Michael Spinell, OD '70

Dr. SpinellWhy did you choose your particular profession and why did you choose Salus/PCO?

I chose optometry because I never forgot the feeling of what it was like seeing trees with leaves on them and not just a green blur. The fact that our profession was evolving and that I was going to be on staff at PCO was a real perk. I chose Salus/PCO because it was reputed to have the best clinical experience – a fact that hasn’t changed over the years.

What are some of your favorite memories from Salus/PCO?

I was in professional school during the Vietnam era. I was from New York so I had a New York draft board. PCO had not yet notified all of the various state draft boards that we were physically present in professional school so would have a four year deferment. At the time, students wore tie and jackets to class, had assigned seats so your three allotted absences could be tracked.

One of our professors was Dr. Jake Nevyas, a very short stocky chemistry teacher who probably was warmer than he perpetrated. My very first week at school I got my draft notice from New York and had to go to NYC for my pre-induction physical.

Dr. Micahel Spinell 1970s
One of the deans at PCO suggested that I call them and get the physical transferred to Philadelphia. Knowing the military as he did, he figured it would take weeks to months and by then PCO would have sent out everyone’s proper paperwork.

Well, it took the army hours, not weeks to transfer my physical to Philadelphia which I naturally attended. The next day I tried explaining to Dr. Nevyas why I had used up one of my cherished three absences, but he didn’t care. In fact, he jumped in the air screaming: “but you weren’t here, you were not here......! I never convinced him that if I didn’t attend my physical I would not have to worry about his chemistry class any more.  

Michael Spinell and StudentAmong my memories of PCO, I remember meeting my future colleague, Dr. Jeffrey Nyman for the first time. I had been told by then dean [Jerald] Strickland that I would be working in the new module 3, a suite at The Eye Institute since I was “the only one who could keep up with him.” I had absolutely no idea what this meant!

The first time a few of us met Jeff, he was doing indirect ophthalmoscopy on a patient wearing his miner’s cap and speaking a language we surely didn’t know. I never would have believed that someday I could talk to him about a peripheral retinal problem, and in the middle of his sentence he would switch to talking about a shot Julius Irving made in a basketball game the night before, and then without a breath continue talking about the retina –and I would be able to follow him!

After Salus/PCO, where do/did you practice, how long?

After I attended PCO, I learned about the then “new” soft hydrophilic lenses from Dr. Harold Moss in Delaware. I then returned to PCO as a faculty member for 40 years and also was in private practice for 35 years.