Dr. Bernard Mallinger has the war to thank for his career. After serving in the U.S. Air Corps in World War II, Dr. Mallinger took advantage of the GI Bill and went to college.
The Pittsburgh native stayed close to home for his undergraduate studies, attending the University of Pittsburgh. After graduation, Dr. Mallinger decided on a career in medicine, and after being accepted into the well-respected Pennsylvania College of Optometry, he decided to look into optometry.
At PCO, Dr. Mallinger spent two years in the classroom and two years in a clinical setting. There, he learned and developed the fundamental skills he would need to practice and grow with the ever-evolving science. He forged his own career and started a private practice in 1952 following completion of his studies.
Dr. Mallinger is the founder of Mallinger and Eger Optometric Associates in his hometown of Pittsburgh, where he continues to work and reside.
What inspired you to go into optometry? How long have you known you wanted to do that?
Optometry was my second choice; medicine was the first choice. I was able to gain acceptance into optometry school, and I figured I would go and try it. And if it didn't work out, I could pursue something else. After I discovered I enjoyed it, I decided to stay with it. I enjoyed the work; I enjoyed the interaction with the patients. It seemed to suit my interests and my needs.
Are you involved in any organizations that support your career development goals? How can optometry students tap into these organizations?
What jobs have you had in your career?
I've only had one. I started in private practice in 1952, and I've been in private practice ever since.
What are some of your personal and/or professional goals for the future?
After 55 years in the practice, I'm really getting close to the time where retirement is the future.
Is there anything you would you change about your career if you could?
I think the development of the practice has been very gratifying.
Tell us about your education in the field of optometry. How did you choose which school(s) to go?
I went to Pennsylvania College of Optometry. I chose it because it's in Pennsylvania, and it's the closest one, and it had a good reputation. I was fortunate to be accepted there.
What factors should prospective optometry students consider when choosing a school?
Certainly investigate the quality of the school; investigate the areas of advanced study they can do. Somebody who wants to interact with the public and provide service - those are the critical things when considering a career in optometry.
Describe the 'hands-on' phases of your optometry education.
You spend primary first two years in the classroom and labs and the third and fourth year in clinical honing your skills.
How well did college prepare you for life as an optometrist?
I think it did a pretty good job at the time. The profession has changed and grown immensely, but it certainly gave me the fundamental skills needed to grow with the profession.
As in all healthcare fields, there has been a tremendous amount of new information, new equipment. In the whole area of eye care, the understanding and ability to care for problems, when I started, were things not able to be done.
In retrospect, what do you know now, that you wish you knew before you began to pursue your education?
I think I got a fairly good understanding of what professional life was going to be.
What types of continuing education requirements should optometrists expect once they graduate and land a job?
I think almost every state board requires that you have to have so many hours of continuing education and clinical training. Frequently, you can go to meetings where you can go to a variety of courses. Organizations provide classes, too. Most of the optometry organizations have meetings, and part of those meetings is educational in nature.
Describe a typical day of work for you. What exactly do you do? What are your key responsibilities?
I come to work early. I do routine examinations of the eye and the health of the eye. I see emergency cases - people who have sore eyes or infected eyes, contact lens problems.
On a basic level, what skills does your job demand?
The basic knowledge, the ability to apply the knowledge and the ability to judge the person and how they respond so you can get the information to do the best job.
What are the most challenging aspects of your job?
When people come in with diseases or injuries and are not as responsive as you would like them to be, such as glaucoma or retinal problems that would prevent a youngster from being able to read.
What are the hottest optometry specialties? What other kinds of job tracks are available to graduating students?
Right now contact lenses and refractic surgery are the biggest ones. I think it requires additional schooling and it requires experience, a combination of both.
What are the best ways to get a job in optometry?
Get in touch with the local or state optometry associations. They would know where to look.
What are some of the top challenges facing optometrists during the next decade?
The biggest challenge in general to healthcare is the invasion of healthcare companies, and their control of what you can and can't do.