Inspired by his father’s practice, Dr. Richard Saari carries on the tradition of gifting sight to those in need

By David Goldberg

 

He has optometry in his blood.

Dr. Richard Saari is a second-generation eye care practitioner who grew up helping his optometrist dad around the office.

He worked the phones at reception before learning how to dispense prescriptions and run tests on patients.

Now the 44-year-old runs his own practice, Dr. Richard Saari Optometry in Welland, Ont.

For Saari, following in his father’s footsteps was a no-brainer. It was easy to see the long-term benefits of an industry he already knew so well.

“The driving force, for me, was knowing that optometry was a professional career that allowed for a good work-life balance and was in high demand as the population would be ageing.”

Saari loves the variation of the day-to-day and rising to the challenge of addressing each new patient’s unique circumstances.

“The ability to solve problems and educate patients about their most important sense is very rewarding,” he says.

Of all the patients he’s helped over the course of his career, Saari says he’s most proud of all the lives he’s touched—and even saved.

“There is the patient who presented with transient vision changes who was eventually diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm and treated. He always reminds me that he is alive because of the timely care he received and the referral process that I started.”

Saari also points to the countless diabetics he’s alerted and of course the many children, who with his swift intervention, could suddenly see the board in class.

A few years into his career, Saari started focusing on pediatrics.

“My motto became ‘saving vision through education’ as both taking the time to fully explain conditions and expectations, but also to ensure that students had access to full-care optometry to facilitate their educational objectives.

“It’s not simply needing glasses, but determining that binocular vision is just as important for meeting those educational goals. I’ve not found the time to become a vision therapy practice, but I’m very happy to have found others who have made that commitment.

Interprofessional arrangements are the cornerstone to furthering optometry services and meeting patient needs.”

If he has any advice to offer to the next generation of young optometrists, Saari is quick to point out that optometry has so many opportunities for personal and professional growth.

“Most optometrists will provide comprehensive care throughout their career,” he says. “But remember, there are many niche areas to concentrate your practice on; vision therapy, dry eye therapy, myopia control, or specialty contact lens.”

Saari also advises that choosing how you want to practice is just as important as where you want to practice.

“There are many ways to give back to your community; educational events, sponsorships. Optometry is not about either one separately, but I hope all new graduates look to maximize both sides and enjoy their careers. Decide what you want out of this career and put your full effort into it from day one.”