Inside the Actor’s Studio 2019 Myers Lecture by Dr. Peter Bergenske


Well welcome to the Meyers lecture
interview with Dr. Peter Bergenske and we welcome you here you’re the lecturer
for 2019 we’re very excited to have you here so welcome
thank you very much I want to introduce you to the group and let everybody know a little bit about
you and then I have some questions for you okay see see how we go so as I was
reviewing your CVA and learned that you did your undergraduate work at the
University of Wisconsin a Big Ten school so we kind of like that
yeah we don’t like it at the end of October we look like it right now so
it’s all good but you majored in German and studied at let’s get this right
Albert Ludwick’s Universität in West Germany for a year
for the study abroad which was pretty cool well I said graduating from
University of california-berkeley with your OD degree spent 23 years in private
practice in Madison Wisconsin then ended up doing about a half a dozen years in
academia at Pacific as an associate professor and director of the contact
lens clinic after that spent about eight years in industry with CIBA and later
Alcon as they made their transition but we’re seeing the clinical research group
and serving as a liaison to the global collaborative research or clinical
research groups he retired from Alcon about five years ago and you’re still
serving as a consultant for them as I understand that’s correct
good fellow of American Academy of Optometry and diplomate of the cornea
contact lenses section yes in terms of service you served as a topical editor
for the Academy Journal since you retired that’s good great charity
Academy cornea in contact lens section you’ve been on the steering you’ve been
a steering committee manner member for the academies fellows doing research
special interest groups steering committee which is an awful long title
but I think the thing that’s in it one of the things is interesting to me more
than 60 publications more than 30 scientific presentations which i think
is phenomenal significant for somebody who spent more there more than half
their practice career in private practice you know I mean it’s it’s tough
to produce that stuff when you’re in private practice and so
to have that many I think is phenomenal so congratulations on that and they may
also serve for about a decade on an American Optometric Foundation Board
couple years as president and so a lot of service there that is unique and
special I think it’s unique that you’ve spent time in private practice time and
in academia and time in industry which is unique among most of us most of us end
up picking a piece of that career and that’s where we spend our entire career
and so it’s interesting that you some people have asked if I just have trouble
keeping a job certainly cross my mind I think it’s unique and I think it’s
cool and I think it’s special and it gives you a different perspective than
many of us would have because you’ve had the opportunity to see the profession
from three different vantage points for a reasonably long period of time it’s
like you did it for six months or anything like that you spent time thing
so there’s some questions for you so why in the world did you pick optometry or
how did you come to that decision as a career and why such a variety of
experiences and I guess that kind of answers the question could you really
keep a job or not well you know the simple answer to why I became an
optometrist as my father was an optometrist I think there are a lot of
us that have you know family connection so I was very aware of what optometry
did and what optometry does and he was quite passionate about it he had but he
was a president of the State Association and very involved politically with
optometry so I you know I grew up with that as you know kind of part of the
culture but I certainly didn’t start in that direction in college I kind of
started pretty directionless in college that’s how I ended up with a degree in
German which you know I largely had that as an undergraduate degree because I’d
spent this year abroad and I had a lot of credits there but while I was you
know spent that year abroad I kind of came through I could think I grew up a
lot a lot of people did in that kind of a situation and they came to the
realization that well what am I going to do with my life
and I kind of looked around and realized that optometry looked you know like a
really good option and I so I I got back from from Germany and shifted gears
ended up you didn’t exactly count there but it took me five years to get my
bachelor’s degree because I had to come back after for three years and start doing
prerequisites for optometry that I didn’t have so that was the you know
that’s that’s how I ended up in optometry you know as far as you know
the change careers I you know I said what right when I graduated from
graduate from University of California and I I thought about going into
graduate school I was interested in research but when Ken Post told me I
was going to have to take three quarters of Statistics I said no maybe not and
went into practice and and I said to myself at the beginning of that I’m
gonna do this for about 20 years and then I think I’ll do something else so I
got to that point and just things one day I was sitting at my desk and I saw
an advertisement at the back of the AOA news that they were looking for a
director of clinical research at Pacific University I had some very good friends
there that I had made through Academy and I looked into it and they talked me
into it and I left practice and went out to Pacific and enjoyed that and
we’ll talk I’ll talk a bit about it tonight but the you know the next thing
that happened was five or six years later again through connections of
people that I knew partly through doing research with an Academy called me up
and said hey we have this job as director of Clinical Research at CIBA
Vision and why don’t you come out and take a look in well we decided to do that
so it sounds like that research interest that you had even in optometry school and you
didn’t pursue the additional degree you got to fulfill that after a couple of
decades of practice yeah one way or the other I mean yes I mean I was always
interested in writing and so you know a lot of my early publications were not
necessarily research-based although some were I did some some research projects
that I did with colleagues that I knew yet from you different universities well
yeah I always enjoyed that I also had it kind of as a conscious thing that you
know one way to get known was to get your name in print and so I kind of made
a commitment myself to get out at least a few publishable things every year
while I was in practice so if it was an optometry but what did it been oh boy that would take me back a long ways
uh-huh you know I looked into some other science related things I was actually
more really interested in Sciences then I’ve done I wasn’t you know the literary
arts that you know you would think of degree in German which would indicate I
had some you know I played around with ideas or you know that fan of Jacques
Cousteau so I was interested in oceanography I you know I watched police
shows thought I thought about going into you know some kind of investigative work
and but I you know you know I found optometry really appealing but I have to
say I had yeah I hadn’t thought about this in a long time that I I when my
first girlfriends I took it to my dad’s office and he did refraction on her and
prescribe glasses for her and we walked outside and with those new glasses and
she was just stunned with what she could see and and I she wasn’t she’s probably
I don’t know she was a diopter and half myopia or something nothing nothing really
serious but she had never had glasses and I was really kind of taken with you
know her enthusiasm with that and you know often we don’t even see you know we
dispense the glasses in the office we don’t get that kind of out in the world
I can see the leaves on the trees kind of thing and it really was probably you
know one of the things that was a tipping point that was even before I
went to Germany so I mean I was thinking about it for a while well but that’s
what we do every day yeah right down to I mean providing better vision for folks
and often we don’t hear the feedback right you know it’s what we do and it’s exciting and
it’s cool to hear people say wow you changed my life
because I can see so much better what motivates you
what motivates me you know I’m motivated to do well I I like
helping people I you know I I never had much trouble with just kind of self
motivation if I want to learn something I sit down and figure it out so you know that’s I don’t know that I have
a real great answer for that but I like to say not have a lot of difficulty with that
that sounds like you had these clinical research questions even they’re
questions that you and developed with other people um-hum kind of trying to find
an answer and see if you could find a better way to do something maybe you’re
well I have to say I recall many times I when I go to Academy meeting I come back
before I even leave and from the meeting come back I would have a notebook full
of questions that I had because I’ve been to this type of presentation and I
thought well gee how would if you looked at it this way what if you looked at
that way and the number of those eventually turned to end up you know
projects that either I you know did on my own or later I had when I was Pacific
when I was at Pacific University had the wealth of students who were interested
in doing some kind of projects and so I could bring a lot of those ideas to
fruition are those are there still questions in that notebook that aren’t
answered oh I haven’t looked at that notebook but tell us a little bit about growing
up and your early life you mentioned a little bit about your dad yes that maybe
a little bit about your family and were there any early mentors growing up and
were there any early mentors in your career well there certainly were mentors
in my career and I just growing up I grew up in Madison Wisconsin walking
distance to the Camp Randall Stadium used to parked cars on a front lawn for
the football games and I’m an older brother who’s still living and he
himself is quite a story he picked up and moved on to to British Columbia
after he finished he got a degree at the University Wisconsin also and and kept
bees for 30 or 40 years so you know good interesting life too very very different
so my mom was a stay-at-home mom and you know I went through I went to Catholic
schools both grade school high school and I did my undergraduate any early mentors or influencers in that
life hard to say you know obviously my parents were influential and I you know
now not so much that I can that I can’t think of specifically more you know
further on in school your career well my career certainly I mean I have had a
number of people that were very influential to me in optometry school
I’ll talk about some of them tonight but you know some of the ones
that kind of led me in the direction of having a lot of interest in contact
lenses Mort Sarver, Michael Harris, Ernie Vat and Bob Mandel and Ken Polls
Barry Wiseman you know whole list and then some people who weren’t in contact
lenses Merck Flom was a great mentor and and I would say friend you know later on
it a very influential sounds interesting how as we go through the profession
people who we had as professors or people at school who we look up to as
professors you know as we become optometrist they’ve become friends right
right I mean and so they can continue to be mentors to us and influence us but
they do it as colleagues rather than right you make that transition at some
point what do you point to at this point as your most lasting or most significant
contribution or achievement well I have to say you know I I wouldn’t
point to one thing I really do think that you know having been in practice
and you know all patients that I was able to help really is you know the
thing I’m most proud of you know there’s no one thing there are there little bits
and things I often said and felt that you know I stopped going and getting
smarter when I stopped seeing patients I think clinical practices you know
really where you grow as an optometrist yeah and I was very proud of that
probably what I did there that’s a challenge every day yes it can push you
tell us a little bit about your family currently currently married to the love
of my life good answer yes Cheryl and we met for almost 35 years ago but didn’t
manage to get around getting married till about 15 years ago we both had
previous families so between the two of us we’ve got five kids who almost
remarkably get along as if they are blood and it’s it’s you know it’s quite
wonderful so and we’ve got we also five grandkids between us and they’re all
good kids and good students and you know just don’t have a black sheep the
grandchildren oh they range from ten to nineteen
twenty yeah and you get to see them a fair amount of the time
yeah actually more from our right in town we see fairly regularly one ones
back in Wisconsin so I don’t see him as often grandchildren are far more
enjoyable than the children when you get right down to it uh yeah but we really
do enjoy that especially at this point you know they’re all getting you know
late 20s and 30s and they decided you’re smart again
you will okay any hobbies that you have oh yeah I play the guitar somewhat
passionately I mean I spend hours a day with it typically it’s kind of usually a
day I don’t pick it up that’s acoustic I I’m an avid yoga
practice ER so I’m doing that three or four times a day a week you know so
those are main hobbies I still you know I golf but not well and I cycle a little
bit and you know so what’s our musical inclination with the acoustic guitar
though music well I play what’s called finger style guitar which is played with
you know thumb and two fingers and it’s all a picking style that and I I’m
pretty collecting I mean everything from Scott Joplin to Chet Atkins to the
Beatles you know but so there’s not guitar with ulis to the today well one
of them so that could be something that comes to dinner with us I suppose it’s fun so then you play that in a
group at all or is it all just I’ll pretty much for myself although actually
in the last since I’ve retired and where we’re living I I get to play several
times a summer at our local farmers market you know put on a tip box and
how’s that been going financially great pretty well yeah you know you know it’s
not a lot of money but it’s very satisfying to have people put it in well
yeah it’s only a dollar now do you read music that or is it all just by memory
or how do you do I play primarily from memory I learn a
lot from from okay I can’t read with enough facility be able to play up to
tempo you know from from the sheet until I know it by heart anyways yeah cool
cool well and I think the guitar is one of those things that it just brings
people together you know I mean if you’ve got a group of people together
if somebody’s playing the guitar I mean it’s just it’s just it just unites
everybody and everybody kind of enjoys so that’s fun yeah cool thing to be the
catalyst so if somebody wanted to have a career like you or a Tama tree career
like you and spend some time in the you know academia industry and private
practice what counsel would you give to them get some solid experience
clinically I think that’s kind of fundamental I’m always a little a little
sorry to see young kids just out going into industry particularly because
they’re not going to get the kind of experience even if they’re in a clinic
in industry all they’re gonna see is healthy patients with spherical
refractive hairs and so I think you need the you know the foundation is really is
in practice and seeing patients let’s start there and get myself very
experienced and then you can move on and I think that applies for people who want
to go into end it into clinical teaching and in clinical research and you just
got to have that clinical sense that you develop from from seeing real patients
so are there any life lessons that you’ve learned and you’d would like to
share with our students you’ll be viewing this maybe later or other guests
that may be here or maybe this later that have helped you to achieve as
you’ve been able to achieve well you know I think what I’ve just said there
is primarily it but also to you know to be connected with your profession you
know and that involves you know volunteering and helping out with things
that need to be done both politically and and academically and you know
surround yourself with with smart people that that you can learn from and be
colleagues with I certainly one of the biggest steps for me that I took very
early on just based on somebody I didn’t know his recommendation was become the
becoming a diplomate in the Cortney contact lens section the Academy because
it it gave me a peer group that was very very special and I learned a lot from
and and it’s just been a lot of fun to be a part of that community and it’s a
you know a small close I think being you know involved in the
Academy in general has been really valuable and that was particularly
valuable any other life lessons well don’t make up Tommy treat your entire
life I mean you know do some other things like of a guitar like like
playing music or you know just being involved in something else I mean you
could be doing performing in plays or singing or whatever but yeah yeah spread
out if you could redo something in life yeah you know it’s the redo it’s it’s
the things I I don’t really think of anything I regret doing I there are
things I regret not doing and for example the sphere I spent in Germany I
made some very good friends some German friends and they at the end of the year
when I was scheduled to go back home they said come on we’re gonna they had
up they bought a old German post office Volkswagen bus and they drove that thing
overland into Turkey and into Afghanistan all the way to couple never
mind this was 1971 so that was possible to do that and I didn’t go yeah I kind
of thought you know I should it I might have didn’t end up in a Turkish jail
just makes for a story later little things I have to that you know
you just kind of think boy yeah I should have taken that opportunity but by and
large I I really don’t spend much time regretting much you know so what do you
wish you had done more of in your life and that also hope do you wish you had
done less well gee that’s hard to say god we wish I you know kept up with
exercise more than I did as I kind of got into you know middle-aged I kind of
let that go I’m kind of back now doing a lot more
but I’ve got a lot more time you know and you know I you know I
there were times that I put too much into my work and could have spent more
time with my kids although you know I think I was a pretty good dad but you
know you always feel like I could have done more so they turned out well
despite it so that’s that’s good so we’re gonna open up the floor for any
questions from the folks now most of these folks are friends of yours so we
expect them to be friendly questions but that may mean stories that we haven’t
heard yet yeah elucidate so maybe I got any questions you’ve been very generous
with your your time and talent by giving back through the Academy and yet we know
that only 10% of all licensed optometrist or Academy members so so
what could the Academy do to attract these young graduates into the Academy
which has been so meaningful for your career well I think you know I’ve talked
about young graduates I think they think a key and I don’t know what this has
been looked into but I key is getting them to go to the meeting I think once
they’ve been to a meeting or two the that’s that’s really you know they
get hooked if they’ve got that kind of sense I work very hard when I was at
Pacific University I made a big deal about trying to get students to go to
the meeting and I know I really increased the number of students who
went to the meeting and I don’t know how many of never really you know captured
how many of them actually became fellows but I think you gotta put it in front of
them when I was at at at supervision I was director of the clinic I’m I put
becoming a fellow Academy on every one of my clinical people on their on their
objectives and many of them did it so you know I think you know but you’ve
gotta give me some what kind of a experience and all the times maybe a
carrot but it’s not going to be everybody I mean that you know I I
remember the first type of time that took Cheryl to the Academy meeting and
she’s she’s been very involved in optometry she taught for many years in a
parametric program yeah and so she would often go to the AOA meetings and I
remember her saying well this is where the a students are so yeah you’re not
gonna get them all they’re not always students relative scale you know they’re
they’re the people who are at the top they’re the cream of the crop and and
you can’t you not everybody can be the cream of the crop but that’s my my two
cents on it you know I was involved years ago on the Communications
Committee with group of people included Bob heading and Sally Delahaye and you
know some people that were you know really strong up Tom tree people and we
probably put together a lot of stuff we’ve made brochures and wrote up the
whole thing on top 10 reasons why you ought to become a fellow you know it’s a
challenge but you know I think you know if you can get us you can get your
students to go to a meeting or two I really think that let’s get the hook in
better than just about anything you think up I don’t thinks anything you
can tell they have to experience it yeah I think they have to experience it I had
one more question you’ve lived in different cities across the country and
I just wonder when you ensure all vacation where’s your favorite place to
vacation well that’s probably different mind but I really love wearing that we
live in eastern Washington is really really beautiful and there’s so much to
do that you know you wouldn’t have to go anyplace I don’t have any particular
place today you know that I would need to go but we still do go I mean but I’m
always glad to get back home but that’s partly my nature other questions be how
do Wisconsin kid end up at Berkeley instead of Ohio State well you make your
way if you born and bred how did you think your way out there well I you know
at the time I don’t know that Ohio State was taking any non-residents we’re
talking 1974 probably a few at least on track I wasn’t aware that they were and
I wasn’t know I didn’t know anything about recruiting yeah okay you have to
realize also I got just from Wisconsin I’m from Madison yeah because there is a
distinction oh really big the state like a little
blue island in a red-eye you know I applied it
I applied three places applied at Berkeley and applied at Pacific it’s
trustingly because I wanted to go on the west coast and I and and I applied it
Illinois because I thought I could get in there and well next I’ll tell you
that another day this is an interesting story that I hadn’t thought of this in a
long time when I was an undergraduate in Madison I took out what they had this
what the alternative University course that was on paranormalism and we went
to this guy’s house and he did almost like a seance thing and he told me that
there was a spirit drawing me West and the interesting thing is my
grandfather who died the year I was born had been when he was it’s like it in his
early 20s or maybe even teenager was hopping freight trains heading out west
lost both of his legs and you know kind of stopped that for him and ironically
became a shoemaker I you know I had occurred to me that this may be how I
was interested in going west there’s going to be something about
prosthetic limbs being so grandfather’s between the two of them had one wouldn’t
would one real life it was a different time I was going to ask having working
in three major areas in optometry practice and academia and industry yet
people still like you yes I was gonna ask you know what tips do you have on on
getting along with such a wide variety of people but you may have just answered that question
you have a great sense of humor able to tell a great story yeah anything that
comes to your mind I just always gotten along with people I don’t know that
there’s anything you can I don’t you know I don’t know if you can teach it
I don’t consider myself necessarily the most tolerant person but you know I
certainly try to go get along but boy I don’t know I just kept my head and down kept working
Well in school were there any side jobs where you made money on the weekends a couple of classmates one who is present and I put
together a little business where we we we we duplicated the Farnsworth D-15 test
and we actually one of the few patent libraries in the United States and
Sunnyvale just south of San Francisco and one of the first things we do is
spent several evenings in that library and convinced ourselves it Farnsworth
nor anyone else had ever patented that device and so we imitated it and created
these things and made them certainly nicer looking than the originals and
yeah and every bit is functional and we sold a heck of a lot of them we sold
hundreds of them yeah we made good money so it was a it’s a clever idea you know
excellent you know I remember I the one of one of the partners in this operation
got up in front of the class with this idea of making this a class project and
I pull them aside and I said I’ve already ordered the sample yeah we did
ok with it so you can see a d15 test around in it in the box
is made of cherry wood not the cheap mahogany those those were ours there you go there you go
are you fishing for some questions over there no I’m gonna find my d15 and have
silence I’m sure you guys made it often use you as an exemplar of what he
thought the Academy and an optometry should be about that clinician
scientists advocate teacher whole package kind of thing I don’t know if
you knew that but he held a very high regard in that um I do remember though a
story you tell about during optometry school and how excited he would get
about ideas and I was wondering if you wanted to tell the story about the time
he got really excited about maybe a little bit embarrassing yeah permission
right no Mert was a great mentor and a great teacher and and then later on
really a friend although he was always he Newburgh he was so guy that felt a
room you know so but in given that I remember I don’t even remember what it
was about but at some project I was working on with him and to get into the
the men’s locker room in minor hall there at Berkeley he had to walk right
by his office I was like the last door before you went into that door and he
must have seen me going in there and I was going in to use the restroom and I
actually was in one of the one of the stalls
and the next thing I knew was I heard this voice Peter are you in there but
that was yeah that was Merc cuz he was intimidating give you you can raise it
up a look but who answered his question at his fist drift about give me the
predicted ma are with Accenture fixation yeah all right am I didn’t love EF plus
one all the people in the room yeah yeah no I I took you item you know I I
remembered all of that stuff he told even though I really didn’t have a whole
lot interesting by night television stuff you know I somehow I absorbed all
of that and yeah so yeah that was a I think I pressed the binocular vision
people that day another story was in one of his lectures towards the Christiane
he was talking about how stereopsis sort of breaks down after you get a ten
meters out because just fine ocular disparities are big enough for
stereopsis to really work and so many other class raised her and I’m taking
flying lessons and I think really think I’m using my stereopsis when I’m coming
in for a landing and you and you answered that question
you responded to that with a story about something you’re read in the paper
remember about the pilot yeah yeah it was actually a closet mile and yeah it
always been but he had kept you know he was flying and he was very successful as
never had a problem he finally got they finally caught and realized he’d been
skipping the vision exam and they and he went in to have the examination and
they said well you know you how are you landing an airplane with your vision I
mean yeah I could see the instruments but you certainly and I can’t cannot
line up the runway today he says well you know it’s like this you know I the
instruments like you say get me close and then I just head down to the ground
and when the copilot says Jesus Christ other questions from the group Peter we’d greatly appreciate you being
here we do and we look forward to your lecture tonight and and hopefully enjoy
your hospitality and everything here in Columbus and

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