By Roberto Hugo Gonzalez
As originally published by Mega Doctor News in its newsprint edition June 2017
Being part of the medical industry takes more than being just a doctor. It takes dedication, commitment, and an immeasurable passion for doing it right.
Dr. Michael T. Wingard, an Optometrist, is just such a doctor. He is a unique professional working full-time to change the lives of people. Hopefully, with this article you can get to know him better and understand the challenges of his journey.
Dr. Wingard is comparable to the unsung heroes; the industry has many of them. He will do everything to help his patients see better, because that is his call in this life.
He was born in Colby, Kansas, a rural area in the northwest; the county had less than 10,000 in population. Most of the residents in the state were farmers, and Dr. Wingard’s parents were no exception. They worked the farms from dawn to dusk. He attended Colby’s high school and knew from the very beginning that farming was not his future. Even though he admires hardworking people and respects the value of agriculture, he never felt inspired to do the same.
Dr. Wingard’s personality was different from the rest; he wanted to achieve something different in his life.
In a way, as he was growing up in Colby, most people expected him to follow in the footsteps of his parents and become a farmer. He had other plans in his heart; he wanted to pursue a future that involved helping others.
He said, “When I was a kid there was no access to the internet, I was not able to see the world, and the opportunities we had, like the modern kids can.” He continued, “In that time, there were fewer opportunities for other professions in Colby.”
Dr. Wingard vividly remembers that there was only one eye doctor in his town. “Everyone in my town liked him.” It was that same doctor who inspired him the most. Their families were friends and he took an interest in learning how that doctor managed to help so many people. As he learned more, he knew that was the perfect profession for him. So, that’s how he decided his future profession.
The moment he was out of high school, people asked him what he would like to be in the future and his quick response was “a doctor of optometry.”
To pursue his dreams after high school, he enrolled at the University of Kansas where he received his Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry. After that he went to the University of Houston College of Optometry and finished in 1992. He says that’s when his journey as a doctor began.
South Texas presented numerous working opportunities for him. When he visited, he fell in love with the people and the area and he moved to live permanently in the Rio Grande Valley and to start his practice.
Dr. Wingard is a Board Certified Therapeutic and Glaucoma Subspecialist in Texas. He also has practicing privileges to work in others states that include Kansas, Montana, and Hawaii, and at one time in the state of Colorado. He is fully licensed in Texas to practice optometry
Dr. Wingard has been working in Texas for 25 years as a full-time optometrist. The best thing about him is that he is passionate about his profession and always ready to help others. He cares for people, and this is the reason that his patients love him.
For the last 15 years, he had worked at the Ophthalmic Consultants of Texas as a full-time practitioner. Now, he is working only part-time on evenings and weekends because he wants to stay connected with his previous patients.
Presently, he has accepted a full-time job at the McAllen VA Outpatient Clinic. According to Dr. Wingard, this health care facility needed an optometrist, and now he is the eye doctor for Veterans. “I am the only optometrist here.” He works with the latest equipment in eye care. Aside from feeling patriotic, he enjoys proudly serving the nation’s bravest. “I love my new job.”
Dr. Wingard told Mega Doctor News that he deals with patients suffering from different kinds of eye diseases that range from cataracts, and glaucoma, to retinopathy. “Most of the patients are suffering from diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma.” He said, “The reason behind the diseases is poor dietary habits and lack of physical activity.”
According to Dr. Wingard, South Texas is one of the top areas in the world where most of the people are obese. “People consume mostly fast food and processed food; that is the primary cause of obesity and diabetes.” He continued, “People need to consume more vegetables and fruits to keep their vision healthy.”
The doctor mostly deals with the adults at the Veteran’s clinic, although he says that some of the patients in his second job are pediatric patients suffering from early retinopathy.
He also works with vision impaired kids and helps them to participate in healthy activities. Some of his routine work includes examination and non-surgical treatment of glaucoma; evaluation and diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy; and treatment of all other eye ailments.
Dr. Wingard understands that his services are vital for the people of the Rio Grande Valley because early diagnosis of eye diseases is necessary for proper treatment and the best outcomes.
When he came to Texas to pursue his career in 1995, he met Annette Aguilar through some of their social friends. She was still in college, and he was a young doctor building his practice. Eventually, they started dating, and then were married. Annette is a nurse instructor. He says they have a healthy relationship because they understand each other’s goals and are supportive. Annette says she admires her husband by how dedicated and hardworking he is.
“He likes to give 100% to everything he does, this is why I feel he is so good at what he does.” She said, “Our job is to help people, and he does an excellent job at that.”
She also pointed out that he is always determined to learn more and improve himself. Even when he is home, he loves to sit by the computer and search for anything new that might have been introduced related to his profession.
Dr. Wingard joined the Rotary International Club in 2002. The entity is a non-profit organization, and for the last ten years, he has been on the board of directors. “I love to be a part of this group because it gives us all an opportunity to help local schools and orphanages.”
Rotary is known worldwide for raising funds and helping those in need. He recalls that one of the best things he has done during his time in the Rotary Club was when they went to the orphanage in Reynosa, Tamps, in Mexico. Club members went as a big team and repainted the entire shelter building and restored the whole facility according to their capabilities. “I was delighted when I saw the young girls playing with my wife’s hair and commenting at how long and beautiful it was,” he said.
That visit had such an impact in his life that he feels the club should continue helping the nuns that run the facility. In his opinion, and this comes from his heart, he wants to help the kids living in the orphanage because they deserve to have a better chance at life.
He has no specific plans for the future, he says because there is uncertainty in the healthcare industry. The relationship of healthcare providers with the insurance companies and the limitations that are introduced by panels make it hard to progress.
According to Dr. Wingard, this is the reason that most of the doctors are not participating in the research work. They do not want to be innovative or invest in the latest equipment or new things. Most of the entrepreneur doctors have on hold their decisions because of the increasing uncertainty of the industry. “I hope that this uncertainty changes because that will open many new doors for the future.”
His message is that whether you have diabetes or not, an annual eye examination is critical. It will help to get the best advice from your doctor, and you will be able to follow the game plan to better sight. Keep in mind that advanced diseases are hard to treat, so early diagnosis is very important.
Mega Doctor News selected Dr. Michael T. Wingard as the Mega Doctor of the month of June because of his dedication and commitment to the patients he cares for. MDN