When Quentin Park, OD ’04, and his sister, Lena Park, OD ’06, were teenagers, their father made sure they worked in low-paying jobs at a hospital, a country club dining room, construction sites and a movie theater ticket booth.
It’s not that Bill Park, OD ’77, was against his kids working in his optometric practice—he just wanted to be sure they experienced other jobs to understand the value of education in building a successful career.
“Part of my reasoning was to let them know what would happen if they did not go further in their education, what life would be like,” he says. “Would they like to work in a movie theater the rest of their life? Would they like to tear up carpeting? Would they like to take dead people at the hospital to the morgue every day or clean bedpans? Those are the experiences they had before deciding on what to do the rest of their lives.”
Ultimately his kids decided to work in their father’s practice permanently—as staff doctors at Park Family Eye Care in North Aurora, Ill.
Drs. Quentin and Lena are part of a special group of alumni who followed their parents to ICO and, upon graduation, followed them to their practice. This kind of closeness may not be for every family, but for some it offers the unique opportunity to spend time with the people you love the most, doing what you both love to do.
For the younger Parks, the decision to become optometrists was solely their own, without any pressure from their dad. Dr. Quentin, 35, an accomplished trumpet player, was a double major in pre-med and music at Augustana College before narrowing it down to only pre-med. He spent two years working as a hospital orderly, and then worked in his dad’s office. That’s when he knew optometry was the healthcare path for him.
“I did research on all kinds of doctors and then made the decision that optometry fits me based on my personality and my schooling,” Dr. Quentin says. “It took me a little more thinking than just being genetically born into it. I always wanted to be the guy who did everything on my own. But I have always loved my family and it’s a very unique thing to do a family practice.”
“I always wanted to be the guy who did everything on my own. but i have always loved my family and it’s very unique to do a family practice.”
– Quentin Park, OD ’04
Dr. Lena, 33, had a little more experience working in the office. In addition to the movie theater and other summer jobs, she also spent school breaks answering phones and helping behind-the-scenes at the practice. Working both inside and outside the practice helped her realize she wanted to do something in healthcare, although she wasn’t sure just what that would be when she enrolled at the University of Illinois. She joined the Pre-Health Club and Pre-Optometry Club, and ultimately found optometry to be the best fit for her. She didn’t want to leave the state, so ICO was the logical choice for her, as was joining her dad and brother in practice.
“It’s a private practice, so I knew I could practice my own way,” Dr. Lena says. “I do things differently from even my dad and my brother. I take the longest with exams, for example, because I see a lot of small kids and they can’t tell me anything.”
All the doctors agree that a key part of their success is ensuring they have active—and separate—lives outside of work. They all live in different towns and have other activities that keep them busy. Dr. Lena is a marathon runner and Dr. Quentin is a competitor in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Their dad is active in civic organizations and serves on the ICO Alumni Council.
From his perspective, Dr. Bill thinks he’s living out every parent’s dream of watching their children succeed as adults and build successful careers. He also knows that when the time comes for him to retire—which the 64-year-old says won’t be for a very long time—he’ll be able to turn the practice over to two qualified doctors who will care for it like he did.
“I am so proud of them,” he says. “I get to go to work with them every day and we challenge each other every day.”
Like Father, Like Son
David Hammes, OD ’04, readily admits he got pretty tired of optometry talk when he was growing up. His dad, Brian Hammes, OD ’74, bought Family Focus Eye Care in Fond Du Lac, Wis., in 1978 (the year David was born), and his mom handled the marketing and insurance. Eventually his uncle, an MBA, ran the business side, and even his sister got involved doing the bookkeeping.
“Growing up, I did get pretty sick of it,” says Dr. David, 36, with a chuckle. “Every dinner revolved around the office. It wasn’t just about eye care, it was about the business, too. After growing up with that, I wanted to do something different.”
But as often happens, once he got away from home he started to see things differently. He considered other healthcare fields like dentistry and chiropractic, but realized optometry was the best fit during his junior year at St. Louis University. He says that although his whole family was immersed in the practice, his parents never pressured him to follow in his dad’s footsteps—he came to the decision all on his own. He never even worked in the practice until he was at ICO.
“Even after I told my dad I was going to become an optometrist, he was never one to push me in any direction. He just let me make my decisions,” Dr. David says. “When I was at ICO, he would send me articles and tidbits about the profession, but he never really pushed me one way or the other.”
“Working with my dad is something i really enjoy, a lot of people think they couldn’t work with family, but we just work great together.”
– David Hammes, OD ’04
While at ICO, the younger Dr. Hammes did a rotation in California and both he and his dad thought very seriously about opening a practice there. They eventually decided to stay in Wisconsin, where their patient load is about 6,000 each year, and Dr. David joined his dad after getting his license. A third doctor, Laura Gengelbach, OD ’10, joined them in 2012, and there is an advanced cornea specialist in-house.
“Working with my dad is something I really enjoy,” Dr. David says. “A lot of people think they couldn’t work with family, but we just work great together. We don’t see each other a lot during the day, but a lot of times we get lunch and catch up. We both see eye-to-eye clinically and in business, too.”
The elder Dr. Hammes, 64, says he is most proud of how much both his son and the profession of optometry have flourished since he graduated from ICO. When he began practicing, he remembers having to refer patients to other doctors for many conditions that are commonly treated in the office now. He also has been able to incorporate his passion for wellness and healthy living into his practice.
“It has been wonderful to see David grow up and be part of this profession,” Dr. Brian says. “We can now treat it all here.”
So what will the future hold for Dr. David’s two young children, ages five months and three years? Dad and grandpa each agree the tots should follow their hearts—though they admit it would be wonderful if their hearts led them to Family Focus Eye Care.
“We’ll see what they end up exploring,” Dr. David says. “I still think optometry is a great profession and I am very happy with my choice. It would definitely be a great honor if one or both of them chose it, too.”
Jacqui Cook is a freelance writer in suburban Chicago. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.