The Humphreys put the ‘family’ in Family Eye Care
Denis Humphreys OD ’74 never pushed his children to follow in his footsteps.
Even when his young son expressed an interest in optometry, Denis told him to look around.
“I always encouraged him to choose a profession that he would enjoy and would like to continue for the rest of his life,” Denis said.
“I took that to heart,” said Troy Humphreys OD ’00. “I had a look at all the professions, from surgery to specialties, you name it.
“I came back to optometry.”
Denis and Troy are among several multi-generational Pacific University families, with a bit of a twist. Troy’s wife, Becky (Lowrey) Humphreys OD/MEd ’99 is also a Pacific optometry alumna.
All three work together at Family Eye Care in Sparks, Nev., the practice Denis started after his Pacific graduation.
Speaking separately, they each extol the virtues of the optometry profession, their Pacific educations, and working and living alongside family. And, while they won’t push the next generation any more than Denis pushed Troy, they wouldn’t eschew another link in the legacy.
“The profession of optometry is one of the best professions in all of healthcare,” Becky said. “We tell our patients that, and of course we say, ‘You must go to Pacific.’”
Denis Humphreys was nearsighted as a child.
“So I had a great appreciation for vision and the opportunity to have good vision,” he said.
Pacific gave the Nevada native an opportunity to study optometry in the familiar West.
“I found out a Pacific education was highly ranked, the clinic had a very, very good reputation for good experiences as well,” he said. “Combine that with the living environment, that led me right to Pacific University.”
A generation later, Pacific looked as good to Troy.
“It’s a great place to get an education,” he said. “I came from an undergrad of 40,000-plus students. It was a great education, but they didn’t even know my name.
“Coming to optometry school, it was kind of like going home.”
Denis graduated in May 1974 and headed straight home to Nevada, his wife Rocky and two young sons in tow. He took his state board exam in July of that year, received his license in August, and started practicing the next day.
When Troy settled on a career in optometry and expressed interest in coming home to practice, Denis started thinking about growing his two-person operation. He bought a larger piece of property and started planning a new facility.
Troy said to think bigger.
“I thought, ‘He’s thinking long-term, down the road,’” Denis said. “He says, ‘No, not way in the future. I’m bringing another doctor with me.’
“The trip after that, he brought Becky down and we met her.”
“I had a great appreciation for vision and the opportunity to have good vision.” – Denis Humphreys OD ’74
“I said, ‘By the way, I kind of have a girlfriend and we may want to have her come into the practice as well,’” Troy recalled. “He said, ‘Wow, that would kind of double our practice.’”
In fact, the practice has tripled. At first, Becky worked just a couple days a week at the practice. Now, there are a total of six doctors on site. Four, including the Humphreys, got their degrees from Pacific.
“Pacific dominates,” Denis said.
It’s a general practice clinic, but many of the doctors have their areas of specialty: Denis does a lot of the geriatric care. Troy focuses on medical aspects of care. Becky, who earned a master of education in visual function in learning concurrently with her optometry degree at Pacific, specializes in pediatric care.
“I give kudos really to Denis for brokering that and being open to having two new graduates, basically, come into his practice simultaneously,” Becky said. “It was a gift and a phenomenal leap of faith. It was a huge gesture that he made room and opened his arms.”
Dr. Denis, Dr. Troy and Dr. Becky, as they are known at the practice, are often in the Sparks clinic. But each also has their own outside interests, as well.
Troy bought his own small plane a few years ago, both for pleasure and for his practice.
A couple of times a month, he’ll jump in the plane (or car, if the weather isn’t cooperating) and head to rural Nevada, where he offers vision and eye care services at the state prison.
“I really enjoy it; it’s very different,” Troy said. “Out there, you don’t have a lot of technology. It takes you back to really having a look at the fundamental physiology of the eye and managing without the tools I have at my practice.”
And, he says, it’s a chance to provide service to those who might otherwise go without.
“I try to treat all my patients as people,” Troy said. “I think that we all deserve excellence in care, wherever we’re at.”
Becky, meanwhile, invests a lot of her time with local schools. She always knew she wanted to work with children, and her interest in vision care started during her undergraduate years at the University of Nebraska.
“I had an opportunity to read for a fellow student who was blind in both eyes at age 20 from diabetes,” she said. “She was studying for two degrees herself. That was really pivotal.”
She wanted to support preventive eye care, and so she was drawn to Pacific for its dual-degree program offering a doctorate in optometry and a master’s of education in visual function and learning. She went on to complete a residency at the State University of New York, or SUNY, College of Optometry, specializing in pediatrics and vision therapy and rehabilitation.
Today, in addition to providing pediatric care and vision therapy with the practice, she’s a consultant for the local school nurses association and volunteers in schools, helping identify children in need of vision assistance.
“Eighty percent of the information we get in a classroom comes through vision. If that’s not working optimally, it causes frustration in kids and parents, lengthy hours doing homework, frustration, feeling like you’re not smart enough,” she said. “I would never want to have a young person feel limited in what they could do in the future because of an eye problem. That would be tragic in my opinion.”
Troy and Becky are taking Denis’ hands-off approach, encouraging their children to follow their own interests. Caden, 10, talks about becoming an engineer; Bryn, 8, a hairdresser.
“It was a gift and a phenomenal leap of faith” – Becky Humpreys OD ’99
“When Troy was looking, Denis was not pushing him in any certain angle or putting pressure for Troy to come back and join the practice. I feel I have to take that same approach,” Becky said. “But if either or both of them caught the bug for optometry and vision care, I would be ecstatic.
“It would bring Troy and I, and I’m sure Denis, a lot of joy.”
Troy says he doesn’t care if his children follow the family tradition in optometry — but he does hope to instill in them the family value for service.
As students at Pacific, Troy and Becky were both active with the student-led organization, Amigos, participating in international mission trips. Denis even served as an attending doctor on one of Troy’s trips.
Today, Troy is a member of the Lions Club and Flying Doctors. All three Humphreys participate in fewer international trips these days, but Troy and Becky look forward to the day when their kids are old enough to go along on service trips.
“I think (the kids) can help and learn, just really kind of basic screening tests. Not to learn eye care, per se, but to understand the role of care and how it helps out all the people we serve,” Troy said.
“Every time I go on a trip, I realize how blessed we are here in the U.S. I think that’s an important thing to know at a young age,” he said.
“I think it’s just inherently important as a human being, if you have an education, to help others that otherwise don’t have access. I think it’s being a steward of that education.”