Keeping an eye on his patients

Nearly 30 years ago, Judy Lindquist, 74, had an emergency with her eyes requiring medical attention. And 30 years later, she is still going back to the same doctor who saw her then, Culpeperâ??s first ophthalmologist, Dr. Russell Brear.

Last July, Bear performed cataract surgery on Lindquist. The procedure took just six minutes.

When Brear started his Commonwealth Eye Center practice in 1985, it took one and a half hours to perform the same procedure.

â??Itâ??s amazing,â? said Brear about the changing technology that allows for faster surgical procedures.

The original surgical equipment wasnâ??t the greatest and certainly not technically advanced.

Brear was the first doctor to offer cataract surgery in Culpeper. Before then, anyone requiring that procedure had to go to Fredericksburg or Charlottesville.

Although in business for 30 years, Brear, 63, doesnâ??t have any plans to fold up his eye chart and retire any time soon. He loves providing total eye care to his many patients both in Culpeper and during his many missions to South and Central America helping the less fortunate.

On a recent mission to Guatemala, Brear recalled a blind woman, estimated to be between 80 and 90 years old, with â??hard cataracts.â? He said her eyelids were tight – mere slits – and her eyes were sunken in her head.

Brear had never encountered anyone with a condition like hers. The veteran surgeon worked on a plan.

â??She didnâ??t know me from Adam,â? said Brear. â??We basically prayed about this for a moment.â?

The womanâ??s minister held her head at a 45-degree angle so fluid would flow. Brear then made incisions at the corner of her eyelids to expose more of the eyeballs.

The operation proved successful. The woman could see, but her vision was somewhat blurry.

â??Thank God,â? Brear remembers the woman telling him in Spanish, a language he clearly understands. â??God bless you.â?

Brear said other than cataracts, her eyes were healthy.

â??That was something I had never seen before,â? he added.

Before deciding on ophthalmology, Brear, a 1978 graduate of the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, Texas, served a three-year general practice stint as a U.S. Public Health Service doctor in a barrio in San Antonio. While there, he provided general medical care and even delivered babies. Bringing a new life into the world, he described, as a miracle.

â??That was fun,â? said Brear.

The barrio was where he learned to speak Spanish.

While fun and interesting, Brear turned his medical career from general practice to ophthalmology.

â??I get to see all different people – young, old, men and women,â? he said. â??You donâ??t have to tell people they are going to die.â?

However, a three-residency at Tulane University in Louisiana altered his plans where to practice ophthalmology.

â??I met (Dr.) Pete Godfrey (Blue Ridge OB-GYN) and he said come to Culpeper,â? Brear recalled.

â??I said, â??right, Iâ??ll call you.â??â?

But the calls kept coming. One call came from Culpeper Memorial Hospital and one from an ophthalmologist in Charlottesville urging him to locate in Culpeper.

â??Here I am 30 years later and not looking back,â? said Brear. â??Itâ??s a wonderful life.â?

Culpeper is where he raised three boys, David, 31, Isaac, 33 and his youngest Noah, 16, an avid and accomplished high school golfer.

The practice is comprised of seven employees, and Brearâ??s mascots Alfie and Neptune, a 3-year-old white fuzzy pooch that lays quietly in the office area but eager to greet patients.

Besides the medical practice, Brear also owns Eye Deal, an optical shop next door to his practice. He also is a partner in the Culpeper Surgery Center, which was established in 2003, where he performs surgeries once a week.

Technological surgical advances in the last 10 to 15 years allow people who wear glasses to discard them by implanting accommodating lenses.

â??The lens will go from seeing in a distance to close up with no glasses,â? said Brear. â??Itâ??s for people with astigmatism.â?

While Brear tends to the medical side, Kerry Hall serves as the practiceâ??s business manager. Hall, who holds an international master degree from Insead, a graduate business school with a campus in France, deals with marketing and sales, as well as scheduling, accounts receivable and contract management.

â??Itâ??s definitely very challenging,â? said Hall, who has been working with Brear for 2 ½ years. â??One thing we both agree upon is great patient care.â?

Ophthalmology Technician Wes Murray has been working with Brear for about eight years, after working for nine years in Fredericksburg.

â??I am originally from Culpeper,â? said Murray. â??It turned out Dr. Brear needed some help. It was perfect timing for me and perfect timing for Dr. Brear.â?

Murray fosters the same enthusiasm for the patients who walk through the door as does the entire staff.

â??Heâ??s very passionate and caring,â? said Murray about his boss. â??His patients come first.â?

Linquist agrees with that attitude.

â??Itâ??s wonderful to know your doctor in this day and age,â? Lindquist said, with a smile about her relationship with Brear. â??I hope he doesnâ??t retire.â?

Wally Bunker is a freelance contributor with the Culpeper Times. You may reach him at wallybunker@outlook.com