Optometry is All in The Family—The Heastons

With three generations of optometrists, Heaston & Thompson Vision in Richland, Wash., is a true "family practice."

After serving in the U.S. Navy in World War II, William Heaston, O.D. attended Northern Illinois College of Optometry (now ICO) on the GI Bill and graduated in 1948. Because of the surge of students, he and his classmates were told that half of them would be let go after the semester based on grades alone, said Karen Heaston Helms, O.D., granddaughter and member of the family practice.

"There was no greater thrill than for my son to also choose my life's work."

Staying in school became a family effort. "Grandma chose to stay home and would study all of Grandpa's class materials in order to be able test him appropriately at night," she said. "He made the cut, and the rest is history."

The practice now includes son Dale Heaston, O.D., granddaughters Liz Heaston Thompson, O.D. and Dr. Heaston Helms, and grandson-in-law Trent Thompson, O.D. The family shared their insight on working as a multi-generational practice.

How did you decide to follow in the family footsteps?

Drs. Heaston Thompson and Heaston Helms: It is in our blood. Our grandfather started the practice in 1950. Our grandmother, Eunice, served as its first vision therapist. Our dad joined our grandfather in 1976. Our mother served as the president of the Auxiliary to the AOA.

Dinner table talk always centered on the importance of serving patients, serving your community and serving your profession. We learned that optometry provided a perfect opportunity for each of us to uniquely serve. Some of our fondest memories are of attending the children's program at the AOA annual meetings, of listening to Mom's electric typewriter blazing away in the middle of the night on optometric public service materials, and of helping my father design a five-foot model of the eye for a local children's museum.

We were touched when our grandmother shared a letter of gratitude from a young man who was able to become a Black Hawk helicopter pilot following his vision therapy. Optometry has given us the opportunity to become part of our patients' lives and to raise our families. We are thankful for that.

What is special about working with your children?

Dr. William Heaston, regarding son Dale: There was no greater thrill than for my son to also choose my life's work.

Dr. Dale Heaston, regarding daughters Liz and Karen: The kids understood and recognized how optometry can enrich us in both professional fulfillment and family life. Each day at the clinic we get to face the challenges of patient care and solve some very complicated conditions together. There is no better compliment and comment on our choice of what we do in life.

What is your No. 1 "tip for success" for colleagues who want to make a go of multi-generational practice?

We all have the same core values for patient care. We understand that as a collective, we are stronger than as individuals. We recognize each other's strengths and divide practice management tasks accordingly.

September 5, 2013

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