October 2010


Author: David Tobias | Photographer: Photography by Anne

Michael Campbell has the perfect demeanor for a baseball coach. He’s calm and thoughtful and rarely flustered. He manages gracefully, keeping an even temper, watching carefully for the small things that give his 14- and 15-year-olds an advantage on the field.

It’s his standing off the field, however, where he might hold the most significant advantage, because when Campbell disputes a call and suggests an umpire might need his eyes examined, he does so with unquestioned authority. Even the umpire, mildly offended at first, has to tilt his mask back, look over at the dugout and give him a knowing wink and a smile. You see, Michael Campbell—Dr. Michael Campbell—knows about sight and seeing. He’s an optometrist and he’s one of the best around.

Campbell and his wife Maureen own Optical Solutions in Hospital Center Commons near the Hilton Head Hospital and a second location (the original) at Shelter Cove Plaza. They’re celebrating 25 years in the business this year, and their business continues to grow, with plans to add a new store in Bluffton later this year.

The Campbells came from the Midwest, both graduated from Indiana University with Michael finishing at the Indiana School of Optometry. Maureen’s training was as a dental hygienist, but she was happy to leave that behind and join her husband as a partner in his business when they moved east.

They chose to move because of a glut of optometrists in Indiana at the time (especially in Indianapolis, for some reason); Maureen happened to have an uncle who was an ordained priest in Beaufort, South Carolina. They discovered the charms of Hilton Head Island after four months and found it to be a place where “everyone wanted to be everyone’s friend, because everyone was from somewhere else,” said Maureen.

Michael first worked for the only ophthalmologist on the island. Although it was great training, he realized early on that owning and operating his own business was in his future. The opportunity was there to open a private optometry practice and retail shop. He did, and it worked.

When you submit to an optometry exam, you learn quite quickly that this is a specialized practice with changing technology. Comedian Brian Regan’s hilarious routine about eye exams is about 80 percent accurate, but like everything else technological, the machinery is getting smaller and more mobile. That monster machine that looked like a great big pair of very complicated glasses (Regan: “Are THESE my glasses!?”) is a phoropter, and it has been downsized, plasticized and is a lot less imposing. You’re still in the dark during the exam from time to time, but most of the tests are a variation of the old “Giant E” chart, plus a glaucoma test and a test for color blindness, all conducted in the light.

Looking in your eyes, Dr. Campbell can check for signs of diabetes, hypertension and other retinopathies—damage to the retina caused by complications of certain systemic diseases.

“Eyes might be the windows to the soul, but they’re definitely windows of the general health of the body,” said Campbell. That’s because, viewing with the aid of magnification and a bright light, he can check the condition of blood vessels, which mirror the health of blood vessels in the rest of the body.

In addition to checking for diseases of the eyes, the exam also assesses sight irregularities and the best corrections, which leads to a prescription for glasses, contacts or a suggestion that a patient consider Lasik surgery, a procedure also available at Optical Solutions’ hospital location.

Optical Solutions now goes far beyond comprehensive exams to include a vast array of frames, trained opticians and technicians to assist in fitting glasses and contacts, a total of 14 employees and three associate doctors, an onsite lens making lab and even a unique association with a Lasik surgery specialty company called the TLC Center. But the success of the business has always been professionalism, customer care and quality, according to Dr. Campbell.

Both Optical Solutions outlets are crisp, efficient, professional and beautifully decorated with an interesting mix of medical and retail, which is what they must be because of the wide variety of services provided there. Frame choices are seemingly endless and beautifully displayed with designer names like Fendi, Juicy Couture, Coach and Jimmy Choo.

The entire process from extensive exam to acquiring new eyewear can be completed in less than two hours, and you don’t feel rushed. That assumes choosing one-hour lab service; it’s actually much more common to select frames and lenses and come back later to pick them up.

“The one-hour lab service was added to assist visitors who sometimes lost their glasses on the beach or in the surf,” said Maureen. “You’d be amazed at how often people lose their glasses on vacation. And that can ruin your vacation. Before we added one-hour service, people had to drive to Savannah to get replacement glasses, and that takes hours out of their day.”

The applications of optometry to baseball are almost as endless as baseball cliché’s. Keep your eye on the ball. Watch the ball hit the bat. Pick up the spin of the ball. None of this is why Dr. Campbell has been coaching baseball for 15 years. That goes back to a simple love of the game and having three boys who play. The Campbells have three sons and one daughter.

Contributions of an optometrist to baseball are about as obvious as a volunteer groundskeeper who majors in agronomy and turf management (you can probably count on a pretty good looking field). In this case, thanks to the influence of Dr. Campbell, some kids in the Hilton Head Baseball association have their eyes tested before ball season begins.

There aren’t many teenage baseball leagues where that’s part of the routine. But it seems nothing the Campbells do is routine.

Does it make a difference?

That’s hard to say—the season isn’t over yet.

Call Optical solutions for more information at 843.681.6682.

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