“One of the things that appeals to me about Optometry is that it really is primary care for the eye.”
David Sims, O.D., has always been captivated by the “how and why” within various fields of study and casual areas of interest pertaining to the natural sciences. It was his appreciation for understanding how intricate things work in order to figure out how to enhance their function in some way or another. While that ingrained interest started out in areas geared more toward the mechanical, electronic, and technical design, he soon realized an area of interest where his pursuit for understanding intricate systems knows no bounds – the human eye.
Throughout his youth, Sims recalls that unquenchable curiosity, not only about how things work, but when left unsatisfied by an explanation would be compelled to explore why a system functions as it does. This inquisitive instinct was definitely a precursor to his current profession.
“You could usually find me disassembling something out of curiosity,” Dr. Sims remembers. “I just loved learning about how everything worked… which usually led me to wonder what potential such a gadget might have if applied in other ways.”
With a family history in Optometry, Dr. Sims was provided a perfect path to channel his diverse interests and discover his true passion in life – the all-inclusive world of Optometry. At Drs. Campbell, Cunningham, Taylor & Haun, Dr. Sims engages in that passion each day by delivering primary eye care. Beyond assessment and correction of vision, your comprehensive eye exam involves the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and disorders of the eye and visual system.
Dr. Sims is from Knoxville, which is where his educational foundation was established to launch his professional career. After finishing high school at Karns and feeling left with a dizzying array of competing interests, it seemed daunting to commit to any one specific career. But a pivotal conversation with his father about career options allowed for just that sort of timely advice.
“My dad suggested that I consider my grandfather’s profession of optometry,” Dr. Sims said. “My grandfather Sims passed away before I was born, so Optometry really wasn’t on my radar at the time. But I set out to explore this further by working in optical labs and getting to know eye care professionals and seek their guidance.”
As it turned out, Optometry ended up being the perfect fit because it aligned so well with that baseline enthusiasm for seeking answers to complex questions.
“The top-down view of this profession illustrated to me how it encompasses so many areas that can be, unto themselves, endless pursuits of research such as optics, ocular physiology, diagnostic imaging technology, pharmacology to name a few.” Dr. Sims said. “Recognizing that I would employ all of these on a daily basis as an Optometrist, I had no doubts about my path forward. When the rest of my family learned of my ambitions, they rallied with their support and presented me with my grandfather Sims’ diploma from 1910. It served as an inspiration during my student years for sure, and it still is inspiring for me to this day.”
Dr. Sims went on to earn his Bachelor of Science degree from Maryville College. While preparing and applying for Optometry school, Dr. Sims was fortunate to receive early exposure to eye care by working for many eye surgeons who became his mentors. His ambition for learning about eye care was quickly rewarded by being assigned a role as a supervisor of a busy clinic at St. Joseph Hospital in Houston. It was during this time he gained valuable insight to the complexities of clinical procedures and large practice operations. But most importantly to Dr. Sims, he recognized the value of attention to patients as individuals and the importance of exceptional communication skills.
When the call to attend Optometry school came from The Lone Star State of Texas, Dr. Sims, with his acquired clinical skill set, accepted the invitation from the University of Houston College of Optometry. Upon finishing his degree, he accepted an offer to join a private practice near the world’s largest Medical Center in Houston where he practiced for several years. But Dr. Sims never lost personal or professional ties to his Tennessee roots. In fact, even when he studied and practiced in Texas for several years, he still maintained his Tennessee license to practice because he just knew he’d return someday.
“My family has always been in Knoxville, so as I had made frequent trips to visit, I was better able to stay in touch with this area from a distance ” Dr. Sims said. “I was there in Houston for all those years, and I thought if the door opened for me anytime, I would come back in a heartbeat.”
But coming back to Tennessee meant it had to be for the right practice opportunity.
“There are so many practice venues for Optometry,” he explains. “Even as an undergraduate student at Maryville College, I was sort of getting the lay of the land, so to speak, in order to gauge the setting that might be best suited for me once I finished Optometry school. Thankfully, my dad was (and still is) a patient with Campbell, Cunningham, Taylor & Haun, and during those student years I could see the very model of how I aspired to practice.”
That impression was very profound because after all those years away from his hometown as Dr. Sims affirms, “I landed right back where I belong in the practice best suited for me to participate in delivering unparalleled eye care to this family of patients. I’m truly blessed.”
Essential to our professional responsibilities is maintaining the call to have your eyes examined annually.
“One of the things that appeals to me about primary eye care is that it’s a bit like casting a wide net,” Dr. Sims explains. “Every time we see a patient for a routine exam, there’s a potential that it could evolve into finding a lot more than expected – in a good way. We might be identifying a sight threatening issue that has not resulted in any notable vision loss yet. That’s where I come in.”
Beyond primary eye care, the practice model at Campbell, Cunningham, Taylor & Haun allows our patients to have the continuity of care that, as Dr. Sims notes, has been historically difficult to maintain compared to other practice settings that tend to disrupt the timely care, maybe even time-sensitive care for the patient.
“The specialists at this group really were the pioneers to value and nurture a practice relationship with primary eye care to the great benefit of each patient,” Sims said.
When issues arise with the eye, it doesn’t always manifest in obvious ways like many people might expect.
“It resonates with my natural train of thought to follow a methodical approach when trying to identify a problem,” Dr. Sims said. “Even if we know where the problem is, we have to be more meticulous to isolate the issue by assessing the eye starting from the front and work our way back. Only then will we have the complete story for us to treat or refer to our specialists accordingly.”
When patients need specialist care, Dr. Sims expresses his utmost appreciation to have access to their expertise within the practice.
“When you consider the eye relative to any other organ that makes us work, our eye has more doctors assigned to it as subspecialists for treatment specific to each anatomical component,” he said. “So, to name a few examples, eyelid tissue requires an oculoplastics specialists, the cornea has its own specialist, retina, optic nerve and glaucoma, pediatric and even eye cancer treatment requires a specialist for specific treatments unique to the ocular tissue. This is what comprehensive eye care can be at such a practice where patients reap the benefits of seamless coordinated care.”
The world of eye care is constantly evolving. Practically on a daily basis, we are introduced to a continuous series of advancements among the various fields of vision research. One area of which Dr. Sims is excited about involves all the improvements made around cataract procedures that have dramatically improved patient quality of life.
“Sometimes, when we tell our patients that they are developing cataracts, they may react with some alarm or express concern about impending blindness,” he explains. “But I’m here to provide you better understanding of cataracts along with some good news. It may be a little of my Southern disposition and a tendency for using analogies, but as I say, cataracts are up there with gray hair and wrinkles. Our natural lens that we’re born with eventually gets too cloudy for enough light to get through. The good thing is that when the time comes for that discussion, we can provide many great options to treat and correct age-related conditions.”
Now that he’s back home in East Tennessee, Dr. Sims says he looks forward to experiencing four distinct seasons of the year again; the fall weather especially was sorely missed while he was in Texas. Restoring the time spent away from his family will include lots of laughs and good food. High on his agenda is getting reacquainted with delicious country cooking and reconnecting with friends. He also loves to travel and enjoys the learning experience that comes with it in unexpected ways. And a most welcome bonus to being back for Dr. Sims is being closer and visiting more often with his son who lives and works in Nashville.
For any other spare time, he says, “If I’m making myself useful to someone in a meaningful way, then I’m happy.”