Visual Performance Today	 25	 Volume 1 | Issue 2
In Remembrance: Dr. Don Getz
by Dominick M. Maino, OD, MEd • Illinois Col...
Visual Performance Today	 26	 Volume 1 | Issue 2
it doesn’t matter because
if there’s anyone who lived each
day as if it w...
Visual Performance Today	 27	 Volume 1 | Issue 2
having a discussion and
he called me “Cathy.” I looked
at him and said, “...
Visual Performance Today	 28	 Volume 1 | Issue 2
had assembled, all friendly
and knowledgeable, creating
an unbelievably w...
Visual Performance Today	 29	 Volume 1 | Issue 2
way of preparing some
dish. Anyone who knew Don in
those days would also ...
Visual Performance Today	 30	 Volume 1 | Issue 2
Dr. Bruce May relayed
this humorous story:
Dr. Don had done a great job
i...
Visual Performance Today	 31	 Volume 1 | Issue 2
Dr. Arnie Sherman stated:
Don Getz was one of my
optometric mentors, cons...
Visual Performance Today	 32	 Volume 1 | Issue 2
success rate was so much
lower than with vision therapy,
he said ”yes.” H...
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Honoring Dr. Don Getz

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Dr. Don Getz was an incredible optometrist. Read this tribute to this wonderful individual.

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Honoring Dr. Don Getz

  1. 1. Visual Performance Today 25 Volume 1 | Issue 2 In Remembrance: Dr. Don Getz by Dominick M. Maino, OD, MEd • Illinois College of Optometry • Chicago, Illinois Dr. Don Getz was an individual once met, never forgotten. He always made an impression. He could be in a heated discussion with you one minute and make you laugh the next. He could be presenting a lecture in a formal setting in the morning and then hitting a tennis ball on the court immediately after his presentation. He loved optometry. He loved life. I first met Don as a student member of COVD. This was in the late 1970’s, when disco was king, and California was recuperating from the 1960’s. Don was the ultimate Californian. My initial impression while a student was of an individual who was indeed all Californian.Heoftenworeadisco-inspired, multi-colored, long-collared, unbuttoned shirt and tennis shorts. He also displayed a goodly amount of gold hanging around his neck (which was the “in thing” to do at the time) and, if memory serves, drove a silver Mercedes. He obviously enjoyed life and was doing well fiscally. My second impression was of an individual who enjoyed his work. He was passionate about optometry and wasn’t shy about telling you why. Pediatrics, binocular vision, optometric vision therapy, and his ability to improve the lives of his patients drove this passion. As a student active in several organizations, I noticed that I saw him at many meetings held by numerous optometric organizations throughout the year. He was usually lecturing on a number of topics that included strabismus, amblyopia, and optometric vision therapy. My third impression of Dr. Getz was of someone who wanted to share what he knew and was willing to take time out of his private office to do just that. I realized that when I grew up (opto­ metrically speaking that is), I wanted to be just like Don (except for the disco shirt thing!). I wanted to have his passion and love of the profession. I wanted to go out among the optometric masses and inform folks about the various topics I was interested in that could improve the lives of our patients. I wanted to live life with a smile not only on my face but in my heart. Many others have shared with me their remembrances of Don as well… Dr. Len Press notes in his blog that: “I’m pretty sure Dr. Getz was born in 1931, but
  2. 2. Visual Performance Today 26 Volume 1 | Issue 2 it doesn’t matter because if there’s anyone who lived each day as if it was his last, it was Don. I first discovered Don as a student when I was trying to figure out strabismus and amblyopia, and his monograph opened my eyes. One of Don’s favorite quotes, when he lectured, was something that he attributed to Henry David Thoreau: “The flexibility of your adaptability is a measure of your intelligence.” By any measure, I have yet to meet anyone with more intelligence. I never got around to asking Don why he was so enamored with Thoreau, but perhaps it’s because it is said of Thoreau that he found great joy in his daily life … Rest in peace, Don.” Dr. Thomas Poswilko sent me a letter and a photograph. He writes that “The enclosed picture was taken in August 1978 at the home of Dr. Don Getz. I was on an Illinois College of Optometry externship program visiting his practice Jerry Getman, Tom Poswilko, Don Getz. and staying at his home. One evening he invited Dr. Jerry Getman over for a three hour bull session. They discussed Jerry’s powerful use of the retinoscope and the functional vision theories of Skeffington, Swartwout, and Gesell, among others. It was incredibly fascinating. It was because of that meeting that I decided I had to pursue this area as a career path. Don was a cherished advisor to me for the next 30 years. His advice and knowledge will never be forgotten.” Dr. Margaret Ronis emailed these kind words: Years ago, I was program chair of the OEP Northeast Congress of Optometry in Boston. Our committee had Catherine (Cathy) Kennedy, Kathy Prucnal, Cathy Stern, and me. I had known Don for a few years already, having lived in California for two years at the beginning of my career. We invited Don to be our major guest speaker. He and I were Nancy Torgerson and Don Getz
  3. 3. Visual Performance Today 27 Volume 1 | Issue 2 having a discussion and he called me “Cathy.” I looked at him and said, “Don, my name is Margaret.” He said, “I know that, but I pulled a blank. I figured I had a pretty good chance of getting it right by calling you Cathy!” Another time, he and Lynne came to Boston for the AOA meeting soon after I had moved back to Boston and had my 1st baby. I couldn’t go to the meeting, but they invited me to meet them at lunch time, just so that we could see each other. And I remember seeing him and Lynne at the KISS meetings in Washington. It is hard to realize that he will no longer be at any meetings I go to. I remember his FILA jogging suits, his great smile and sense of humor, his wacky glasses, and his willingness to welcome ODs into his office. Dr. Stuart Rothman remembers Dr. Getz with these well-chosen words: “My first encounter with Don Getz came at an AOA meeting in New Orleans in 1978. He was wearing a tennis warm up suit and was with some other optometrists all dressed in either business casual or in coats and ties. He was, of course, the center of attention and had that constant smile on his face. I introduced myself as someone who would be coming to his officeafewweekslatertodoanexternship. At that time, Dr. Arnie Sherman taught us our first optometric vision therapy course, and Don would invite two SUNY students out during our three-week break between 3rd and 4th year. Don always thought Arnie was sending him his two best students, but in my year only Paul Harris and I volunteered. Don graciously put us up in his home and would transport us back and forth to his office. We got to observe and help out Lora McGraw and the other therapists in the therapy room, observed Don and Dr. Gary Etting doing evaluations, and spent time with the front office staff learning how to run a vision therapy office. The experience was an eye opener. First, was seeing the beautiful office space that was so open and well designed for therapy and was dramatically different from the institutional therapy rooms at SUNY, or the space-starved therapy rooms in most of the practices I had seen on the East Coast. Second, was the amazing staff that Don
  4. 4. Visual Performance Today 28 Volume 1 | Issue 2 had assembled, all friendly and knowledgeable, creating an unbelievably warm atmosphere. Third, was the patient volume for therapy. Patients were booked every half hour for the entire day and there were sometimes up to six patients at a time depending on therapist availability. To think, that some of our professors at SUNY said that you couldn’t make a living doing vision therapy. Fourth, was Don himself-- getting to observe his love of life and all of his interests. One day he’d be playing tennis at his club. Another day he’d be going to the Greek theater or Hollywood Bowl for a concert. Another night it would be dinner with friends or attending a sporting event about which he was passionate. He used to say proudly that all of his money had come from optometry and that it was optometry that allowed him to have his lifestyle. Paul and I both came back to SUNY to start our fourth year as different people. I was determined to go back to California to practice after my fourth year, and when the opportunity to join Don and Gary as an associate came up, I jumped at it. I spent two years in the practice as an associate before leaving to return to the East Coast, but during the time I was there, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience or have been treated any better. It was as an associate in the practice that I really got to experience the wonderful staff that Don had put together. Don would relish the opportunity to interact with well-known behavioral ODs from around the world who would make it a point to stop in for a day, or even a few hours, while they were in Los Angeles. He would likewise visit other behavioral optometric colleagues when he was traveling. He would also welcome the opportunity to share his life with externs from the many optometry schools that would send students for a quarter, a semester, or even a few weeks. Like me, they would also get to be immersed in Don’s world and go back to their schools with a new found source of pride in our profession. Don loved sports, theater, good food, nice cars, notoriety, travel, and his native Los Angeles, and it was apparent to anyone who interacted with him or followed his schedule on a daily basis. His passion for sports and for all of his local LA teams was absolute. Although he tried to eat healthfully, he couldn’t resist the latest sauce or newest Back row, L to R: Robert Greenberg, Bob Sanet, Donald Janiuk, Gary Williams, Neil Draisin, Gary Etting, Joseph Viviano. Front row, L to R: James Blumenthal, Glen Steele, Amorita Treganza, Joyce Adema, Donald Getz, Steve Levin.
  5. 5. Visual Performance Today 29 Volume 1 | Issue 2 way of preparing some dish. Anyone who knew Don in those days would also recognize the silver grey Mercedes with the EYES OK license plate that invariably spent more time in the repair shop than on the road. Don also loved and had a passion for his profession. His schedule was full of time off for just about every optometric meeting. He was a regular at the AOA, COVD, Academy, Behavioral vision seminars in northern and southern California, the San Jose VT conference, Anacortesconference,andtheSkeffington Symposium, to name a few. Not only did he attend these meetings, but he also became involved in the organizations, rising to the chair of the AOA Sports Vision Section and the Presidency of COVD. His involvement and passion for organized optometry and these organizations in general was also a model to those of us that he mentored. When you look at Don’s legacy, you have to realize not only how many optometrists’ lives he touched, but how many patients’ lives he improved directly or through the optometrists that he mentored. I have been teaching students and practicing for over 30 years. Paul Harris has taught behavioral optometry worldwide and is now teaching at the Southern College of Optometry. Bob Sanet, through his lectures and courses on behavioral optometry, has also reached many others on a worldwide scale. His longtime partner Gary Etting, through his articles, lectures, and professional involvement, has also reached a worldwide audience. Don’s daughters, Dana and Nina, Lynne’s son Eric, and countless others have been influenced by one of Don’s lectures, his OEP papers, or tapes. The number of lives that this man changed either directly or indirectly is staggering. I consider myself fortunate to have known Don and to have been considered his friend. What I will remember most about Don is the smile that was always present on his face, the twinkle in his eyes, which was sometimes mischievous but always good natured, and his infectious, unmistakable laugh. Don loved a good joke. He was a frustrated comedian, having lived out his fantasy at several LA comedy clubs and of course at the COVD meeting as MC. I recall one moment when I had to stop at his house to either deliver or pick up something. It was right before the COVD meeting and I rang the bell and knocked on the door. There was no answer but the door was open, and so I walked in. I heard Don’s voice but got no answer when I called him. So, I kept walking closer to his voice and found him in his bathroom, where he was practicing his monologue in front of a mirror. It was hard to make out what he was saying, though, because all I could hear was the sound of him laughing at his own jokes. Of course, when he realized I was there, he made me stay and listen to the whole thing againandwewerebothabletolaughtogether. We in optometry mourn Don’s loss. We have lost his physical presence, but his spirit was timeless and will always be with us.”
  6. 6. Visual Performance Today 30 Volume 1 | Issue 2 Dr. Bruce May relayed this humorous story: Dr. Don had done a great job in presenting the three day Reading Seminar in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. It was tougher than usual as he was suffering with some severe back pain and spasms. Don had introduced a good picture of the concepts of visualization he had been developing as part of his practice and he was rather high on the prospects of this addition to optometric vision therapy. As was the tradition at the time, we brought Dr. Getz back to our home to have him present a special seminar for local school nurses the following day. My daughter, a college student and soon-to- be full time vision therapist, had attended the Reading Seminar and fully enjoyed the experience. However, as she entered the living room she found Don in the recliner fully laid back but, at that moment, struggling to return to vertical. As she approached to pass by Don implored her for help as he could not get up. With no pause as she breezed past Lauren said, “Oh come on, Dr. Getz, just visualize yourself standing in front of the chair.” Can you believe she walked by leaving the wordy one speechless? Toni Bristol of Expansion Consultants, Inc. says: I met Don Getz in 1988. I was the managing partner in another consulting company. The consultant in our group that was assigned to work with Don and Dr. Gary Etting happened to have a child who struggled with reading. The more the consultant learned about vision and learning, the more she felt this was what was wrong with her child. And, indeed it was! While I never learned the actual diagnosis, I did hear that her son was seeing double. After three months of VT he was reading on his own because he wanted to do so. While I met a number of other VT docs during this time, it was this initial introduction to vision therapy that motivated me to help the doctors in this field, and about a year later I started my own consulting company. Linda Sanet, COVT says: In 1978 Don was one of the Examiners for my COVT oral exam. I knew him by his books and reputation, and I was more than nervous - for many reasons - being in the small room with him and the other examiner. Don made me laugh and relaxed and helped to draw out information that he believed I had inside but was too “frozen” to say out loud. Happily I passed. That was only one of the many kind acts directed at me by this wonderful man, who was human, brilliant, and generous. Don Getz and Harold Solan
  7. 7. Visual Performance Today 31 Volume 1 | Issue 2 Dr. Arnie Sherman stated: Don Getz was one of my optometric mentors, consultant, advisor, devil’s advo­cate, humorist, and friend. We met in the late 1960’s at an OEP meeting and immediately had a confrontation regarding anomalous correspondence vs. anomalous pro­ jection. Little did I know that these academic discussions would be the glue for our friendship over four decades. He influenced my decision (twisted my arm) to run for Treasurer of COVD for two terms when he served as President Elect and President. Those meetings enabled metoseeasavvyleaderinhisanalysisand responses to many difficult optometric decisions. We also had the opportunity to be asked by AOA President Charles McQuarrie to be on the committee that founded the Sports Vision Section of the AOA. Don’s creativity for vision therapy techniques was genius. Imagination is more important than knowledge; he had both. Just read his In Office Vision Therapy andStrabismusTherapyManualco-written with Bob Wold and Lara McGraw. He was able to provide the clinical applications to the theoretical framework of binocular vision in his writings, seminars, and lectures all over the world. The flip side of Don was his thirst for humor. Those who know him well always cracked up watching him at shows with pencil in hand writing down jokes. These were often used at the COVD Awards luncheonthatheemceed.Hewasentertaining as well as controversial but never bland. He was obviously loved as he continued his shtick for more than thirty years. Being seated at the dais was an honor, but you became a bulls-eye target for his acerbic wit. Lynne was often the loving recipient. We spent time vacationing after most of our meetings and three of my favorite remembrances are: 1) Thesparkleofhiseyes,smileonhisface, and laughter during the Disneyland and Disneyworld ride “It’s a Small World” (the little kid in him was huge). 2) The fear on his face when I tried to take the wheel on our 52-mile trip to Hana in Maui, Hawaii with our wives, that was filled with hairpin turns, one lane bridges, and missing guardrails (he drove). 3) His incredulous stare when I told him we were walking to SUNY Optometry for his guest lectures from the Long Island Railroad Station in 18° weather after we dug my car out from a snowstorm two hours earlier (he took a taxi). Don left his footprints in the optometric sands of time that will never be washed away. We all miss him. Dr. Gary Etting in his eulogy noted that: In 1978, on a nationally syndicated primetime CBS radio show, when asked if it was criminal for an ophthalmologist to perform eye muscle surgery when the
  8. 8. Visual Performance Today 32 Volume 1 | Issue 2 success rate was so much lower than with vision therapy, he said ”yes.” His bound chapters on strabismus and amblyopia are considered classics. Whenever he accepted speaking engagements it was because they were on the way to the Caribbean, even when they were scheduled in Minneapolis. He was the subject of more TV appearances, radio interviews, and newspaper and magazine articles than almost any other optometrist. He was a self-proclaimed expert and lecturer on nutrition who ate all his meals in restaurants. He dressed up as Spiderman on Halloween for his patients. He regularly attended the Skeffington symposium in DC and loved to debate the esteemed attendees just because he could. He was one of the most interesting and famous optometrists in the world. Don Getz opened his private practice cold in Sylmar, California in a medical building with just his name on the door. In the late 1950’s, the number of ODs in professional buildings was almost nil. There was no Medicare, no VSP, and no other vision plans. Several years later, inspired by the late Bill Ludlam’s lecture on strabismus and having a daughter with acquired strabismus, Don decided to help her and in the process became an authority on the subject of strabismus. Asalecturerhewasbrash,charismatic, funny,andsometimespoliticallyincorrect, but his strength was in convincing his audi­ences that vision therapy, especially for strabismus, was something they could do. Don was a founding father of COVD and the Sports Vision Section of the AOA. He was also a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry, a COVD President, and education director, as well as the awards banquet emcee for over 25 years. He championed certification for COVTs, was a recipient of both the Skeffington and GN Getman awards, a Distinguished Practitioner of the National Academies of Practice, and so much more. Don would close his lectures with this famous quote from Henry Thoreau: “The adaptability of your flexibility is a true measure of your intelligence.” His life is a living tribute to the meaning of this quote. Dr. Don Getz will be missed. But he is really not gone. He lives in the hearts of every optometry student, resident, colleague, and patient he has touched. By reaching out to others, he has touched multitudes. He is past, present, and future. Don is with us, smiling. Gary Etting and Don Getz

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