“It’s not like people are built in a Ford assembly line.”
As an Optometrist, Dr. Daniel Horton never stops reminding himself that not all humans are built the same. “People are different,” he says, “and different people respond differently to certain types of treatments. I want to make sure we treat each patient as an individual, closely monitoring his or her condition and carefully observing reactions to our treatments. Each patient is a unique case.”
Dr. Horton’s story is also unique in one aspect: “I knew from the time I was in the 7th grade that I wanted to be an Optometrist,” he says, “and I never looked back.”
Born and raised in Maryville, young Daniel began wearing corrective lenses at age 9. “I began seeing Dr. Peterson in Maryville,” he recalls. “He was wonderful and I could see that he really liked his job. I just knew that I could do some good in this profession.”
After graduating from Maryville’s William Blount High School, Daniel went on to earn a degree in biology from the University of Tennessee. He then crossed the state to attend Southern College of Optometry where he received his Doctor of Optometry in 2001.
“I was fortunate to do my Externship with Drs. Campbell, Cunningham, Taylor & Haun in 2000,” he says. “I worked under Dr. Cunningham, usually shadowing him and Dr. Hildebrand. It was a great experience.”
Dr. Horton firmly believes in first-hand observation. “Textbooks are one thing,” he says, “but actually seeing is totally revealing. I learned a lot of pathology by shadowing Dr. Cunningham. He encouraged me to sit with him and his patients while he was diagnosing and treating each one. I think what he saw in me was someone who wanted to learn and understand the eye from the inside out. And I think he appreciated my eagerness to help people.”
For his first year after school, Dr. Horton served as a fill-in around Knoxville and East Tennessee, practicing his new profession at a variety of offices. “The experience was rewarding,” he recalls. “I got to see patients from various parts of the area and I learned a lot about their backgrounds. I worked very hard at gaining their trust.”
Then, in 2002, Horton was invited to come on full time with Drs. Campbell, Cunningham, Taylor & Haun, where he’s now responsible for Primary Care and General Optometry. “Essentially, I treat anything that is wrong with the eyes, including pain, loss of vision and injury,” he says. “I also do quite a bit of post-cataract and post-LASIK. I’m very interested in all of it.”
Doctor Horton has his own patient base, with his time split among the Knoxville, Maryville and Sevierville locations. Among his specialties are contact lens fitting, dry eye and allergy treatment (very important in East Tennessee), as well as attending to all sorts of eye diseases. He also does cataract follow-up care for Drs. Campbell, Cunningham, Taylor & Haun.
The “personal touch” is very important to Dr. Horton. “I really concentrate on listening to the patient,” says Horton, “spending the time it takes to thoroughly go over their condition, recent surgeries and follow-up expectations. I also want to be reassuring with patients in explaining what they need to know and how their condition and treatment will affect their daily lives.”
“As a primary care doctor it’s my job to examine carefully, ask the right questions and try to uncover even the most unobvious of conditions,” says Horton. “For example, I had one patient who was experiencing double-vision. Essentially, all the tests came back negative, but I was determined to find a way to help the patient. I decided to refer him to a neurologist. It turns out he had a brain tumor. The neurologist was able to treat it successfully, but now every time I see the patient he calls me ‘the guy who saved his life.’ I suppose in some way, I helped, mostly by insisting that we find some sort of answer.”
Dr. Horton points out that particular symptoms in the eye can reveal some serious health issues. Many times, diabetes, strokes, aneurisms, high blood pressure and tumors can be suspected due to various indications through the eye.
Since his Optometry career began, Dr. Horton has seen some amazing advancements in the field. “One of those is Lifestyle Lens Options for cataract patients,” he says. “We now have a prosthetic lens that can accommodate the visual deficiencies brought on by age. Even more remarkable, we can essentially ‘fix’ the visual fields from near, far and up close and reading vision for cataract patients. That’s something we would never have dreamt of in school,” he says. “I take a lot of pride in being part of one of the select practices in the country that is doing state-of-the-art treatments like this.”
“We also have amazing new diagnostic capabilities,” he says. “Our OCT—the imaging technology that allows us to look through the layers of the retina as well as the mapping of the topographical irregularities of the cornea—is simply remarkable. It’s just one more tool that helps me make the right diagnosis for each individual patient.” As Dr. Horton always says, patients are not assembly line products. Each one is unique.
Dr. Horton is happily married to wife, Jessica. When not diagnosing eye problems, he enjoys doing woodworking around the house, playing drums and occasionally running marathons. He may also be the only Optometrist in the country who’s also a “rib specialist” (a real wiz around the barbeque pit).