The Path She Chose
50 years ago, 21-year-old Nancy Wilson found her niche in a changing world
Half a century ago, revolution was taking place everywhere you looked. The Beatles and Woodstock revolutionized our view of music and youth culture. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin revolutionized our view of space. And Nancy Wilson began a career that transformed the way she viewed herself and her world.
In 1969, Wilson was 21 years old. She was a member of the second graduating class at Airline High School in Bossier City. She had given college a shot at Louisiana Tech in Ruston, but that wasn’t the route for her, so she set her sights on a new career in ophthalmology.
Her career as an ophthalmic technician began with Dr. James Ward. Wilson managed the front desk, booked appointments, kept the books and organized patient files in dog food boxes.
Wilson grew with the practice. She transitioned from dog food boxes to a massive electronic filing system as she began managing patients’ records for not just Ward, but partners Drs. Frederick Kirchner, Bruce Henderson, Ellen Berg and Bryan Vekovius.
Now, in her 50th year of service, Wilson still does what she did in the beginning – arriving early to open up by 7 a.m., printing schedules for the doctors, scheduling appointments and surgeries, and caring for the patients.
“I’m very fortunate,” Wilson said. “I can’t even think back about what it would have been like if I hadn’t stayed around. I had other opportunities and didn’t take them. I’ll just keep going as long the Lord gives me the strength and the health so I can.
“I’d love to retire. But it’s like the doctor always says, you’ve got to keep going. I enjoy getting up every day with purpose. I have had good people to work for. I know what to do. I know what to expect. This back hallway is my family.”
Wilson admits to having one anxious moment in her career. When the partners decided to move what is now the Highland Clinic Ophthalmology practice from Fairfield Avenue to the current Ashley Ridge facility in 2008, Ward retired. Nancy was not sure she would have a place with the group moving forward, as she had always been Ward’s right hand.
She had opportunities to leave. But, after prayerful consideration, she turned them down. That’s when God stepped in, she said. Henderson and the other partners invited Wilson to move with them to the new location.
It is that abiding faith that has kept her going. About 23 years ago, Wilson learned that she had breast cancer. After her mastectomy, she scheduled her chemotherapy sessions on Fridays so her husband could take their kids somewhere fun while she went to her sessions. She only missed one day of work throughout her victorious fight. She later cared for her husband, who required dialysis three times a day. She would treat him before leaving for work, go home at lunch for another treatment, and then again in the evenings. Her husband died 13-1⁄2 years ago, shortly after she had buried her mother-inlaw.
Wilson considers herself blessed and said you just must accept and embrace the challenges. “My advice, about anything you love, is to stick with it, learn about it,” she said. “In your work – get along with fellow employees, do what you have to do. Your home situation is your home situation. You always make more of an impact on people by focusing on them and not yourself. Be the very best you can be. Period. Thank the Lord every morning for waking you up and taking where you can go, and laying you back down again at night.”
Wilson said she marvels at the “God-given abilities” of the doctors and the technology at their disposal today.
“Back in the day, the physicians would use an actual camera for pictures of the eye, send the slides to get developed at Dee’s in downtown Shreveport and then look them over to diagnose and treat the patient,” she said. “Now, the machines do most of the work for you – the Humphrey Visual Field, the Pentacam, the Lenstar and the Fundus camera. This technology took the place of the old, tedious ways like the Tangent Screening, where technicians like me would mark points of visual identity on an actual black cloth screen and then have to draw it out.”
Wilson continues to work at Highland Clinic Ophthalmology, specifically for Bruce Henderson and Berg. The practice offers ophthalmic medical and surgical services, specializing in cataracts and glaucoma. Offices are at 471 Ashley Ridge Blvd. in Shreveport, or by phone at (318) 795-4770.
“I’m happy,” Wilson said. “The Lord provides, and that’s what it’s all about.”