Patch Spends Five Minutes with Dr. Sandra Bury
Dr. Sandra Bury, owner of Complete Vision Care at 6209 W. 95th St., answers age-old questions about carrots improving eyesight and the significance of the letters on an eye chart.
She is the owner of a state-of-the-art optometric practice located in a former auto radiator shop that was renovated based on her ideas and artistic vision. She is a community leader who is presently serving on the boards of directors of both the Oak Lawn Chamber of Commerce and the Oak Lawn Rotary Club. She is president-elect of the Illinois Optometric Association and a past president of both the Chicago South Suburban Optometric Society and VOSH (Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity) Illinois. Vision Monday magazine named her "One of the Fifty Most Influential Women in Optical." Since 2001 she has helped provide free eye examinations and eyeglasses to tens of thousands of needy people in some of the poorest parts of the world through her involvement with VOSH.
Oak Lawn Patch: Have you always wanted to be an optometrist?
Bury: No. I originally wanted to be an artist. In fact, I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Northern Illinois University. I specialized in fine art, painting and drawing.
Oak Lawn Patch: Do you do much painting anymore?
Bury: No. I'm too busy. You can't just say, "Okay, I've got an hour I'm going to paint." You need a certain clarity of mind to paint and I'm very seldom in that zone where my right brain gets to play.
Oak Lawn Patch: What made you decide to become an optometrist?
Bury: I was about seven years out of college, working in an office and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I knew I was put on this earth for more, but I couldn't figure out what. Then one day, in the middle of my soul searching, I noticed that no one would get into the car with me when I was driving and I thought "Hmm, maybe I should get my eyes tested." I'd never had an eye exam. So there I was in my mid twenties, sitting in the optometry chair, with all the lenses flipping and in that visual process I could totally see the leap… For the first time, I could see how my calling could be an extension of my passion for vision and how I could use my passion for vision to enhance the lives of people. I drove home thinking, "wow, I could really do that." It was really important for me to do something that benefited humanity. I think there are a lot of ways to make a living where you're taking and not giving and I really wanted to be in a giving profession.
Oak Lawn Patch: When you decided to relocate your practice to its present location, why did you choose Oak Lawn?
Bury: From a practical standpoint it's within a mile of my original practice, and has better parking and a more visible location. But mostly because Oak Lawn is home and I've really grown to love my patients as family. The nicest people live and work here. They don't just pull up in their driveways at the end of the day, press a button and disappear behind closed doors. They sit on their porches and talk to each other. I live where I work where I shop… and I love it.
Oak Lawn Patch: What is your favorite piece of equipment—the one you can't do without?
Bury: It's hard to choose. I like them all! We just got a new instrument called an OCT (optical coherence tomography). The best way to describe it is by saying that ordinarily when I look into an eye I see the frosting on the cake; this instrument allows me to see the individual slices of cake. But I guess if I had to choose, my favorite piece of "equipment" would be my eyes, which themselves are tools for examining and diagnosing patients.
Oak Lawn Patch: What do you consider the greatest innovation in eye care to come out of the past ten years?
Bury: We are really in the golden age of eye care. When I first started practicing there was nothing that could be done about macular degeneration, and now there's a whole class of drugs that will only attack the leaky blood vessels and leave the healthy ones alone. There's hope where there was no hope before. That's especially important in this neighborhood, with all the Northern European ancestries, because macular degeneration tends to strike in greater numbers those with fairer complexions.
Oak Lawn Patch: What is the biggest change you've seen in eye health over the years?
Bury: Children's vision, in particular, is an area where there has been a lot of change. To develop healthy eyes a child needs a balance of varying distances and environments. But kids today are plugged in so early to phones, computers, television, video games and the like. As a result they are becoming near-sighted at a younger age and it is progressing much faster than it used to.
Oak Lawn Patch: What is one of the biggest differences you've seen in eye health in the U.S. versus that which you've seen in your international missions with VOSH?
Bury: Again, it's been in the children. When we were in the Dominican Republic a few years ago we saw only a handful of kids who were near-sighted because kids there spend their free hours outside playing, not doing a lot of bookwork or sitting in front of the TV or computer. They have that "balance" I was talking about that is important to healthy vision.
Oak Lawn Patch: Can you describe what it's like to put a pair of eyeglasses on someone with poor eyesight?
Bury: It just energizes me. You have mothers who look at their babies and really see them clearly for the first time and break out in the most incredible smiles. You have breadwinners who, because of their age or other factors, have not been able to see to do their work—whether it's making baskets or shoes—and then you give them back that ability to make a living again and the looks on their faces defy description. People will camp out at night just to get in line for glasses. We don't realize what something so routine to us here in the United States means to people like these.
Oak Lawn Patch: Eyeglass styles come and go, but what has been the eyeglass trend you've disliked most?
Bury: The aviator "Unabomber" style glasses of the '80s. A number of older men want the same shoes, pants, and eyeglasses they had when they were 20. We try to educate them that optically a lens that big is heavy and has a lot of distortion, but they want what they want. I'm very proud that this is the type of practice where we nudge, but we don't push people too hard to step outside of their comfort zones.
Oak Lawn Patch: Do you remember your first pair of eyeglasses?
Bury: Yes, I got them in my mid-twenties. They were large, modified cat-eye shaped, clay-colored metal frames. Very ghastly looking.
Oak Lawn Patch: Do you see a difference in men's and women's attitudes toward eyeglasses?
Bury: The face—in particular, the eyes— is the first thing people notice. Women know this intuitively and are therefore more apt to "change up" their eyewear every year or so, sometimes more frequently. In fact, I have a few women who have different lenses for different outfits. That isn't common, but it's also not unheard of. For most men, eyeglasses are purely functional—and costly. We work very hard to educate our patients that coming in every year doesn't mean they will need to buy a new pair of glasses, it just means they'll receive a good eye exam, and that's important because we do catch "stuff" in an exam.
Oak Lawn Patch: Does eating carrots really improve one's vision?
Bury: Yes and no. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, which is converted into Vitamin A in the body, and vitamin A is important in maintaining normal vision but it will not cure anything or improve eyesight.
Oak Lawn Patch: Is there any significance to the way the letters are arranged on the eye chart?
Bury: Yes. There are many different types of eye charts, including number and picture charts for kids and adults who cannot read. Nothing is random. There is a reason behind every letter and where each letter is placed. The big E even has a purpose.
Oak Lawn Patch: If you could have superhero-type bionic eyes, what would they be?
Bury: Microscopic zoom lenses. It would also be cool to have eyes with heat-sensing goggles. And to be able change them up whenever I want.
Oak Lawn Patch: Where in Oak Lawn do you go for a "girls' night out?"
Bury: Vino Tinto (a wine bar at 5114 Museum Drive in Oak Lawn). The owner is a trained vocalist and occasionally she shares the mic with some great blues performers. I am blown away by some of the talent that's been showcased there.
Oak Lawn Patch: What's a project that's near the top of your "bucket list?"
Bury: To open a mobile vision clinic. I have the logo and floor plan already designed; I just need the intestinal fortitude. It would be called "The LookMobile." We'd go to schools, do kindergarten exams, etc. And I would drive the bus.