Best Story Contest Winner: Stephen Cohen, OD

By Daniel L. Mannen, OD, FAAO January 20, 2012

In November, I invited fellow optometrists to share their stories. Thank you to everyone who submitted a story. I enjoyed reading them all, but following is my favorite story from those submitted. It was shared by Dr. Stephen Cohen.

As you stated in your column, it is “all about the people.”  The most rewarding part of being in practice for 26 years are the relationships I’ve built with my patients.  I am now seeing children of patients who were their children’s age when I first started seeing them.  One patient of mine since 1988 is now a member of our staff. 

The things people have shared is heart-warming, awe-inspiring, and humbling.  One of the most rewarding individual experiences occurred with one patient when I asked a relatively inconsequential question.

A number of years ago, a retired gentleman came in for an exam.  What he did in his career had virtually no bearing of what his visual needs were at that particular stage in his life, but my interest in my patients led me to ask him what he did before he retired.  He told me he was retired military, and that he spent most of his career in San Antonio, Texas.  Based upon his age, I asked him if he saw any combat in WWII. 

“Funny you should ask,” was his response.  He then told me that he was in the shipyard in Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941.  He remembered wondering why all those planes were flying by when “all hell broke out.”  He went on to tell me what those minutes were like with remarkable recall and eloquence. 

At one point he stopped and said “Aw, you don’t want to hear the ramblings of an old man,” while I was thinking, “I can’t believe this gentleman is paying me for my time…it should be the other way around.”  Here was a man who was a witness to perhaps the most infamous day in our history, and this all came as a result of a simple tangential question: “What type of work did you do before you retired?”

Not only does asking such questions help to build rewarding bonds with our patients (increasing patient loyalty and also personal satisfaction at work) but every now and then, we also get a “front row seat” to sharing something very, very special!

Stephen Cohen, O.D.

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