All in the family: Babcock family provides 101 years of eye care

August 18, 2017
For over a century, these doctors of optometry have treated patients the way they would want to be treated.
Babcock family

In 2016, three generations of Babcocks receive recognition from the Ohio Board of Optometry on the 100th anniversary of their practice in the state.

For 101 years, members of the Babcock family have been providing eye health and vision care services to the citizens of Portsmouth, Ohio, but also parts of southern Ohio and northern Kentucky.

That's four generations of Babcocks.

It all started with Joseph M. Babcock, O.D., who joined a Portsmouth practice in 1916. Dr. Joseph M. Babcock also was vice president of the AOA (1942-1957) and was roundly respected for his advocacy on behalf of optometry-earning hard-fought recognition for the profession, as director of the AOA's Department of National Affairs (1942-1960). The late Dr. Babcock was inducted into the National Optometry Hall of Fame in 2016.

His practice would eventually be eclipsed by that of his son, Joseph M. Babcock Jr., O.D., in 1950. Today, the practice is run by Joseph Wm. Babcock, O.D., and his son Taylor Babcock, O.D., Joseph M. Babcock's great-grandson.

What inspired you to go into optometry?

Dr. Joseph Wm. Babcock, O.D.: Growing up observing my grandfather and my father, undoubtedly, had an impact on my decision to become an optometrist. I never felt it was expected of me to continue the "family" profession, but I consider myself fortunate and blessed to have done so. As a youngster, I listened to and watched family members, friends, patients, optometric peers, and community leaders all express respect and gratitude for my grandfather and father's contributions to the community they lived in and their dedication to the profession.

Taylor Babcock, O.D.: I was inspired to go into optometry after seeing the impact that my father and grandfather had on their community. Growing up in a family of optometrists, I was always around my dad and grandpa in their office. Whenever I would stop in the office, their patients would talk about how much help they provided and how much they liked their optometrist. While running errands around town, we would run into patients and I was always amazed at how they would come up to my dad and thank him for helping them see better. Later, my passion to help others in my community inspired me to go into optometry

What has it meant to your family to have practiced in the same community for so long?

Dr. Joseph Wm. Babcock, O.D.: We had a large, nuclear family with lots of aunts and uncles watching over us. I think that was important to our upbringing and inspiration. Besides us, I also had two cousins who followed the footsteps of our grandfather into optometric practice: Donald B. Covert, O.D. (deceased 2017) and Howard L. Covert, O.D.

Taylor Babcock, O.D.: Portsmouth is a smaller town in southern Ohio along the Ohio River. It was once a prosperous river town with booming steel and coal industries and was the largest manufacturer of shoes and shoelaces in the world. During the prosperous years of the city, my great grandfather started our family business and was extremely active in the local and optometric community. He was president of the chamber of commerce and a leader in many civic organizations. He was very active with the state and national optometric associations. He devoted his life to growing Portsmouth, Ohio, as well as the profession of optometry and the AOA. Continuing in that tradition of practicing high-quality eye care to promote the health and well-being of our community means the world to our family.

What's the best thing and the most challenging thing about working with family?

Dr. Joseph Wm. Babcock, O.D.: The responsibilities, the joys and the sorrows of running a business can certainly be taxing on your physical and mental well-being. Sharing these things with family has been a Godsend. Having my son, Taylor, and my wife, Sue, by my side offering support and trust, gives me a feeling of "you're not in this alone."

Taylor Babcock, O.D.: The best thing about working with family is being able to interact and grow with the people that you love the most. Having family always around means that you have more opportunities for quality time with loved ones. In addition to working with my dad, my mother works here full time and my wife does part-time work for us. The most challenging aspect is separating work from outside work. Having a supportive family, an efficient staff and many extracurricular activities helps.

Can you offer any tips for having a successful family practice? How do you make it work?

Dr. Joseph Wm. Babcock, O.D.: My best advice to anyone about anything, but especially practicing optometry, is to follow the "Golden Rule."   

Taylor Babcock, O.D.: For me, spending time outdoors, running, fishing and hunting are ways to get time away from everyday stresses that may come up. Sharing extracurricular hobbies with family such as travel, church and community activities also helps. There is no special ingredient to what makes it work, but having a loving and supportive family has made our family business successful.

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