Business Spotlight: Eye doctor to retire in June after 31 years

Ophthalmologist Dr. Robert Kinker sits in one of his examination rooms in his practice Eye Care for Kentucky on May 18, 2018. Kinker is retiring on June 15. Photo by McKenna Horsley.

A longtime Frankfort eye doctor will retire in a few weeks.

Ophthalmologist Dr. Robert Kinker has decided to sell his practice, Eye Care for Kentucky, to Eye Associates of Southern Indiana, which is owned by Dr. Bradley Black. Kinker’s last day at work is June 15, and he has worked at the practice for about 31 years.

“I’ve been fortunate to work all these years in a job that I love,” he said.

Kinker started at Eye Care for Kentucky in 1987 — when he was 35 years old. Fellow ophthalmologist Dr. John Paul Broderson then owned the practice and was planning to take a two-week vacation that summer. Broderson asked Kinker to fill in for him while he was gone. Kinker ended up working with Broderson for 20 years.

Broderson retired about 10 years ago, and Kinker has run the office with the help of his wife, Jo Ann, and staff at Eye Care for Kentucky.

“It’s been a wonderful 31 years,” Jo Ann said. “The rapport with our patients has been unforgettable.”

Kinker, 65, grew up in Frankfort and went to Franklin County High School before studying biology at the University of Virginia. Before his senior year at U.Va. began, he applied to the University of Kentucky medical school and was accepted. Then, he did his family practice residency at U.Va. Once he finished there, he moved to Glasgow and started as a family practice doctor with a classmate. He stayed in Glasgow for four years.

His interest in ophthalmology began after reading about the field in his free time. He describes himself as a “gadget guy” and ophthalmology “is full of tools.” He returned to UK to study ophthalmology for three years.

He was also attracted to the field because it’s a narrower specialty than family practice but still involves patients of all ages. Another reason for the switch was most medical fields deal with death in end-of-life cases, but in ophthalmology “I don’t deal with death on my watch,” he said.

Ophthalmology brings positive changes in patients’ lives, Kinker said. He can “turn back the hands of time” and help people see like they did years ago.

He enjoys getting to know his patients and seeing their lives evolve outside of the office. Now, he is seeing three generations of patients.

“We save people’s sights. It’s a rush. It’s real neat,” he said.

One of his most memorable cases was early in his career. A mother brought her 4-year-old son to see Kinker for an eye exam. Kinker said the boy was about to be placed in special education at school. Part of the process was to get exams from different types of doctors. Kinker said the boy wouldn’t sit down in class.

Kinker started an eye exam on the boy, using pictures because the boy had not learned letters yet. Kinker recalled that the child got every picture wrong despite saying he could see them. Then, Kinker gave the boy one of the highest near-sight prescriptions, and he was able to answer questions correctly.

Kinker’s list of things to do after his retirement includes extended vacations with his wife, taking up trail biking and kayaking, and spending more time in local libraries. Kinker said his main goal is to spend more time with his family.

He has three children and three grandchildren in different states. He plans to visit them during his retirement. Kinker said his grandchildren are the ages where they share common interests, like feeding ducks, eating ice cream and fishing.

“I am confident these doctors will continue the friendly ‘small town’ philosophy of my practice,” Kinker wrote in a letter to his patients and friends about his retirement.

Eye Care for Kentucky will have a retirement reception for patients, friends and colleagues to say goodbye to Kinker. The reception will take place on Saturday, June 16, from noon to 4 p.m. at 279 Kings Daughters Drive in the Frankfort Medical Pavilion adjacent to Frankfort Regional Medical Center.

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