Writer / Ann Craig-Cinnamon
“I will not be working at 90,” proclaims Dr. John Abrams as he discusses the long and legendary career of his father, Dr. JJ Abrams, who, at the age of 90, is still practicing optometry.
Dr. JJ Abrams opened his optometry office on West Washington Street in Indianapolis on January 19, 1950. His son, John, says JJ has had an unusually long career. “I think when JJ started, he was the youngest optometrist in the city, and I believe now he is the oldest.”
John says his father’s profession had a lot of influence on his desire to be an eye doctor. “I always thought about providing eye care. I considered becoming an optometrist; however, my dad convinced me to go to medical school. He thought I would be able to do more and use my skills better as an ophthalmologist,” says John, a comprehensive eye physician, and surgeon who specializes in cataract surgery and LASIK.
In 1988, after completing an ophthalmology residency at Indiana University Medical Center, John joined an existing private practice in Carmel and later became a partner. That practice, the first in Carmel, is now Abrams EyeCare Associates with three locations, including a west side location where his father works twice a week after closing his own practice 13 years ago to join his son.
“He can measure you for glasses as well as any of us, as well as anybody I know, and he fits contacts,” says John. “My father’s got a lot more experience than most eye doctors, and he stays current in optometry. He still goes to CE (continuing education) courses. He’s very sharp. He’s a ‘young’ 90-year-old.”
John says his father has longtime patients that still come to him. “He took a picture of a patient sitting in his chair that, I think, he fit glasses on when she was about 5, and she’s now almost 70.”
Rounding out the trio of family eye doctors is John’s daughter, Leslie Abrams Tobe, an ophthalmologist who joined his practice in September. She followed her father’s education path with undergraduate studies at Indiana University, an internship at St. Vincent and her ophthalmology residency at IU Medical Center.
She says she went to medical school with an open mind. “I wasn’t set on ophthalmology. I liked OB-GYN as well; however, I always liked ophthalmology the most. I think I always, deep down, knew that I would head down that path,” says Leslie.
And for his part, John loves having his daughter working with him. “It’s ideal because I can mentor her and help her along. The learning curve in surgery is pretty steep,” he says. “To be able to hand my patients off to her over the next several years is nice too because I know what kind of care they’ll receive.”
Leslie agrees it is working great so far. “It’s nice to be able to get his opinion about patient care, learn from him and have him as a mentor,” she says. They both work at the west side office with JJ and say not a day goes by that patients don’t mention JJ because he is legendary. “It’s very cool. It’s very rare,” says John. JJ enjoys it too. “It is truly a blessing having family members in my chosen profession,” he says.
According to John, it’s unusual to find three generations of a family working together in any field, but in medicine, it is extremely rare. “In order to have three generations working together in the same practice, you have to have someone 90, 60 and 30 years old because we don’t complete our residencies and start practicing until about 30 years of age. I am not aware there are any other healthcare practices with three generations working together at the same time. Our family is truly blessed.” Visit abramseyecare.com