Dr. Kallie Harrier used to be a patient at Essential Family Vision Care.
Now, the Windsor native has returned, joining the practice as an eye doctor specializing in treating low vision.
Her grandmother’s struggle with macular degeneration inspired her to become an optometrist.
“She was an artist, and she had to close the door to her art studio and give up doing something she loved,” said Harrier.
That’s the sort of thing she hopes to prevent for her patients.
“With their vision, we want them to be able to use what they have left to the best of their abilities,” said Harrier.
Harrier’s grandfather was an optometrist, as well. She graduated from DeForest Area High School in 2007 and got her associate’s degree from Madison College a year later.
Then, Harrier moved to Arizona, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in life sciences from Arizona State University in 2014. She knew she wanted to get into the health care field, but wasn’t sure what area. Seeing her grandmother lose her vision inspired her to go into optometry, so she headed east to attend the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Science and joined Essential Family Vision, which was started in the early 1950s and moved to its present location in the Parkview Professional Building at 128 Holum St. in 1996, in May.
An enthusiastic message from Dr. Trixie Eakin, Harrier’s former eye care specialist, helped convince her to concentrate on vision health.
“She sent me a long email, with all these exclamation points, about all the good things about the career,” said Harrier.
Harrier expressing interest in returning to DeForest to work with Eakin was cause for celebration.
“It was so exciting to share my love for this career with somebody else,” said Eakin. “It’s a wonderful community and it’s been an honor to serve. That she was inspired to come back and work with me, it’s got me all choked up.”
Harrier is excited to join Eakin and the rest of the staff.
“My coming back here is a testament to the practice,” said Harrier. “If I didn’t think they provided good, quality care or cared about their patients, I wouldn’t be here.”
What helped in getting Harrier back to DeForest was an internship required of her at optometry school. Harrier asked Dr. Eakin if she would sponsor her.
“I got excited about the possibility of having her as a future partner,” said Eakin.
A relationship and her uncertainty about returning to Arizona factored into Harrier’s decision to come back to the area, as she lives in Sun Prairie – only two miles away from the house she grew up in over in Windsor. She’s amazed by how much has changed. Community growth has had an effect on the practice’s staffing. Right now, it has 23-25 employees, not all of whom work full-time. It allows Essential Family Vision Care to have four doctors working at all times while the practice is open, according to Eakin.
Harrier’s roots in the community run deep. Her mother Julie Harrier was a longtime teacher in the school district, working at both Morrisonville and Eagle Point elementary schools. Her dad, Donald, has been a member of the village Plan Commission. Harrier said her dad asked Dr. Eakin a lot of questions about the optometry profession.
Optometry has changed a lot since Harrier’s grandfather was in it in the 1960s. Eakin said it has become more medical, with diabetes becoming an epidemic.
“A lot of care needs to go into preserving vision and care for people with the disease,” said Eakin.
Harrier’s expertise in treating low vision is a big plus for the practice.
“There really isn’t anybody in the area with an interest in low vision,” said Eakin. “If you have anybody in your family who has it, she is the person to reach out to.”
Harrier said even people from as far away as Poynette, Lodi and Portage are interested in her low vision treatment. She explained that a lot of it involves talking with patients about where their vision is at and what works well for them. It could be the use of a magnifier, different lighting, certain filters, sunglasses, telescopes and even special televisions. Harrier said it’s all about trying to improve their quality of life.