Childhood Dreams Become Reality
Who says childhood dreams don’t come true? For Dr. Bissell, he knew at an early age he wanted to become an optometrist. Dr. Roger Johnson, a local optometrist became a mentor and longtime friend watching Dr. Bissell grow personally and professionally. Dr. Johnson has since retired and Dr. Bissell purchased the practice in 2013. Since that time, the practice has grown and most recently relocated to their own space located at 4001 Freeport Road, Natrona Heights.
With state-of the-art equipment, new merchandise and an elite staff of professionals, they stand ready to serve the Alli-Kiski region. Madasyn Lee, a Tribune-Review staff writer, recently wrote an article about Dr. Bissell’s journey that we’d like to share.
“Dr. John Bissell knew by age 13 that he wanted to be an optometrist.
He started wearing glasses when he was 7. From there, his fascination with the human eye grew.
“My mom and dad bought me a microscope when I was a kid, and binoculars and a telescope. So, I was always intrigued by that,” Bissell said. “Then … when I first started wearing glasses, I just remember being intrigued by all the stuff in the (optometrist) office. So that kind of laid the seeds.”
Bissell got a head start on learning from Dr. Roger K. Johnson, the optometrist he visited when he was a boy.
Recognizing his passion for eye care, Johnson let Bissell job shadow him when Bissell was a student at Highlands High School. He ultimately asked Bissell to take over his practice when he retired.
“He was my optometrist, and he’s the one who kind of mentored me. We’re still in touch all the time,” said Bissell, 41, of Kittanning. “It just kind of always seemed like it was meant to be.”
Bissell owns Bissell Eye Care, which has locations in Richland and Harrison. The practice offers eye exams and vision services for children and adults. It sees about 350 to 400 patients a month between both locations.
Bissell bought Johnson’s practice in December 2013. It previously was located in the Heights Plaza, but recently moved to a larger space along Freeport Road to accommodate more merchandise, patients and examination equipment.
“The practice keeps growing, so we needed the room, so we moved on,” Bissell said.
Bissell enjoys working on complex medical cases and has received advanced training in using specially designed telescopic glasses, which help people suffering from severe vision loss. He received that training from the International Academy of Low Vision Specialists, a group of optometrists who are specially trained in low vision.
“I carry low vision devices for patients who have always been told that nothing more can be done for them,” Bissell said. “We’re not talking somebody that goes, ‘Oh, if I take my glasses off I can’t see, but if I put my glasses on I can see.’ We’re talking people who’ve got macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, people with significant vision problems that, even with their glasses on, they really still have a lot of issues seeing.”
Johnson said he is proud of Bissell’s accomplishments. He believes he has taken the practice “to another level.”
“With the automation and the incredible new machines, they’re able to diagnose more things,” said Johnson, 65, of Ligonier. “He’s always on the cutting edge of things. It’s just great.”
The Harrison practice as a whole is estimated to have been around for about 75 years. Before Johnson, it belonged to another optometrist, Dr. Earl Clifford. Johnson took it over in 1980.
“I think the practice would date back with Dr. Clifford probably to post World War II, so 1945, something like that,” Johnson said. “To have that sort of coverage for that length of time with just three practitioners is pretty cool.”