Updated: Jan 15, 2021
Written by Jenny Lee and Christy Lau
We were connected with Dr. James Thompson who is based in North Vancouver, British Columbia through the CAOS Mentorship Program. Although unable to meet in person due to the constraints of COVID, we were able to have an online tour of his clinic, Edgemont Optometry, as well as an informative chat with Dr. Thompson. He is a 1975 Waterloo Optometry alumnus and has had ownership of his clinic since 1988, and recently retired in September 2020 to pass on the clinic to Dr. Harasym.
Dr. Thompson was happy to answer our questions and provided fascinating information about what it was like to practice when he was a new graduate – we learned that it was previously considered inappropriate to display frames in the storefront where it would be visible outside the clinic; frames were previously stored in drawers and only taken out when consulting patients. Thus, it was interesting to see how the clinic had been built differently; a wall was constructed in front of the waiting room and frames were found closer to the back of the clinic in its’ own separate room, creating an environment more reminiscent of a general practitioner’s office. Moreover, we discussed what it was like to not have access to equipment and technology such as auto-refractors, BIO, and online records – things that we seem to take for granted as fundamental components of an optometrist’s office today.
We also received invaluable insights into future directions, especially regarding pursuing a residency and working in corporate versus private practice. Dr. Thompson noted that a residency was not the be-all end-all of optometry; rather, skills gained through a residency could also be gained after graduation, although some might prefer the structure and ease of having a residency. Main takeaways from our conversation also included the idea that skills and knowledge in optometry is largely mastered outside the scope of school, and that working rurally was one of the best ways to hone our experiences and skills. Moreover, Dr. Thompson mentioned that when hiring associates, he liked to look at their hobbies as an indication of their working style.
Overall, it was an enlightening experience to be able to converse with Dr. Thompson and develop an appreciation for how optometry as a field has developed to where it is today. We appreciated Dr. Thompson’s insight and encouragement.