Columbia optometrist Michael Jennings Jr. of Jennings Eye Associates says he had a valuable, positive relationship with the military.
Originally from the Oklahoma City area, Jennings studied and received his optometry degree at Northeastern State University. Soon after graduating in 1998, he enlisted in the Army National Guard Reserves.
A future in the service had always been part of his plan.
“My dad was in the military. I had other family members in the military, and I kind of grew up just always wanting to do that,” he said. “(It was) kind of like a patriotic duty I felt at the time.”
He joined a Columbia unit where he served at a hospital backfill team in Fort Leonard Wood near Rolla until 2003.
Enlisting in the Army Reserves allowed him to begin his private practice in Columbia after moving here in 2003. He could still attend monthly drills and fulfill his Army commitments.
Then Jennings was called to active duty for most of 2005. He was assigned to Fort Bragg in North Carolina, where for three months he served as an optometrist for outgoing soldiers. During this time, he had another optometrist work for him at his practice until he returned from active duty.
“I saw National Guard troops come through that were about to deploy and make sure they were ready as part of the bigger mission,” he said. Jennings was then transferred to Camp Shelby in Mississippi, where he continued to help with checkups for National Guard troops.
In 2006, he returned to Columbia and restarted his private practice before retiring from the Army in 2007.
Jennings Eye Associates specializes in optometric services, including vision examinations and diagnoses of various eye conditions and treatments. Jennings said the Army taught him a wide set of skills that he could transfer seamlessly into his practice.
“A sense of helping your fellow soldiers out when you can, that translates over to business as well,” he said. “You’re not helping your soldiers out but helping out your staff and customers/patients.”
Those who work with Jennings and those who are his patients say they see that strategy in action. His wife, Ritchie, works closely with him as a nurse at Jennings Eye Associates and has since 2003.
“His military experience has instilled in him many commendable traits. He is dependable, accountable, hardworking and able to make quick and accurate decisions to treat patients and manage his practice effectively,” she said.
He said he has developed a comfortable and trusting relationship with his patients.
Google reviews of Jennings Eye Associates commend his thoroughness and work ethic. Longtime patient Paula Danner described her recent appointment at Jennings Eye Associates this way:
“A visit to this office is always a good experience. Dr. Jennings takes time and is thorough,” she said.
Jennings said he still serves troops as a volunteer.
“Some weekends we go and do health care events to make sure the National Guardsmen and reservists have their eyes taken care of,” he said. “I try to help when I can.”