Stephanie Parrish, O.D., named winner of 2018 Dr. W. David Sullins Jr. InfantSEE® Award.

Kids’ eye care energizes Minnesota doctor of optometry

An energetic and committed advocate for pediatric eye care, Stephanie Parrish, O.D., who practices at Staples (Minnesota) Eye Clinic, is the recipient of the 2018 Dr. W. David Sullins Jr. InfantSEE® Award.

“Getting children into the office, where I have the opportunity to correct major vision issues when they are so young, can legitimately change the path of their lives.”

The Sullins Award annually recognizes a doctor of optometry who makes a significant contribution to optometry or to their communities through the InfantSEE program. InfantSEE, a public health program of Optometry Cares®-The AOA Foundation, is designed to ensure that eye and vision care becomes essential to infant wellness.

Stephanie Parrish, O.D.

Dr. Parrish, who has conducted nearly 300 eye assessments since 2013 through InfantSEE, will receive the award at Optometry's Meeting® in Denver, Colorado, from June 20-24.

"It has given me great pleasure watching Dr. Parrish help live out Dr. Sullins' dream of educating parents and delivering eye care to the infants of our central Minnesota community," says Kerry Beebe, O.D., who worked previously with Dr. Parrish at an eye care center in Brainerd, Minnesota. Dr. Beebe earned the 2016 Sullins Award.

"Her passion for seeing these young infants and children is evident in the smiles of the families she serves," Dr. Beebe says. "Her unselfish giving of time and expertise to further the mission of InfantSEE and Optometry is justly recognized with this well-deserved award. She has touched the lives of countless families and continues to be an inspiration to us all."

Dr. Parrish cares for patients from age 99 to two weeks old. In a Q&A, she discusses access to care and why she focuses so much of her practice on pediatric eye care through InfantSEE.

When did you decide to dedicate so much of your practice to pediatric eye care?

Dr. Beebe was a huge mentor to me. And when you start having your own kids (mine are now ages 10, 8, 6 and 2), you just fall in love with them and then become comfortable working with them. The reason why I became an optometrist was more of a 'lightning' moment. I was on a mission trip in Eastern Europe, and we were giving out Bibles and sharing our faith with others. Because the vision of many people there was so poor, they weren't able to read the Bibles-including many children, who had obvious vision issues. I was pre-med at the time, but felt God steering me toward optometry. I felt a strong conviction that I wanted to help people see both physically and spiritually.

You speak to parent groups, nurses, childcare providers and physicians. You're active with the Minnesota Optometric Association. You're a wife and mother of four. How do you find the time to serve others?

I have a very supportive, wonderful husband, Mike. When I work with young patients and they put their glasses on for the first time, it is a special thing to see their eyes light up and the smile come across their face. I have taken a couple of eye care mission trips and had the opportunity to do a rotation to China and, while I was there, I had the chance to spend a few days at orphanages, working with children with Down Syndrome. I did a lot of eye exams there, which gave me a much broader perspective on life. Access to care was just not there. When you can provide care to people who normally don't have it, it's moments like that that are so rewarding and motivate me to find the time to serve others. 

You joined the InfantSEE program as a provider shortly after graduating from the Pacific University College of Optometry. Why should other doctors of optometry become InfantSEE providers?

The InfantSEE program can really change the life of a child. Getting children into the office, where I have the opportunity to correct major vision issues when they are so young, can legitimately change the path of their lives. By advocating for the health of the kids and educating the parents, I am able to provide excellent care and build important relationships. A side effect of the program is that it also has built up my practice, and as a young doctor of optometry there is no better way to build into the future of your practice than by investing in the InfantSEE program. By providing an exam to the child, I have often brought in entire families. Families see your willingness to help them, and they appreciate it. I am passionate about the InfantSEE program because I see the difference it has made in the lives of others as well as in my own.

Click here
to become an InfantSEE provider.

May 9, 2018

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