Focused on the profession’s future

Q + A with Waterloo alumnus Dr. Henry Smit (OD '79)

Dr. Henry and Mrs. Jill SmitFor forty-one years, Dr. Henry Smit (OD ’79) and Mrs. Jill Smit formed an unstoppable duo as optometrist and office administrator at their clinic in Truro, Nova Scotia.

Now in retirement, Henry reflects on why he and Jill have chosen to give back to the School of Optometry & Vision Science’s Waterloo Eye Institute.

As an alumnus of the University of Waterloo, what inspires you to give back to your alma mater?

Since my graduation from Waterloo in 1979, my years of practice as an optometrist have been the best 41 years of my life (so far).

Although my memory of walking to the front of the classroom and behind the teacher’s desk to read the chalkboard is very clear, the world around me was anything but. When I got my first pair of glasses, I was convinced that my optometrist was a superhero, and my career path was set.

I firmly believe that well trained optometrists have the power to enhance the lives of their patients by maximizing their sensory experience of the world around them. I have experienced this not only through my years as a practicing optometrist, but also first-hand having entered elementary school with a significant level of uncorrected myopia.

I am filled with pride at how far our profession has progressed during that time – from not being allowed to perform Goldmann tonometry when I started practice to being able to treat glaucoma when I retired. It is critical that institutions such as the School of Optometry & Vision Science have the resources to develop the best knowledge base of the factors that impact the ocular health and perceptual components of vision throughout life and assist in the development and provision of effective treatments irrespective of current scope of practice limitations. 

Transferring that knowledge to their optometrists in training so that it can be applied to individual patients from the earliest stages of their visual development to the end stages of their lives is noble and valuable work which Jill and I are happy to support.

How do you think the Waterloo Eye Institute will benefit optometrists across the country?

With so many aspects of our work, commerce, leisure, and personal interactions now becoming more “digitized” the need to successfully navigate the visual information that bombards us is perhaps even more urgent that it was in times past. The demands placed on the biological health and accurate perceptual functioning of our most precious sense appear to be evolving at an exponential pace.

Additionally, as our population gets older, age related degeneration and disease is becoming more prevalent. The need for effective care providers becomes more acute.

The broadening scope of practice under which optometrists deliver their care and the vastly improved patient outcomes that have ensued as a result, have been fueled by an ever-expanding scientific understanding of visual perception and ocular and systemic disease.

The Waterloo Eye Institute is uniquely positioned to deliver that understanding to its students in a manner that allows them to apply their gained knowledge to the individual clinical challenges that each patient will present to them during their careers.

Why do you think others should get behind this important initiative?

I believe that all patients deserve to be served by well trained, competent, and caring practitioners. As the knowledge base and clinical acumen of optometrists continues to evolve, so too will our recognized scope of practice.

In partnership with the Waterloo Eye Institute, let’s continue to move our profession forward for the benefit of the many patients who entrust us with caring for their vision.