Full Name: Arthur B. Epstein (Art Epstein is how most people refer to me)
Name of Practice: Phoenix Eye Care & the Dry Eye Center of Arizona
Setting: Independent, OD-owned private practice in a medical building within a hospital complex.
Location: Phoenix, AZ
High School Attended: DeWitt Clinton (the largest HS in the U.S. at the time)
College Attended: City College of New York – BS in Psychology
Optometry School Attended: SUNY
Other Education: Streets of NYC and 5 million miles of travel around the world – countless hours of CE both taken and presented and voluntary resident teaching duties at an NYC University hospital. Teaching forces learning.
Tell us something interesting about yourself: I am generally a private person which I know is hard to believe, intellectually curious and very much a geek. I’ve traveled all over the world and lectured in more than 50 countries. One of my early hobbies was ham radio so I spoke to people all over the world which piqued my interest in travel. I still can copy about 20 words per minute of morse code and love African highlife music. I play guitar (not that well anymore) and was in a college blues band. I worked as an auto mechanic in college and was the service manager of a South Bronx used car lot for a brief period. I enjoy photography when I have time and animal welfare causes are near and dear to my heart.
Tell us about your family: My early family was typically NY dysfunctional and neurotic. I have two daughters, both grown up and good kids. My wife Dr. Shannon Steinhauser is the best thing that ever happened to me. She the kindest, most caring person I know and a brilliant clinician We think so much alike that we actually can complete each other’s sentences. Patients love her for good reason and while I am a big picture person she is a detail person. The perfect synergy has made our practice incredibly successful. We truly love working together.
Tell us about your parent’s occupations: My father owned a custom surgical supply business in the Bronx and was a true craftsman. His leather work was incredible. He trained and was certified to teach in Yeshivas (jewish religious schools) and almost took a job in Houston as a religious school principal, but fate and WWII got in the way. My mother was incredibly intelligent, intellectually curious and always said exactly what she thought – a trait that passed to both my brother and myself. While her father would not let her attend college (we forget how poorly women were treated just decades ago) she loved learning. After my brother and I were old enough to be left alone she did clerical work. My brother was the best brother anyone could ask for. Very protective and supportive. He was a board-certified internist and cardiologist but focused primarily on oncology in Minot ND until he sadly passed away at 52. I miss him.
Why did you choose optometry as a career? It was down to Dentistry or Optometry and I hated bloody saliva and bad breath.
What aspects of your professional life do you find most rewarding? Making a difference in patients’ lives, figuring out complex problems and sharing what I’ve learned with colleagues. Also, having been fortunate enough to have a small hand in advancing the profession through education and political and professional advocacy. Perhaps my favorite advocacy moment was representing the AOA (as chair of the CLCS) and the profession on Good Morning America during the fusarium outbreak (link below). It was a breakout moment for optometry.
What aspects of your professional life do you find least rewarding? Optometry grossly undervalues itself and often gets in its own way. It is frustrating to see many of our young colleagues overburdened with student loans and in unsatisfying practice settings not conducive to professional growth. I suspect that we’re going to see a schism in how the profession evolves with some ending up in a pharmacist-like role while others go on to advanced and specialty care in more challenging settings.
How did you end up working where you are now? Phoenix Eye Care and the Dry Eye Center of Arizona were created by intention as a high-tech, medically focused dream practice from its conception. After I left my NY practice I started traveling extensively. I started missing seeing patients and feeling increasingly disconnected. My other half was teaching at Midwestern and we realized the potential of combining our talents, skills and doing our own thing, despite the risk and the advice of friends that we were nuts. It was the largest financial investment we ever made and the office has nearly every high-tech instrument available. In the eight years since we’ve been opened, we’ve gained a reputation for excellence and referral support from the OD and MD community. We both are extremely proud of what we’ve created and how much good we do every day.
What professional conferences do you like best? I spend most of my time at conferences at meetings or advisory boards so, in that sense, I like them all. The AOA, SECO and the AAO are among my favorites.
What advice do you have for young people considering optometry as a career? Visit and spend time with a local OD, especially if you have one to get an idea of what optometry is like. Explore some of the trade journals like Review of Optometry or Contact Lens Spectrum and connect with social media sites that focus on the profession. Realize that optometry has always been a profession in flux and the profession today is nothing like the profession that existed when I graduated. Expect change especially in technology. If you are willing to make a commitment to lifelong learning the profession is likely for you.
Please conclude by writing about anything you want people to know about you. I have no tolerance for stupidity, especially my own. I am a lot nicer than you think but I’d rather you not think that. The worst of things brings out the best in me.