M. Rob Pate, O.D

Field Goals

A four-year starting defensive back at Auburn University, M. Rob Pate, O.D., received an education in the school of hard knocks against NCAA Division I football's Southeastern Conference that imparted on him valuable life lessons of teamwork and perseverance. Acquired by the San Diego Chargers in 2001, Dr. Pate played one year in the National Football League before an injury bumped him from the football field to the field of optometry.

Dr. Pate, a partner at EyeCare Associates, Inc., in Hoover, Alabama, is a member of the Alabama Optometric Association Board of Directors and has held numerous leadership roles, including Legislative Keyperson and InfantSEE® Committee chairman. In an excerpt from a Q&A with AOA Focus, AOA's 2014 Young Optometrist of the Year talks about his drive to help others and turning unique experiences into practice.

How have experiences on the field influenced your daily practice and involvement within the profession?
I think it's given me a background and a backbone to really flourish. I can fall back on the things I learned on the athletic playing field and the things that experience has taught me and translate that into my everyday practice. I'm actually writing a book right now on how athletics transitions into my personal, business and spiritual life. Obviously, it requires a lot of discipline: You've got to be a good communicator, know how to deal with adversity, and you've got to be someone who's selfless and can act in several different environments.

Your level of involvement doesn't stop within the profession. You're active in events such as the Special Olympics, as well?
I've been involved in [the Special Olympics] since optometry school, and I've been the chair for the past three years. It's a fantastic experience in an underserved patient population. I think it really opens a lot of eyes and puts optometry out there and into the spotlight. It shows people that we can take care of these patients, and it shows optometrists how to care for a patient population they might not be used to dealing with.

How can new graduates and students learn from your experiences moving forward in their own careers?
Ambivalence and apathy will be the death knell for optometry if we don't stay involved. It's vital. There's no one else out there advocating on our behalf but us. If we don't develop a generation of optometrists who take on those battles like the older generations have—and likewise, if the older generations don't take those younger ones under their wings to make sure they understand those battles—we can lose some ground.

Photograph by Jacob Slaton

October 24, 2014

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