One-on-One with Kristopher T. Hubbard, O.D.

Cheyenne Eye Clinic & Surgery Center’s General Eye Care doctor has seen a lot, but the work he does in our community can still be surprising, keeping him on his toes and always learning. Dr. Hubbard sat down for an interview recently to talk about his favorite parts of the job, the best things about working in his hometown, and his recommendations for maintaining healthy eyes.

You grew up in Cheyenne. How has your hometown influenced you?

I grew up in a pretty big family here in Cheyenne, so it was always fun to have brothers and sisters around. Growing up as a kid we had all the amenities that you want but we still had the neighbors who knew you by your first name.

I really like the “get to know you” part [of living in Cheyenne], especially among the patients here. I was in Memphis and the bigger cities; you see people once and never see them again, never know where they went. And here, you’re planning on seeing patients for the next 25 years as you have a career and take care of people. That’s the thing I think I like the most about coming back to Cheyenne.

Do you still have family here?

My wife’s family is still here in town, my parents, my sister and her husband. If I count them all up, we have about six, seven households of people. If we need a babysitter at the last minute, we can call four or five people.

Has your view of the community changed since you came back? Do you see a new part of Cheyenne you haven’t seen before?

No, not really, it’s kind of the way I remember. There are more restaurants. When I was a kid there was only one restaurant on Dell Range, Shari’s Restaurant, and that isn’t there anymore.

I think Cheyenne is very unique because you have the Air Force Base, and you have the state employees, and then you have the manufacturing and the distribution centers. When the economy goes crazy in other places in the United States, Cheyenne has this built-in buffer because of multiple industries that add into its economy.


Every Stage of Life

It’s fun being an eye doctor for that too, because you see people with lots of different job titles and lots of different vision needs. I’ve seen patients from 6 months old to 102, and I’m sure someone will beat that record.

It’s really enjoyable to have such a wide range, because it keeps you on your toes, because you have a lot to look at in a single day.


Best Part of the Job

Some of the fun for me is just helping people see better; the simplest thing is sometimes the most rewarding thing in this job.

I had a guy, I think it was last Friday, say, “You’re really doing some eye-opening things here,” no pun intended.

You’re actually changing people’s quality of life. And the thing is that he hadn’t had an eye exam in 20 years, and so he didn’t know that he wasn’t seeing good. He thought he saw just fine. But when you show them the difference in what they should be seeing, that’s the best part about the job.

How would you describe what you do as an optometrist at Cheyenne Eye Clinic?

My main goal, or duty, is to assess the person’s vision and also assess their ocular health, which are two different things. Number one, we’re checking their vision to actually get them seeing as well as possible. We’re using glasses or contact lenses most of the time to achieve that.

We’re also looking at the overall structure and the health of the eye; we’re seeing if there are any ocular diseases, macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts, all those types of things, and we’re putting a good plan in place to keep their eyes healthy long-term.


Plain English

Many people can be good doctors and know a lot, but if you can convey what you know to the person in a way that they understand, then you’re actually accomplishing something. Then you’ve put their medical care in their own hands; they understand and they know what they are supposed to accomplish.

I think that a really important part of this job is to find out all the details about a patient’s eyes and then translate all those details into English in a digestible way. Then they can understand how their eyes are working and how to keep their eyes and vision healthy. It was the title of a book, You’ll Do Great – If You Communicate. I think that has been really true.

How would someone know that they should see an eye doctor?

Most people are not going to go to any doctor unless they have a symptom, such as “my vision’s blurry” or “I can’t see.” But the truth is that everyone should have some type of annual or regularly-scheduled checkup. Whether that’s every year or every two years, somewhere in there, just to check. Because with technology as good as it is, we actually can detect problems before they cause symptoms.

And that may have not been true 50 years ago. The technology was, “oh, just come in when you’re having a problem.” By then there’s a lot of damage that’s already been done. We always recommend that annual eye exam so that they’re getting checked on a routine basis and they’re actually protected from vision loss.


Dr. Hubbard’s Vision Loss

I made it all the way to junior high before I started telling my parents, “Um, I can’t see the board.” The truth is, I probably couldn’t see the board in fifth or sixth grade either, I just didn’t know it because it was mild at that point. And my first eye exam was when I was in seventh grade.

Is that why you became an eye doctor?

Yeah! When I got my first glasses, my mom drove me home from my appointment. I remember just staring out the window and staring at all the twigs on every branch of every tree. I didn’t know that you were supposed to see all the leaves.

I was like, “This is amazing. Mom, can you see that?”

She said, “You’re supposed to be able to see that.”

I was like, “For reals? This is awesome!”

That’s really where my first interest started in optometry and eye care. That was pretty impressive; I was in awe.

And then you visited the eye doctor pretty often after that?

I was a regular.


Children Need Eye Exams

It’s really beneficial to have the younger people have at least one eye exam sometime between the ages of five and seven. Because if they did have a vision problem, you didn’t let them get all the way to third grade before you noticed that they’re having trouble. With kids, sometimes they don’t complain because they don’t know it’s supposed to look any different. When I was working in Nebraska, there were a few kids who were colorblind and nobody knew. Think how rough it would have been for the kids to pick up the right color crayon, it would have been so frustrating!

What do you like about working at the Cheyenne Eye Clinic?

I really like the fact that it’s a multi-specialty clinic. It’s nice to work side-by-side with people that are really good in their fields, and yet they all have different interests. We have doctors that specialize in glaucoma, someone that does retina, cataracts, oculoplastic and low vision – they all have their area of interest and expertise. You’re working in this multi-specialty practice in which you know that the patient can get taken care of completely under one roof.

With the Surgery Center one floor up, they can also get their surgeries done and you can see them back the next day. It’s just really convenient.

Other clinics don’t enjoy that type of luxury. They just do one thing, and if that patient needs anything besides that one thing, they have to refer them on. Then there’s the coordination and paperwork … it’s just a lot more cumbersome. Here, all your records are in one place and every doctor can talk to each other because they’re right next to each other in the same hallway.

I imagine your knowledge would grow, because you might say, “Hey, I had this patient with this – what do you think?” and they might have a different take on it because of their expertise.

You do learn from each person; they all have something to add. You do learn as you go too, when everyone comes from a different training, from a different state, a different discipline. If you pooled everyone in the clinic and said, “Where did you get your training?” they would all be naming two or three different states from each other. When you bring that all into one building, that really helps.


Always Learning

One of the reasons they call it “practicing” is because you’re never quite finished. It’s always a learning process. Just as soon as you think you’ve seen it all, another patient comes in that has something new.

 

 

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