It has been over a decade since Slater Smith walked the halls of Quitman High School as a football player, baseball player, soccer player, beta club member, student council member, Mrs. Smith’s middle child, and he grins sheepishly as he answers the question,
“Yes, I was Mr. QHS. I was a serious student. I graduated in 2009, went to Jones, and played football where I was the punter. I met Arlette (his wife) there in the cafeteria. She played soccer and tennis at Jones.”
The serious student is now a serious Doctor of Optometry, and today he explains the importance of an eye exam to his patient.
First, Dr. Smith takes his patient through a series of questions, most of which contain the words, “Is that better?”
“It’s important to understand,” he says, “that when you get an eye exam it’s more than just checking your vision. We want to make sure you see clearly, and we’re doing that by checking your ocular health, but eyes are a good way to look at your systemic health, too. This is your optic nerve,” he points to the image of the patient’s retina. “These tiny blood vessels that we’re looking at are just like the arteries and veins throughout the whole body. If you’re diabetic, have hypertension, or high blood pressure, or if you have any type of blood disorder that affects the vessels, we can see those vessels in their natural state.”
When asked how he decided to devote his study and eventual life’s work to the eye, he explains,
“When I got into college I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do. I was good at math and science so I was thinking engineering. Then I thought about wanting to do something in the medical field. I was taking my Dad to the eye doctor because he has glaucoma. He’s had just about every surgery you can have for glaucoma. During the time I was at Jones, he was having a lot of issues with that so I was taking him to the doctor more. I finally said, ‘Well, just let me go and job shadow Dr. Cochran and Dr. Michael Holifield.’ I did it; I liked it, and it led from there.”
Two years later Slater graduated from The University of Southern Mississippi holding a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology with a Chemistry minor. He applied and received a letter of acceptance to the Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, TN. He and Arlette married and both spent the next four years obtaining medical degrees.
Now the couple has returned to the area to practice medicine. Dr. Smith utilizes a gift of teaching, which he most likely inherited from his mother, to educate his patients at Primary Eyecare and Optical of Meridian. He wants everyone to understand the importance of eye exams for people of all ages.
“It is really important to see children throughout their school years. We want to make sure they’re seeing their best while they’re in school. There is a lot of vision related problems that affect learning. If a child is not reading, they are not doing well in school. A lot of children can see in the distance well, but now with the increase in cell phone and tablet use, they are overworking their eyes. So, a lot of them can be having trouble up close reading, even though they’re seeing clearly at a distance. The AOA recommends that children have an eye exam at 6 months to a year, around age 3 and 5, and yearly while they are in school. We don’t want a child to think they don’t like to read when all they possibly need is some reading glasses.”
For those Quitman School District students who have good ocular health and are seeing well both near and far, the QHS alumnus has some advice.
“Get involved. I think it’s important to be well rounded. That can apply to both athletics and academics. Expose yourself to more sports and subjects. Don’t limit yourself.”