‘Eye antiques’ give optometry alumna’s modern practice a vintage vibe

by | Dec 6, 2017

When Katie McElvaine and her husband opened Springfield Family Vision, they gave it an antique flare with some family help.

Dr. Katie McElvaine’s office houses only a few of the many “eye antiques” in the collection her father gave her after she chose to become an optometrist and open her own Springfield, Missouri, practice with her husband. McElvaine’s parents own Robertson Gallery and Antiques in town. (Photos courtesy of Biz417)

The hip atmosphere of Springfield Family Vision starts with its antique pub tables – at least for Dr. Katie McElvaine.

They serve as frame-fitting stations and are the first of a collection of antiques to catch your eye at the vision care center that balances its modern space with vintage flare. The pub tables also happen to be McElvaine’s favorites of the collection, and she’s not alone.

This close-up of the antique optical cabinet in the office shows the numerous lenses the cabinet still houses along with the antique instruments in its drawer.

“We get compliments on them daily,” she said.

McElvaine and her husband, Scot, opened the optometry practice in Springfield, Missouri, in 2015 – only four years after she graduated from the University of Missouri–St. Louis with a doctor of optometry degree.

Along with owning her own business came the perk of decorating it with a more personal touch. Inside her office stands an antique optical cabinet that houses old lenses, testing frames and instruments. She also has vintage cameras on display.

“Eyes are actually a lot like cameras, with the pupil acting as a lens to filter light like a shutter,” McElvaine told Biz417, which featured her unique décor in a recent article.

McElvaine grew up around old treasures thanks to her parents, who own Robertson Gallery and Antiques in town. Not only did it influence her taste, but it also inspired her professionally.

“We’re [she and her husband] the children of small-business owners,” McElvaine said, “so I liked the idea of owning my own clinic. It comes from my parents owning their business.”

Her father began her “eye collection” of antiques after McElvaine graduated with her bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Missouri–Columbia and set her sights on the field of optometry.

He gifted her with the eye antiques in her office, including an old poster depicting the eye’s anatomy.

The antique poster Katie McElvaine has hanging in her office diagrams the human eye. She says the anatomy is still fairly accurate, although our medical understanding of the eye has advanced.

“It’s still fairly accurate,” she said. “Not a whole lot has changed with eyes, but our understanding of them certainly has.”

That’s where McElvaine’s time in the College of Optometry comes into play. She appreciated the convenience of the in-state option at UMSL, one of about 20 optometry programs nationwide.

“There were great professors that were so invested,” she said. “And we were well equipped to get out and practice.”

McElvaine most appreciated the rigorous third-year clinical cycle.

“Clinical experience was the best part of the UMSL program,” she said. “Hearing everything in lectures is one thing, but learning what to do in real life is a whole different experience.”

A native of Springfield, McElvaine took her experience back home and worked with a group practice there before opening up Springfield Family Vision with her husband, who is also a native Springfielder.

Since her return, she has mounted a healthy number of professional accolades including membership in the 2013-14 class of Leadership Springfield, a 2013 Springfield Rotarian of the Year award and a spot on the 2016 Springfield Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 list. She’s also surpassed 10 years of membership in the American Optometric Association, which she joined during her UMSL days.

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