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Long time ophthalmologist set to retire

In blink of an eye, Lewis' 33 years of practice draw to a close

Posted: September 17, 2010 1:35 p.m.
Updated: September 20, 2010 5:00 a.m.
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Dr. Lawson Lewis is retiring after 33 years as an ophthalmologist. He says he will miss his patients and staff most of all.

When Dr. Lawson Lewis started his solo ophthalmology practice in Camden on July 11, 1977, there were only three people helping him in his office.

At the time, Lewis thought his practice would only perform 100 surgeries a year -- an expectation that was quickly shattered when he found himself doing four times that amount as the years passed.

But after 33 years of practicing ophthalmology in Camden, Lewis said he feels as if it is finally time for him to retire.

“Despite the rewards and fun of being in practice, you realize that the clock is ticking. There are certain things that you can’t really do easily when you have the obligations to the practice,” he said, adding that it’s difficult to not practice full-time. “My wife and I have talked about it for a long time and just decided that to be able to have the freedom to do some of the things we want to do, it would be necessary.”

Relaxing in his Camden home, Lewis said he never would have imagined that his business would have been so successful when he and his wife first arrived in Camden 33 years ago.

While completing his residency at the University of Virginia, Lewis and his wife had only caught glimpses of the city while driving to their childhood home in Georgia, but had virtually no relatives or contacts in the area.

“This was the route that we would take going back and forth and we thought Camden was a pretty little town ... not thinking that we would ever end up here,” Lewis said. “But we’ve been here ever since and this is actually the longest place we’ve ever lived.”

Looking back on his years spent running his own business, Lewis laughed as he said that while he’s never had any “calamitous experiences,” learning to be a businessman has definitely brought him his share of learning experiences.

But as he talks about technological advances and improvements in the field of ophthalmology, one would think that there was little that Lewis could love more than performing surgeries -- that is, until he talks about how he will miss his patients and staff when he retires.

“I’ll miss the patients and seeing people in the office ... and interacting with the staff. I have a very loyal group of employees, a number of them have been with me for 15 to 25 years,” he said. “One of my nurses actually started helping me when I was at the hospital, she helped with surgery from the start. About three years afterwards, she joined me in the office and she’s been there ever since.”

A smile crept onto Lewis’ face as he explained that although his staff members were concerned that he is retiring, they were also happy for him.

“It’s probably true in a lot of practices and businesses that when you have the same personnel there over a prolonged period, you develop a rapport and relationship with them that makes it almost like family, and I think it was that way in our practice,” he said, adding that everyone knew that he had been thinking of retiring for some time. “I was very fortunate to have such an outstanding group of ladies to work with over the years. I’ll miss that aspect of it ... and there’s a lot of rewards that come from the interaction with the patients too.”

When asked if there was one thing that he would like to tell his patients, staff members and supporters, Lewis said he could only think of two words: thank you.

“I really appreciate the way my family and I were accepted into the community. I appreciate the patients, and we had so many patients that we basically have seen really during their lives as continued patients,” he said. “We want to stay involved in the community and hopefully we’ll be able to take an active role in the community ... but I would really just like to say thank you.”

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