County native opens her own optometry office


After college, Marcia Monroe had a vision of returning to her hometown to start her own optometry office.

Life, however, had other plans.

She spent several years in the field in Michigan before moving back to Indiana.

In 2013, she ended up back in Jackson County, settling in Brownstown. She continued practicing in a semi-retirement mode by traveling around to offices that needed an optometrist to fill in.

Marcia Monroe speaks some Spanish and can provide a thorough eye exam in English or Spanish. Zach Spicer | The Tribune
Marcia Monroe speaks some Spanish and can provide a thorough eye exam in English or Spanish.
Zach Spicer | The Tribune

Then in the fall of 2017, she took time away from the profession after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Two years later, she reached a point where she felt like she could return to work. Life came full circle when she purchased a building at 915 W. Brown St., Seymour, to house Marcia J. Monroe, OD, Inc.

The office officially opened Nov. 8, 2019, and Monroe said she saw a few patients early on. The COVID-19 pandemic starting in March 2020 impacted the business, but she was able to have a ribbon-cutting ceremony Sept. 22.

“It feels really good. I don’t know how to say it any other way,” the 66-year-old said. “It feels like I have come full circle. I feel like I’m where I’m meant to be or should be.”

Monroe grew up on a farm on the east side of Seymour, the daughter of Lawrence and Betty Monroe.

Her first exposure to optometry was when she was a young girl and went to Dr. Thomas Conner in Seymour. He said her eyes were so fair complected that she needed to wear sunglasses and a hat while outdoors.

“I started playing outside a lot more, and then gradually, I didn’t wear the hat and I didn’t wear the sunglasses. My parents got me outside,” she said.

When choosing a career after graduating from Seymour High School in 1973, Monroe reflected back to her experience with Conner and thought she would follow that path.

She also was inspired by her mother’s vision problems, which included not being able to see very clearly from a young age.

“There were so many things when I was growing up that she couldn’t see,” Monroe said. “I just always wondered why she couldn’t see. It just didn’t make sense to me until I got into optometry school and she had amblyopia (lazy eye) in both eyes because she didn’t get the glasses at a young enough age.”

Despite the vision issues, her mother accomplished a lot in life, including making good grades in school and later entering sewing projects at the county and state fairs.

“I never could understand how she could do so much but not see so well,” Monroe said. “My mom was amazing. She was an amazing role model for me in many ways.”

Monroe’s father encouraged her to attend Purdue University since her sister, Sandra, was having a good experience there. She went there for a while until transferring to Indiana University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in optometry in 1979 and her doctorate two years later.

Monroe completed rotations in Indianapolis and Cleveland and also worked for a doctor in Ann Arbor, Michigan. After finishing at Purdue, she worked for an optometrist and then an ophthalmologist, both in Michigan.

She said she really liked the latter experience because the doctor allowed her to practice to the full extent of her education.

Once she moved back to the Hoosier State, she practiced in South Bend and Elkhart before relocating to West Lafayette.

In 1988, she opened her own practice in Lafayette. That was her first opportunity to have a staff, including other optometrists.

She remained there until 2013 when she moved to Brownstown. Then she did fill-in work in Southport, Greenwood, Indianapolis, Scottsburg and Columbus.

She was filling in for a doctor in 2017 when he was diagnosed with bladder cancer. That fall, she learned she had three types of cancer in her right breast.

“There were lots of surgeries. The chemo was really hard on me. I didn’t have to have radiation. I went through the swollen arm, hand thing,” Monroe said. “I just really couldn’t work through that.”

It wasn’t until the spring of 2019 that she felt like working again.

“I started farming for my dad, started feeling like I can do life,” Monroe said. “I did some scattered fill-in work. A whole day wore me out, so I knew I wasn’t ready yet.”

By the fall of 2019, she said, “I did some more fill-in work, and I was like, ‘I can do this.'”

She bought the building on West Brown Street and started fixing it up for an optometry office.

“I think it has really helped me see how a whole lot of different people practice,” Monroe said of working for other optometrists before opening her own practice. “I’ve tried to take all of their things that appealed to me and apply them to my practice to make it more user-friendly, more health-oriented. I think it has just really expanded my horizons.”

She also sees a positive in the break from work she was forced to take during her cancer battle.

“(That) sort of rejuvenated me and made me feel like, ‘Hey, I’m here. I’ve got the skill set, I like doing this, it keeps my brain active, it keeps me physically active, and so I think I want to just continue doing it,'” she said.

Monroe said her goal is to provide optometry services for those not already seeking services from other providers in the community.

She serves ages 6 months and older and can do eye exams, fittings for eyeglasses and contacts, vision therapy and optical coherence tomography tests.

“I’ve always liked working with children because it’s so fun to get them to see, and when you put their first pair of glasses on, their eyes just do a sparkle. That is just so amazing,” Monroe said.

The theme for her business is “Focus your eyes to focus your life.” She said giving the gift of vision is special.

“It feels really good inside,” Monroe said, smiling. “It’s a big motivation to go to work every day because who are you going to help today?”

With the equipment she has, Monroe can take pictures of the retina at the cellular level to help people with diabetes, sleep apnea, macular degeneration and some other health conditions.

“One of the things that I try to impress on people is your health choices have such a big effect on your eyes, and therefore, if you make the right health choices for your eyes, it’s the same right health choices for your body, and it’s just one of those win-win situations,” she said.

Since “your eyes are a window to your body,” Monroe said she believes in dilating patients’ eyes.

“When you can dilate the retina or get a really good picture of the retina, you get to see a huge amount of territory all in one view, and it makes it so that you can tell a whole lot more about the health of the eye,” she said. “It’s super important.”

She also speaks some Spanish, so she can provide a thorough eye exam in English and Spanish. While it’s just her in the office now, Monroe said her goal is to someday have a bilingual staff.

There also is an opportunity to expand her building and take in more practitioners.

Outside of work, Monroe farms and is actively involved in Jackson County Farm Bureau.

“I figure that I’ve got more decades that I can work and contribute to society,” she said when asked how many more years she wants to work.

“My dad is in his 90s, my stepmom is in her 90s, and so I figure I may as well work as long as I enjoy it and can feel like I’m physically and mentally capable of making a contribution,” she said. “I’m passionate about what I do.”

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