do this more than I would trust anybody else because you know everything there is to know about the eye.” So, the word “trust” is very important to me and that our patients trust us to do this is huge.

What's something your colleagues don't know about you?
I was an athlete in high school, and for eight years I held the stolen base record in softball in the state of Oklahoma. I’m a Master Gardener, and I do a lot of photography which those two art forms marry well together. The latest hobby is equestrian sports.

What prompted you to become a Master Gardener?
My grandmother and my mother have heavily green thumbs, so growing up we always had a huge garden and a beautiful yard. It was certainly passed down. I was pregnant at the time with my oldest daughter, and I thought, “If I don’t do this now, I’ll never get this done.” I do a lot of woody ornamentals. We have a huge herb garden and tomatoes. Certification is a four-month long class session, one day a week. You spend another 60 hours at their phone bank and answer questions that people call in about. It’s community service, but once you get through it you are considered a master gardener.

What's something about optometry you'd like to change?
Optometry historically has not done a good enough job about how comprehensive eye care is. That is one thing we have to change in the public space. The second piece is there is going to be a huge gap in care over the next 10 years that optometry has to fill. If we don’t step up to the plate, someone’s going to fill it for us. We have to continue legislative battles with ophthalmology so those symbiotic relationships are truly symbiotic. You have to build that trust, and there are too many instances of trust breaking over the years because of turf wars. It’s going to have to come one-on-one with the surgeons that you work with.

How do you see your role as an optometrist changing in the next 10 years?
I think we are going to build on what we have done. I see stronger pillars on the medical side because of the way patient demographics are changing. The days of selling glasses and doing refractions are coming to an end, if not already. Over the next 10 years I would like to expand what we can do and have more physicians able and comfortable to do procedures that make sense for patients and nationwide optometry.

What's your guilty pleasure food?
Three years ago, I went to Ireland and I tried Irish whisky. When I came home, I decided to explore the entire whiskey world. That morphed into bourbon, Irish whisky, Japanese whisky, etc. That’s my guilty pleasure.

Do you have any regrets?
I wish at a young age that I had developed a comfort level with being uncomfortable. It’s come as I’ve gotten older. I realize you can’t be good at something when you first do it-that is how it’s supposed to be. I wish I had leaned into that much earlier in life.

What's the craziest thing you've ever done?
When I spent the summer in Pennsylvania with two optometrists and decided that I wanted to do this the rest of my life. At the time I was playing softball at a junior college in Kansas. I called my coach two weeks before school started and said I’m not coming back. I applied to go undergrad at Northeastern State because I thought if I was already there I would have a better shot of getting into optometry school. I was accepted about a week before school started. I picked up my stuff at home, drove to Oklahoma, and started at NSU the next week completely sight unseen.

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