Growing up in Rib Lake, north of Wausau, Sara Winkler didn’t have her eye on becoming an optometrist.
She loved reading. “On long road trips, you’d find my nose in a book,” she said.
Then as now, she was also active and full of energy. She said, “I was a year-round athlete starting in middle school: volleyball, basketball, softball.”
Winkler worked in a nursing home during high school but also served as a nanny and babysat “a ton.” She recalled, “When I was younger, I wanted to be a pediatrician.”
The new associate doctor at May Vision Center in Waunakee said that the germ of an idea of becoming an optometrist probably came when she was young. Not blessed with the greatest vision herself, she spent some time with her own eye doctor. She remembered visits warmly and felt he had a family oriented practice. She even arranged to job shadow him a couple of days while she was in high school.
She followed her older brother to UW-Green Bay for college.
“Once I got to college, I realized I didn’t want to work with just kids,” explained Winkler. “I did participate with Prevent Blindness Wisconsin out of Green Bay. I did some health fairs. I realized I liked the idea of working with one body structure and honing in on a specialty.”
After earning her undergraduate degree in human biology in 2008, Winkler attended the Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago. That first year was the hardest. She admitted entertaining some self doubt.
“The second year of optometry school, starting to work with patients, that was just a moment of, ‘This is it!’” she said.
Winkler had a strong support group. She could always count on encouragement from parents Jay and Sue Winkler, who still live in Rib Lake. And Isaac Hoffmaster was in her corner, too.
Sara and Isaac knew each other from intramurals at UW-Green Bay. Said the lanky doctor, “We both play volleyball. I would beat him sometimes. Our senior year, we had a class together. It was Analytical Chemistry. We got together, and he helped me, and it went from there. It was chemistry!” she exclaimed as she rocked back in her chair with a big grin.
“He took me mini golfing. I beat him at that. He took it well – that was a good start. Then, we went to Culver’s for ice cream.”
About recalling those early athletic victories over the man who would become her husband, Winkler’s eyes twinkled as she reasoned, “We’re both very competitive, so that’s why I like to put those in there…”
Hoffmaster chose not to go to med school and instead applies his aptitude for science as a registered dietician. When Winkler got out of optometry school in 2012, she looked to join him in the Madison area. Her first job out of school was with Wisconsin Vision. She served patients on Madison’s East Side and in Janesville.
A “good way to get started” was how she put it. The large company provided excellent mentoring opportunities. She worked primarily with glasses and contact lenses. After six years, she said, “I got to the point where I knew I wanted to do more than the refractive end of things. I was keeping my eyes open.”
When David May asked her to consider joining his practice in Waunakee, it checked off a couple of items on Winkler’s wish list.
“Being in a practice like this has been a goal of mine for quite a while,” she said. It reminds her of her optometrist back in Rib Lake – a great quality of life, a great way to practice.,” she said. As Winkler summed it up, “A great way to do what I love doing as a career.”
She also gets to use her full range of training.
“We manage glaucoma in house, macular degeneration in house, as much as we can. We do pre- and post-op cataract surgeries, pre- and post-op lasik. We treat eye emergencies,” Winkler said.
Winkler has felt warmly welcomed by both her new colleagues at May Vision, in particular, and the Waunakee community in general. She’s been active making presentations to community groups and scheduling talks with everyone from youngsters at Heritage Elementary to senior citizens at Cannery Row.
Sara and Isaac wed in June of last year in their church home, First United Methodist Church in Madison. They held their reception at the Children’s Museum across the street, where the couple and their guests enjoyed playing and exploring.
They’ve fallen in love with everything the area has to offer, from the Overture Center to Devil’s Lake.
“We love it here. Both from small towns. We love all the opportunities here. We both love volleyball. This is a huge volleyball community. We like to do a lot of hiking and kayaking, outdoors, anything, pretty much,” Winkler said.
For the past two years, they’ve lived in the Cherokee Marsh neighborhood with their two rescue pets, Percy, the dog and Nico, the cat.
Winkler explained, “We wanted a smaller house to start, put our own touch on a fixer upper. We liked the older nature of the neighborhood.”
Winkler figures they’ll be looking for something bigger in a few years. Right now the house can’t accommodate the whole family for the holidays. Isaac’s love of gardening is “taking up more and more of our backyard.” And, she said, “We really do want to have children at some point. We don’t know how many.”