I spent the week attending meetings, panels and working with clients at Vision Expo East in New York City. The schedule was grueling, and I experienced a feeling of relief when I boarded my flight home to California. Halfway home, I received a text that Larry Alexander, OD, had died. At first, I couldn’t believe it. Perhaps my source was mistaken. After a few hours of texting, I learned it was true. A giant in optometry and a friend had passed. It’s still hard to accept.
I had the distinct honor and great fortune to be in the second group of residents at University of Alabama, Birmingham (UAB) in 1979. The residency director for this new program was John Amos, OD. Jimmy Bartlett, OD, was second in command. Then there was Larry. I knew I was learning from giants, but I had no idea how significant the impact of these three educators would have on my life and career.
Larry graduated from Indiana University School of Optometry eight years before I did at Pennsylvania College of Optometry. He was learning at a pace much faster than almost everyone I knew professionally. Mainly in primary care optometry, he had just begun his lifelong adventure into the retina and posterior pole of the eye. In 1979, there wasn’t much professional cooperation with ophthalmologists and the optometry school on the UAB campus, but that didn’t stop Larry from learning. I’ll never forget how he described fluorescein angiography after participating in retinal rounds at the local Birmingham VA clinic. From my naÃ¯ve viewpoint, I told him I didn’t think ODs could perform fluorescein angiograms. His response was classic Alexander. He simply said, “Why not?”
Larry was one of the most sharing colleagues I have known in optometry. His smile was contagious. He was one of the few educators who called me by my nickname given to me that year, “Clompy.” I can still hear him calling me that, and it still brings a smile to my face. Rest my friend and thank you for contributing so much of yourself to our profession.
Richard Clompus, OD, FAAO | Professional Editor