Next in our “Meet the Doctors” blog series is Dr. Darin Bowers. Dr. Bowers received his medical training at Marshall University before completing a three-year Internal Medicine residency through the West Virginia University program. Then, he completed his specialized Ophthalmology training at Geisinger Medical Center in Pennsylvania serving as chief resident. In addition to his work in the Piedmont Eye Center office, he helped established Health In Sight Ministry of Roatan, which provides medical and ophthalmic care to indigent residents of Honduras. Learn more about Dr. Bowers and his passion for eye care below.
What made you want to become an ophthalmologist?
Dr. Bowers: I started becoming interested in the process of vision around the time I was in high school or early college. In college, I had planned to go into optometry. My advisor recommended that I go to medical school instead and then into ophthalmology, but I wasn’t sure about it. As I thought and prayed, I eventually felt that this was the best option for me as optometry would limit me from doing surgery. Once in medical school I soon realized that many ophthalmology programs only take maybe 2 or 3 residents every year, so, entering that field is very competitive. However, that didn’t discourage me. It just made me work harder.
In medical school I realized just how complicated and amazing the process of vision really is. The gift of eyesight is, in my mind, one of God’s greatest designs in the human body. I continued to be drawn to the specialty. However, knowing how competitive it was to get into a program, I had a backup plan. As I was applying for ophthalmology residencies, I decided to do a three-year internal medicine residency. That experience gave me a good background in understanding systemic disease of the human body. I could go into any specialty at that point. When I finished and passed my internal medicine boards, I was accepted into a great ophthalmology program and the medicine background was very helpful. Ophthalmology residency was a great experience and I continue to learn so much as the field is evolving. The bottom line is that I am just so intrigued, even now, by the process of vision and appreciate its complexity.
What brought you to Piedmont Eye Center?
Dr. Bowers: Right after my residency I accepted a position to join a private practice in Culpeper, Virginia. After a couple years at that practice, the opportunity to become a partner never developed.. At the same time, one of our accounting consultants also worked with Piedmont Eye Center here in Lynchburg.
He and I struck up a friendship. He came to me and said, “I realize this is probably not where you want to be long term, but I know of practice in Lynchburg that you really should consider. They have a need for a general ophthalmologist and I think you would fit in great.” So, my wife and I visited the practice and spoke with Dr. Lotano, the founder of the practice. At that time, Dr. Vogel had been at Piedmont Eye Center about a year. The practice was thriving and the doctors were busy. Also, they had acquired another practice of a retiring opthamologist. With the additional workload, it was a perfect opportunity to join an expanding practice.
Additionally, the two had every intention of making me a partner, which they offered me after a year. So, joining Piedmont Eye Center was definitely a great decision.
So it was a perfect fit?
Dr. Bowers: Yes, it was and I match their mindset. As you may know, I am committed to my faith. During my first meeting with them, I expressed to them that I valued work-life balance. I made it clear that I would always put my faith first, family second, and work third. The other doctors were very much in agreement and it was just a perfect fit. Now, I’ve been here 22 years. Together we have grown into a multi-specialty practice where everybody has their own areas of expertise.
Why did you choose your subspecialties?
Dr. Bowers: With ophthalmology there are so many subspecialties. In residency, I tried them all and thought I would maybe narrow it down to one. As I studied each of those subspecialties, I found that I really enjoyed every one. So, I decided I really wanted to practice everything. When I joined Piedmont Eye Center, I was trained in nearly everything with the exception of complex retina surgery. However, I chose to stay in general ophthalmology because it combined medicine and surgery in many areas and allowed me to treat both young and old.
Additionally, ophthalmology gave me this amazing opportunity to serve in medical and surgical missions. My wife and I have served in Honduras now for about 11 years. Ophthalmology is a great specialty for serving this way. You don’t need a lot of supplies to take to a third world country. I did my first medical mission trip as an internal medicine resident and we were able to treat some patients. However, we didn’t have the capacity to maintain that treatment after we left. Ultimately, I wasn’t sure we did them a favor. By contrast, ophthalmology allows doctors to provide cataract surgery providing better vision for the rest of their lives.
As Piedmont Eye Center became a large practice, we’ve added pediatric, glaucoma, cornea, and retina specialists. So, I have narrowed my field down to mostly cataract surgery and LASIK which keeps me very busy.
What is the most common misconception about what you do?
Dr. Bowers: Occasionally, patients assume that ophthalmologists only perform surgery. However, we also perform exams, fit contacts and write prescription for glasses. An ophthalmologist’s practice is not just limited to surgery.
What would you say is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Dr. Bowers: Since I mainly perform cataract and refractive surgery, I enjoy the overwhelming response from patients when they experience an immediate improvement in their vision. That’s especially true with LASIK. The happiest day of the clinic is the post-op check for LASIK patients. When they come in they are excited with their new vision. Also for cataract surgery, its advanced over the years to where it is becoming more more like that experience as well.
Over the course of my practice, I can think of a number of patients that have really made an impact on me. For example, I performed cataract surgery on a patient that was deaf, mute, and blind when we were serving in Honduras. He had dense cataracts and I really didn’t know the potential of his vision. After his surgery, you could see that his vision had vastly improved because there was a big smile on his face. He didn’t have to say a word! You could just tell he was seeing a whole new world. As an ophthalmologist, you come across situations like that and it reminds you that we all take our vision for granted. It’s such a privilege in helping to restore someone’s vision from sight-threatening cataracts and other problems.
What is one thing that you wish every patient knew?
Dr. Bowers: I wish all patients understood the importance of a regular eye exam. There is nothing more devastating than to see someone come in, who has become legally blind from the effects of a chronic disease that’s occurred over 10 or 20 years. I think most patients feel that when a problem occurs the symptoms will be immediately apparent. However, we often see patients that succumb to blindness after years of neglecting their eyes to a silent disease like glaucoma or macular degeneration. So,it’s important to come in for routine eye exams, even if you think everything is fine.
What do you like to do in your down time?
Dr. Bowers: My wife and I have entered grandparenthood, and we have 4 grandchildren that we are truly enjoying. It has been a thrill to have them around. All of them are local and we see them nearly everyday. So far we have been very blessed to be involved in their lives. Also, I live on a farm, raise Angus cattle on the side, and I love to be outdoors. I enjoy running, especially trail running to keep me in shape, but also, to keep my mind clear. Work and stresses of life can gather in our lives and it is good to get out and feel refreshed and more energetic.