By Mike Baker
When Amardeep Bhogal took her first drive through Haliburton a little over a month ago, she felt right at home in the community.
Having recently joined the team at Haliburton Vision Care Centre, Bhogal, who moves to the area alongside her husband Kinderpal Singh, is looking forward to building her practice as an optometrist.
“My husband and I have always spent a lot of time up north. We tend to spend quite a bit of time in communities like Haliburton, so when the opportunity came up, we took it,” Bhogal told the Echo. “I find that smaller communities, the people appreciate you a little more, you can get connections going and feel like you’re providing a service in a more impactful way. That was our primary draw to Haliburton.”
Singh will be joining his wife in practice later this fall, as soon as his Ontario license comes through. Singh has been a trained optometrist in the UK since 2014, but had to complete an international bridging program at the University of Waterloo to be accredited here in Canada.
Bhogal has practiced in the GTA since 2014, having previously completed her optometry degree in Boston.
The pair take over the local practise vacated by Dr. Lorne Kay earlier this year, who retired after spending 16 years working in the community.
Speaking to the Echo, Kay said his favourite part of working in Haliburton “was definitely the people.” He spent three days every other week working in town after taking over Dr. David Hornfield’s practice back in 2004.
“I live in Toronto full-time, so Haliburton was a very nice getaway for me. It was a very pleasant place to spend time. I would consider it a working holiday each week that I came to town – I’d work during the day, seeing very friendly people, and then kick back and relax during the evening,” Kay said. “I really enjoyed the slower pace of a small town.”
In retirement, he plans to enjoy “a few cruise vacations” just as soon as the industry fully opens up again. Kay passed on his well wishes to Bhogal and Singh, telling the community they were in very good hands.
“Today’s graduates are much more extensively trained than what I had when I went to optometry school in the 1970s,” he said.
Bhogal’s first working day in town was June 7. She will be on-site every Monday and Friday, and will be adding more days in the fall once Singh receives his accreditation.
While she has taken on Kay’s clientele, Bhogal is also welcoming new patients. Speaking to the Echo, she went into detail about what optometrists do.
“We’re kind of that frontline eye care health professional. We assess vision, assess ocular health, assess binocular vision, need for glasses, need for surgeries and triage regular care in our clinic, or triage upwards for ophthalmologists,” Bhogal said. “We like to think of ourselves as being the primary eye care profession, and then bridging or connecting to other eye care professions if needed. We’re people’s first stop, essentially, for eye care.”
Having already spent a few weeks in town, Bhogal has quickly started to feel like she belongs. So much so that she and her husband are already planning to be here for the long haul.
“We really like it so far. We’re loving the scenery, it’s such a beautiful area, then in terms of people, everyone is really friendly, really chatty. People want to get to know you, which has been really cool. You don’t get that working in the city too much,” Bhogal said. “When we were looking where we wanted to be, we knew it had to be a smaller community, somewhere we could be for a long time. It looks like we found the perfect fit here in Haliburton.”