Clinical optometrist and IU School of Optometry Community Outreach Director Jeff Perotti.

© 2006 Chris Meyer

Clinical optometrist and IU School of Optometry Community Outreach Director Jeff Perotti.

Vol. 2, No. 2: Fall/Winter 2006

Making Medicine Simple and Concise

by Jeremy Shere

If there is such a thing as a typical optometrist, Community Outreach Director for the Indiana University School of Optometry Jeff Perotti does not fit the profile. A collector of vintage electric guitars, Perotti is a musician, and, unlike most of his current students—recent college graduates in their early to mid twenties—he came to optometry relatively late. After earning a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a master’s degree in computer science at IU, Perotti taught DePauw University undergraduates the finer points of programming and theory of programming languages for five years.

“Then I got carpal tunnel syndrome and it was either have surgery or quit, so I quit,” says Perotti. “I floundered for about a year, doing this and that, and then decided to get a Ph.D. in biology at IU.”

Perotti also applied to the School of Optometry. Biology declined to offer him a spot, but Optometry said yes—a series of events that confirm Perotti’s belief that things tend to work themselves out. “I’d always been interested in doing medicine in one form or another. Being an optometrist allows me to interact with patients and express my interest in science through working with people.”

Perotti’s social instincts have led him on an unusual career path. After earning a degree in optometry in 1997 and a year-long fellowship in Indianapolis, Perotti took a job working with Native American populations on reservations in Montana and Arizona. For the next two and a half years Perotti lived and worked with the Blackfeet and San Carlos Apache tribes.

“The big thing on the reservations was diabetes,” Perotti says, “so I saw a lot of diabetic retinopathy, which is bleeding in the eye. These were populations that really needed help and I wanted to do that. It was a great learning experience working with people from different cultures.”

Working on the reservations prepared Perotti well for his current work with the School of Optometry’s rural clinics—small, community-oriented offices located in remote towns largely isolated from more densely populated urban centers. And, like many Native American populations, the residents of southern Indiana’s rural towns are, on average, poorer and less educated than the populations of larger, relatively more urban cities like Bloomington or Terre Haute. But no matter whom he’s treating, Perotti says, he tries to keep things simple and direct.

“What I’ve learned over the years is to talk to patients in a way that is clear and concise. I do that with everybody. There may be certain people who ask more questions and want more detail, but the bottom line is that making medicine simple and concise is my rule for just about everybody.”

Jeremy Shere is a freelance writer in Bloomington.

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