Decades after he first set up shop in Hermiston in 1985, Dr. Robert Rolen has closed his optometry business.
“I’ve been thinking about optometry for about 40 years,” he said.
Now, he is retiring and clearing out his former office at Grainary Square in Hermiston. His patient files have been entrusted to Lifetime Vision Source, where he said he is encouraging new patients to transfer their care.
Rolen grew up in The Dalles and got interested in optometry while he was in the U.S. Army working in the medical services department and getting exposed to all different types of medical fields.
“The optometry department seemed like they were having the most fun,” he said.
After he went back to school and got his degree, he decided he wanted to return to Oregon and become a family eye doctor in a smaller town like the one he grew up in. He ended up in Hermiston, and said there was plenty to keep him rooted there, from the outdoor recreation to his church community.
“It’s a good place to raise a family,” he said.
Rolen said a lot has changed over his years in the business, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the enjoyment he has gotten out of helping people lead a better quality of life through improved vision and eye health.
Some optometrists specialize in certain types of eye health, like treating glaucoma, but Rolen described himself as a “generalist” who sees patients young and old for all different aspects of eye health.
“The one that most immediately affects people is they walk into the DMV and can’t pass the eye test, or their teacher says, ‘I think you need some help seeing the board,’” he said.
Rolen said he doesn’t actually teach young children to read, but he can greatly help their ability to read if he can fix vision problems that are keeping them from being able to see the words their teacher is putting up at the front of the room or showing them on a printed page.
He said he had been hoping to work one more year before retirement, but COVID-19 has placed so many restrictions on his ability to practice he decided that it would be better to retire now and hand his patients off to a bigger office.
“A family eye doctor is in it by himself, pretty much, but the people at Lifetime Vision Source have plenty of resources and people to help deliver services to people during COVID-19,” he said.
Lifetime Vision Source is at 1160 W. Elm Ave. and can be reached at 541-567-6623.