Local optometrist office expanding its family approach

Hillsboro Eyecare is taking on a new, yet familiar, dimension these days with the addition of Zach Unruh as a practicing optometrist.

Zach is the oldest son of Paul Unruh, the optometrist who owns the practice and has been the sole ?doctor on call? since acquiring it.

Under the new arrangement, Zach will be in the Hillsboro office, located at 132 S. Main St., on Tuesdays and Fridays; Paul will receive patients on Mondays and Wednesdays. The office will be closed on Thursday.

?The hours are not really going to change,? Zach said. ?We?re just adding two days of appointments.?

Paul Unruh also owns and operates Hesston Eyecare, where Jessica Unruh, Zach?s wife, will be working as an optometrist on a part-time basis three afternoons a week.

?A couple of years back, my dad was full-time in Hillsboro,? Zach said. ?He was pretty busy and kept the schedule pretty full. Hillsboro?s the busier practice right now. Since he?s back to half time, we realize there?s a need there, so that?s where we?re trying to ramp it up.?

Zach graduated from Hills?boro High School in 2000, then earned a degree in chemistry from Bethel College in 2004. For the next two years, he worked as a chemist in the Kansas City area.

Two years was enough for him to decide that he didn?t want to spend the rest of his professional career working in a laboratory.

?Optometry was what I was exposed to (growing up),? Zach said. ?It?s a medical field, it has a small-business aspect to it, and the hours are pretty good. For all those reasons, I decided to go into it?and it was a good decision.

?Dad didn?t really talk to me about it or push me into it at all,? he said.

Unruh enrolled at the Univer?sity of Houston College of Optometry in 2006. He graduated at the top of his class in May. Along the way, Unruh met and eventually married Jessica, who graduated with him.

Zach said joining his father?s practice wasn?t an automatic decision once he and Jessica had earned their degrees.

?That was always an option, but I didn?t want to commit to that immediately,? he said. ?I wanted to see what else was out there, but it was always an option in the back of my head.

?When I met Jessica and we talked about getting married, that was something we had to weigh out a little bit, too. We eventually decided this was the best opportunity for us.?

Zach and Jessica will begin receiving patients once their licenses arrive in the mail.

?We passed our state board exams two weeks ago,? he said. ?But we can?t sign charts until we get those licenses.?

In the meantime, most of his duties so far have been administrative. But Zach said he?s looking forward to working alongside his father as fellow professionals.

?He has a lot of knowledge and a lot of experience to share with us, so it?s nice to have a senior doctor to show us the knowledge,? Zach said. ?We?re the new doctors who don?t have the experience, but we have the recent training.

?It?s kind of the best of both worlds.?

With Zach joining the Hills?boro office, Paul will no longer be accepting new patients there. Existing patients will be able to choose which doctor they?d like to see, depending on preferences or scheduling issues, Zach said.

Even though it?s been about 10 years since Zach has spent significant time in his hometown, he said he?s ready to step back in.

?It was a little surreal at first,? he said of the adjustment. ?You kind of remember what things were like, but it?s distorted a little. So when you come back, it has an odd familiarity to it.

?I?m looking forward to it. I know there?s a need in the community and the surrounding rural community, too. It?s good to serve the smaller communities like Hillsboro and Hesston.?

Zach and Jessica currently rent a house in Newton.

?We haven?t decided where we?re going to settle down,? he said.

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