Not many people pursue the career they decided on as an eighth grader. But for Dr. Timothy Ziegler, doctor of optometry, the choice has served him well. The Crystal Lake resident has worked with the Hale Vision team since 1993 and is committed to pre- and post-operative patient care. Among patients, Dr. Ziegler is most known for calming their nerves before surgery and coaching them through the side effects.
What made you want to enroll in the Illinois College of Optometry?
A Catholic priest’s sister who gave me my first communion was a professor at the Illinois College of Optometry. I always was interested in her stories about Chicago and Optometry. It is also know to have one of the largest clinics of Optometry schools. It’s been 22 years since I’ve graduated and I would do it again.
What do you like about optometry?
I like the reward of getting people to see better, the reward of catching patients who have glaucoma or giving a kid their first pair of glasses or first pair of contacts. We deal with a lot of healthy people who have fuzzy vision.
In the world of LASIK, you’re taking people who can’t function without glasses to being able to drive themselves to the office the next day after surgery. It’s a very positive and uplifting kind of profession in the medical field.
What’s the biggest misconception people believe about LASIK surgery?
For me, the biggest misconception about LASIK is that it is not a 100 percent cure-all to never need glasses again. Your eyes can change. You may need a small correction for something like night driving and reading. Our eyes change like our bodies change. You won’t be like Superman and have perfect vision and never need anything else again. That would be awesome, but that’s not the case.
Why was Hale Vision the right practice for you to join in 1993?
They interviewed me and I started in Dr Hale’s Medical practice seeing patients and we got along well and my role evolved along with refractive surgery.
Dr. Hale has taught me a lot over the years. I know more about LASIK than most ophthalmologists who could perform LASIK because I’ve worked with him for so long. I can think along his terms and what he expects out of a patient.
In 1996 I purchased an optometric practice called Advanced Eyecare in Plymouth, Wisconsin. I now work with Dr. Hale part time.
Has your role at Hale Vision evolved since joining almost 20 years ago?
Absolutely. I definitely was relying more on Dr. Hale’s expertise to makes sure the patients were good candidates. Now, I can tell if a patient is a good candidate or not. Dr. Hale may have to make a deciding factor if there’s questionable testing, because he’s the surgeon. Now I’ve worked with him so long I can almost predict what he’s going to say.
What is one thing you have learned that has surprised you in this line of work?
Being in a surgical world as a non-surgical person, there are a lot of things I can do that I never thought I could do. It’s just a matter of learning and understanding it. I learned a lot more than I thought I would in the world of LASIK.
What does your daily grind look like?
I work on patients who are coming in to be evaluated for surgery. There are two types of appointments. Some people come in for a consultation. They’ll meet with a technician and it’s mostly educational. The ones who are interested in surgery, and have been scheduled, I evaluate the tests required to make them a good candidate.
I read wave scans, check the health of the eye, and educate them on side effects, potential risks and complications. I tell them what they can expect afterwards and then I see post-operative patients.
Why is it important to comfort and reassure patients before and after their procedure?
I always think of the patients as if they were my family members, because it’s an elected procedure—not something that’s mandatory for your health.
I want to make sure they really understand LASIK and break it down in layman’s terms. The fear of the unknown is really big in patients. I want them to understand that if we tell them they are going to do good, they are going to do great. My understanding of people’s nerves really puts them at ease.
What’s something you always find yourself telling patients?
I always tell people, if you have surgery on your body, the body inflames. So do the eyes. It’s ok not to see perfectly clear the next day. You’re going to be able to see really well, but it’s going to be a little bit fuzzy.
What more do you hope to gain in your future at Hale?
Amazing LASIK outcomes. I want people to trust that we are truly the best center in the Midwest, and for sure Milwaukee. I would let Dr. Hale perform surgery on any one of my family members. He is truly dedicated to LASIK and he will take care of you like no one else in the Midwest. I can’t imagine anyone who is more dedicated with LASIK patients and procedures than he is.
What’s something about yourself that you’d like to share?
I have completed two IRONMAN triathlons and I love to water ski, travel, downhill ski and eat out at restaurants.