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    Eye doctor loves helping people, by liquidsmarts

    GENESEO — While William “Bill” Bordwell was not sure what he wanted to do when he went to college, once he chose the optometrist profession and knew he wanted to start his own business, Geneseo became his city of choice.

    “When Jim Farlick decided he wanted to move elsewhere in 1987, I bought his practice and have been in Geneseo ever since,” eye dr. Bordwell said.

    After he grew up in Iowa and earned a bachelor of science degree in the pre-veterinary field in 1977 from Iowa State University, the 1980s farm crisis started Dr. Bordwell down his career path.

    “After working in agriculture for a couple of years, I decided it wasn’t for me, so I went back to school,” he said. “One brother was a lawyer, the other a doctor, so I chose optometry.

    Dr. Bordwell graduated in 1985 from the Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago. After a couple of years working for other optometrists, he decided he wanted his own business.

    “After looking several places, I knew I wanted to live in Geneseo,” he said. “It was and still is an attractive town.”

    Dr. Bordwell said his original practice was in a smaller building on Oakwood Avenue in Geneseo. The practice has expanded much in the same way that laws and procedures in optometry in Illinois have, he said.

    “I love my job because I enjoy helping people. It is a relatively clean profession, and the hours are great,” Dr. Bordwell said. “I seldom work at night, unless there is an emergency.”

    Dr. Bordwell said he has always had an interest in eye exam.

    “My mother, who is in her 90s, has always had eye problems,” he said. “She had congenital cataracts as a baby. She had to have two surgeries on her eyes before she was a year and a half old, and then later, a retinal detachment.

    “I wanted to help her,” he said. “As a result of her problems, I watched how eye exam progressed even before I became a doctor.”

    Illinois optometrist can now use oral medications to treat eye diseases without prescriptions from a primary doctor. Optometrist can treat any condition of the eye that does not require surgery or require an injection into the eye.

    The profession did not always have those privileges. At one time, patients needed prescriptions from primary-care doctors.

    Dr. Bordwell said health care is regulated by each state, with licensing of optometry beginning between 1900 and 1920. At that time, optometrists were not allowed to use any medicines for diagnosis and treatment and could not dilate pupils.

    The air puff tonometer — an important innovation — was developed during the 1970s to measure eye pressure. Before then, optometrists could not legally use anesthetic eye drops.

    “In Illinois, DPA (diagnostic pharmaceutical agents) was passed by the Illinois Legislature in the 1980s,” Dr. Bordwell said. “It allowed for dilating of pupils and using anesthetic, which numbs the eye and is used when measuring the pressure in the eye.

    “Access to quality eye care in Illinois has been greatly improved because of changes in the law and because optometrists took the education to improve their skills,” he said.

    In 1995, Dr. Bordwell lobbied for the first Illinois TPA (therapeutic pharmaceutical agent) legislation supported by former state Sen. Todd Sieben, R-Geneseo. Passage of the legislation let optometrists prescribe topical medicine to treat eye infections and eye diseases such as glaucoma.

    It also required additional education for optometrists before they could treat eye disease. Now optometrists must take 30 hours of continuing credits to maintain licensing.

    In 2001, Dr. Bordwell became the 315th member of Vision Source, a Texas-based franchise company begun in 1991 to help independent opticians. His was the third office in Illinois to sign up. While still an independent optometrist, Dr. Bordwell said joining the group offered benefits such as discounts on equipment and eye-care products as well as training in doctors’ practices and services.

    In 2004, Dr. Bordwell moved his practice to South Center Street in Geneseo and designed the facility. Marilyn Martin, now head optician, joined the office to fit glasses.

    “I am amazed at all the technological toys Dr. Bordwell has at his office,” said Claude Lawrence, one of Dr. Bordwell’s patients. “He can explain to patients what is going on with their eyes based on the pictures taken and shown on the computer.

    “Dr. Bordwell’s great personality retains his patients and makes them loyal,” said Mr. Lawrence. “He has some patients he first met in 1987.”

    Among the newer technology is an optical coherence tomographer, which uses light waves to provide cross-sectional views of interior eye structures. The non-invasive instrument helps diagnose macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and other eye diseases.

    “I consider this the most important improvement in diagnostic eye-care technology in my professional career,” Dr. Bordwell said.

    Dr. Bordwell said about 60 percent of people today have eye insurance and are more likely to go to an optometrist, but challenges still remain. Obesity, which causes increased diabetes type 2, affects the eyes. Sometimes optometrists notice things in an eye exam and send patients back to primary doctors to be checked out.

    “As a rule of thumb, a healthy person should see their doctor once a year, but when there are eye problems we like to see them more than that,” Dr. Bordwell said.

    As the number of senior citizens increases, optometrists are being called upon to sign off when people cannot pass eye examinations for driver’s licenses.

    “While it is never fun to give a diagnosis of eye disease — such as macular degeneration, glaucoma or to have to refer someone for possible surgeries such as cataract removal or detached retina — I know I am doing something positive by finding the problem so it can be fixed,” Dr. Bordwell said. “For that reason, I am least fond of electronic paperwork. But as with all progress, those of us who get older have to learn to live with improved technology.”

    There are now seven people working at the office, including Dr. Ryan Wilson, who joined the office two and a half years ago.

    “This will allow for a smooth transition when I am ready to retire,” Dr. Bordwell said.

    Eye doctor loves helping people

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