Dr. Jack L. Schaeffer, OD, FAAO, has such a remarkable passion for optometry as a career that his enthusiasm has proven to be contagious. The success of the 18-location (and still growing!) full-scope eye care practice he founded in Alabama is built upon his love for the profession, an unwavering commitment to his patients, and the core values of "science, style and service." All along the way, Dr. Schaeffer has lectured, written articles, participated in clinical trials, and shared his insights as a member of industry advisory boards. He has inspired many others to become optometrists, and all three of his children ultimately decided to attend optometry school. Dr. Brooke Schaeffer Kaplan, a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry, and Dr. Mark Schaeffer, a Southern College of Optometry graduate, are both working in this practice, and David Schaeffer is currently at Illinois College of Optometry and will join it upon completion of a residency.
An Optometric Career has Something for Everyone
The opportunity to use both his science degree and his business degree attracted Dr. Jack Schaeffer to a career in optometry. “Optometry allows me to be a doctor, which I love, but also allows me to be a business person and utilize those skills as well,” he says. Furthermore, “Optometrists are doctors who are also able to have personal lives. There’s very little on-call, and most of the work is done during the day. Yet you’re able to serve your patients and serve humanity by helping people to see their best throughout their entire lifetimes.”
Developing his practice as a meaningful entity that’s established in the community, grows with the community and gives back to the community is what has been fulfilling for Dr. Schaeffer, but, he adds, “The good thing about optometry is you can tailor your career to what you want to do. You can open your own practice or own an optometry or ophthalmology group, you can teach, or you can work in a national chain, a private OD or MD practice, a surgery center or a VA hospital. The opportunities are endless.”
Optometry’s Future is Among the Brightest
The opportunities available through a career in optometry will only increase. As Dr. Schaeffer points out, “Doctors of optometry are the primary healthcare professionals for the eye. Working in a variety of settings, they’re diagnosing and treating ocular diseases and conditions, co-managing ocular surgery patients and optimizing sight by prescribing glasses and contact lenses. With the aging of the population that’s taking place and a growing focus on wellness, the demand for medical care will continue to rise and optometry’s role will broaden. Every chronic disease process has eye manifestations, which means optometrists will be a necessary component of an integrated healthcare model. They’ll be tied into the diagnosis and monitoring of the whole spectrum of patients, from those with cataracts or diabetes to those with Sjogren’s syndrome, hypertension or multiple sclerosis.”
At the same time, optometry, like any profession, has its share of challenges and market changes that impact its institutions and individual practitioners. Not to worry, says Dr. Schaeffer. “The demand for care will be there. As long as you focus on delivering it at the highest possible level, there will always be a place for you. When you take good care of patients, word of mouth takes over. Over time this allows you to meet any challenge that’s out there in the market.”
As much as he enjoys his own career, Dr. Schaeffer is enjoying watching his children forge optometry careers of their own. “They’re doing well building their own futures and choosing their own paths inside and outside of Schaeffer Eye Center,” he says. “I know they’ll stay on top of new technologies, treatment strategies and opportunities to expand the services our practice provides, and our patients will be in good hands.” And what does it say about optometry as a career choice that three of his children wanted to follow in his footsteps? Dr. Schaeffer answers with a chuckle, “I think that says it all.”