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GETTING TO KNOW: Angela Tsai

Current job: Optometrist and president of Premier Eyecare, Angela Tsai, O.D. and Associates PC (previously known as Samuel C. Smart, O.D., and William Mitchell Powell, O.D., PC) on 230 Butler Road

Where you grew up: Terre Haute, Ind.

Education/training: I graduated from Indiana University–Bloomington with my B.S. in Optometry in 2004 as an Eli Lilly Endowment Scholar, a Howard T. Batman Foundation Scholar, a Discover Card Silver Scholar and a Target All-Around Scholar.

Originally, I was a biochemistry and bioethics major with a concentration on pre-medicine. Growing up, I always thought I would go to medical school to study pediatrics.

Plans changed as I worked as a clinical coordinator assistant in the binocular vision and pediatric department at the School of Optometry at IU during my undergraduate studies. I learned to really love the field of optometry and hence changed my major my third year of school.

I graduated from Indiana University School of Optometry with my doctorate in 2006. I was accepted into the Early Acceptance Program at IU School of Optometry during my third year of undergrad, which allowed me to finish my undergraduate degree as I concurrently studied for my doctorate. I graduated with my doctorate at the age of 24.

I completed my training in ocular disease, neuro-optometry, pediatrics and primary care at Roudebush Veteran Affairs Clinic in Indianapolis and Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami.

I am an active member of the American Optometric Association, Virginia Optometric Association, College of Optometrists in Vision Development and the Virginia Academy of Optometry. I currently serve as the vice president for the Battlefield Optometric Association. In 2013, I completed my term as president for the Virginia State Board of Optometry after being a board member for three years. I was the youngest person to sit in the presidency position in the history of the organization.

I offer vision care with the Lions Club and the InfantSee Program, which is sponsored by the American Optometric Association.

How you got to Fredericksburg: After graduating and leaving Miami, I interviewed throughout the Midwest and all along the East Coast looking for the “perfect” practice for me. I wanted a group practice that would allow me to perform full scope optometry, which included prescribing for eyeglasses and contact lenses, ocular disease, pediatrics and visual therapy.

After interviewing in nine states and still not finding my “ideal” practice, my brother, who was practicing optometry here already for two years, told me about Dr. Smart’s and Dr. Powell’s practice, and asked me to interview. At that time, Dr. Smart and Dr. Powell had been working with just two doctors after their associate, Dr. Lorraine Geraghty, left the practice to spend more time with her family. They were looking for a doctor to see their growing volume of patients as well as for someone to potentially sell their practice to when they retire.

How and when you started at Premier Eyecare: Partner with Dr. Smart and now retired Dr. Powell since April 2009. Entrusted as the sole successor in March. Renamed the practice in June.

Why you decided to take the step to becoming its owner: From the start, I wanted a well-established and respected practice where I could practice optometry to my utmost capabilities. The practice originally started in 1947, when Dr. Martin Blatt opened on Caroline Street in downtown Fredericksburg. Dr. Smart purchased the practice in 1977 and merged with Dr. Powell in 1981. Over the years, we have had over 70,000 wonderful patients!

It is also a very unique practice, not only being the oldest optometric practice in the Rappahannock region, but in the fact we have a large number of loyal staff that has been with the practice for over 20 years. I have also been extremely blessed to have the very best mentors and partners, Dr. Smart and Dr. Powell. I couldn’t have done it without them.

What are your plans for the future of the practice? In June, I was excited to bring on Dr. Bradley Church as an associate doctor. He has been in the Fredericksburg and Culpeper region for the past 16 years practicing optometry. He has been such an asset to our practice. Not only is he knowledgeable in the optometric field, but patients adore him! Dr. Smart is still practicing and seeing his longtime patients. He is now just enjoying a little more time off to spend traveling, fly fishing and seeing his grandchildren.

We plan on a major remodeling of our building next year and increasing our advanced technology, such as with the Optomap, which aids the doctors in accurately viewing the back of the eye instead of traditional dilation. We are also expanding our visual therapy department and adding a new doctor in the near future. We continue to strive to offer the highest-quality of eye care possible and optical goods to our patients.

What advice do you have for residents looking for eye care in the region? A comprehensive eye examination is more than reading the eye chart on the wall and a quick look in the back of the eye. Just because a person can see does not mean that the eye is healthy. Most eye diseases are silent.

The American Optometric Association recommends a person’s first comprehensive eye exam should be performed by an eye care professional, an optometrist or ophthalmologist, at age 6 month to 1 year, 3 years of age, and yearly after age 5. This is crucial to determine if a child has a high prescription, a lazy eye, tracking issues or diseases.

Often, vision screeners at the pediatrician’s office, DMV, Lions Club or school nurse’s office test only distance vision. There are no set rules on how to perform a vision screener or how to interpret the results in the state of Virginia.

With the increase of technology, such as iPad tablets, Kindles and computer use, people have had an increase in extreme eye fatigue and require additional help with focusing at near. A person could be 20/20 at distance and see 20/200 at near. Regular newspaper print is 20/40. This person would have passed a screener if passing meant just reading the 20/20 line on the wall! Screeners are important but accurately pick up only 16 percent of visual problems that can affect a person’s life.

We also know 80 percent of learning is through the visual system. Problems within the visual system can cause issues with reading fluency and comprehension, working memory, keeping their place when reading or writing, motor coordination and depth perception that are needed for activities such as handwriting, walking, driving and sports. We are one of the only locations in the area who does specialized testing and treatment for visual processing disorders.

Hobbies: I actively participate in the Fredericksburg Chamber of Commerce and the Health Advisory Committee for Fredericksburg Head Start. I enjoy reading, golfing, running, traveling the world, spending time with my family and my two dogs.

What would be the title of your autobiography? “The Dare to Dream Your Own Reality”

Something people don’t know about you: I love anything that raises adrenaline including skydiving and experimental aircraft flying.

—As told to Lindley Estes

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