Mother and daughter optometrists team up to bring quality eye care to communities near and far
In a way, Victoria “Torie” Soriano’s work at her mother’s eye clinic in Carthage, Missouri, began years ago.
“She had my sister and I start filing charts pretty much as soon as we learned the alphabet,” Torie said.
Now she works alongside her mother, Tamra “Tami” Soriano, as a doctor of optometry after graduating from the College of Optometry at the University of Missouri–St. Louis – the same program from which her mother graduated.
The UMSL duo are part of the three-woman team, including Indiana University alumna Michelle Pyle, that makes up Carthage Eye Care.
Tami opened the doors of Carthage Eye Care in 1992. She had worked for three years in St. Louis and briefly in Joplin, Missouri, after graduating with her OD from UMSL in 1988. Tami originally intended to stay in St. Louis but decided to return to Carthage to be closer to her family when the opportunity to buy a practice presented itself.
“It’s the best decision I have ever made!” said Tami, who knew she wanted to be an optometrist after being fit for her first contact lenses in high school.
She took some classes at Missouri State University, checked off the prerequisites needed for the UMSL optometry program, applied and was accepted.
“I love helping others, and vision is central to everyone’s life,” she said. “I feel like there is almost something spiritual about ‘making blind men see.’”
Despite having been raised around the profession, Torie hadn’t always planned on becoming an optometrist, even as she completed a biology degree from the University of Arkansas.
What would finally spark her passion for the field? Accompanying her mother on mission trips to Haiti.
Tami has orchestrated 11 trips to the country and has also gone to Guatemala, Nicaragua and Togo to help bring healthy vision to as many people worldwide as she can. Her passion for helping others abroad started during her UMSL days, when she made her first mission trip to Mexico through Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity.
“I knew that I would do it again,” she said.
Children, finances and a career put that dream on hold, but Tami eventually connected with a Kansas City, Missouri, mission that had developed an eye clinic and surgery center in Haiti.
Along for the mission, Torie got to see firsthand what a difference a doctor of optometry can make in a country where impoverished people lack access to quality eye care.
“I realized the impact that eye care can have in a community,” she said, “whether it be Carthage, Missouri, or Saint-Louis-du-Nord, Haiti.”
A newfound perspective on the importance healthy vision played in having a healthy community drove Torie to get her OD and help her mother on additional mission trips.
Torie graduated from UMSL this past spring and joined Carthage Eye Care shortly after. She also spends time at local nursing homes, providing eye care to the elderly, a population that really needs help with its vision but has difficulty with access.
“It takes a special person to do that and enjoy doing it,” Tami said of her daughter.
Torie also has ambitions of developing a pediatric practice – children being the other population she most enjoys treating.
“You can help a child so much with the right pair of glasses,” she said. “And a life can be saved with a good dilated-eye exam. I’ve come to learn that kids and more seasoned adults are so far apart in age, but they require a lot of the same energy and approach to eye care.”
Tami has gotten the joy of watching her daughter really come into her own professionally, as Torie’s carved out a local niche for herself in specialty contact lenses. She’s already gaining a reputation of expertise in some of the larger surrounding cities, including Joplin.
“I love working with Torie,” Tami said. “I know I’m a little biased, but there is something special about her that is difficult to explain. She has a light about her, and she has brought energy to the practice that only youth and passion can bring.”
Torie feels equally lucky getting to learn from her mother.
“She treats her patients with the most compassion, patience and love that I’ve ever seen,” Torie said.
Some might question working so closely with family, but it seems to work for the Sorianos.
The Joplin Globe
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