Doctor of optometry stays focused in Ferguson, Missouri
Neil David, O.D., shares an unspoken awareness of the local situation with patients and staff—events that have reached flashpoint levels in the world outside his office.
"When patients came in, I tried to make the exam pleasurable so they weren't reminded of what has been going on out there," Dr. David, an AOA and Missouri Optometric Association member, said in an interview Monday. "We didn't want to make it any different. It's business as usual."
But, unfortunately, things are very unusual only steps away from the Clarkson Eyecare location that Dr. David operates in a retail-area-turned-unified-command-center for law enforcement near Ferguson, Missouri.
Where patients walked a week ago, police and National Guardsmen tread; where staff parked four days ago, helicopters and tactical vehicles rest; and where Dr. David practiced optometry only two days earlier, boarded doors signify a precautionary office closure. His frame boards were taken down, his equipment moved to storage, but Dr. David stays positive.
"It's all stuff that's easy to be put back up if it clears," he said. "Patients are scheduled for Thursday, so we're hoping it ends before then and we can go back to work."
Up until Monday's closure, Dr. David and his staff continued seeing patients as the typically busy back-to-school period slowed to a trickle. Normally close to two dozen patients walk through the doors daily—that fell to almost two dozen total for the past week.
Sure, there have been cancelations and no-shows due to the tensions several blocks away, but there are still patients seeking care, Dr. David said. The scenes broadcast globally aren't indicative of the daytime. It's mostly just quiet, he said.
"Friends have asked why I don't leave, but I'm not leaving my staff. I saw patients [Monday] morning even when we weren't going to open," Dr. David said. "But you know what, you got to do what you got to do."
'We're in this together'
Although several businesses nearby have suffered broken windows and damage over the course of the past week, the optometry practice has fared well. The same can't be said for nerves, however. The practice staff live in or near the St. Louis suburb, where protestors are marching daily and armored vehicles wait across the parking lot.
Growing up in the Philippines during a period of unrest, Dr. David said he knows how important it is to stay calm, and especially now for patients and staff because "we're in this together." That calmness could come in handy should he be called in for urgent care when night falls and unease settles in.
Asked if he was experienced in treating tear gas exposure, Dr. David paused: "Well, we'll just have to wash it out. I know milk helps quite a bit."
'Business as usual' might still be a few days away.