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Meet Dr. Kara Harbick, glaucoma specialist

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Dr. Kara Harbick, a glaucoma specialist with BayCare Clinic Eye Specialists, poses on a boat with her husband and son

Dr. Kara Harbick, a glaucoma specialist with BayCare Clinic Eye Specialists, has helped patients manage glaucoma and improve their vision for almost 20 years.

She also had that kind of long-range vision when it came to her career.

“I had an interest in pursuing a career in eye care since high school,” Harbick says. “I had a teacher whose daughter was an optometrist and I thought that seemed like a great profession.”

While earning her undergraduate degree from Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, Harbick worked in ophthalmology.

She sterilized instruments and assisted ophthalmologists at an eye surgery center. It was Harbick’s exposure to eye surgery at the center that set the foundation for her future.

“I decided that instead of becoming an optometrist, I thought it would be exciting to be an ophthalmologist where I could actually perform the surgery, so I applied to medical school,” Harbick says.

Harbick has been practicing with BayCare Clinic Eye Specialists since 2019. Her favorite part about being a glaucoma specialist is establishing relationships with her patients.

Harbick graduated from medical school at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria. She then completed a residency in ophthalmology and fellowship training in glaucoma at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami in Florida.

A close friendship with a glaucoma fellow during her residency helped Harbick move one step closer to becoming a glaucoma specialist.

“He was a few years older than I was and because we became friends, he introduced me to the other glaucoma doctors where I was training,” she says. “I started doing research in glaucoma as a first-year resident and it just kind of stuck. That’s why I ended up doing glaucoma, because I became friends with one of the fellows.”

Harbick worked 36-hour shifts during her residency, but she knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Bascom Palmer Eye Institute is considered one of the top eye hospitals in the nation.

Living in Florida had it benefits.

“I took advantage of the life in Miami,” Harbick says. “Two of my friends were also ophthalmology residents and we bought a boat together. It was cheap. Not in great shape, but it still ran. When we would have a rare day off, we would take the boat out and go water skiing and just kind of try to live the Miami life. I learned how to scuba dive when I was in Miami and we tried do some deep-sea fishing.”

After completing her fellowship, Harbick moved to Wisconsin with her husband and started a family. They have one son.

Outside of work, she enjoys helping her son advance through the Boy Scout ranks to earn his Eagle Scout merit – a long-standing tradition in the Harbick family.

Harbick and her husband and son often spend time at their lake house or enjoy outdoor activities in northern Wisconsin.

“Anything we can do outdoors, we do it together,” Harbick says. “My son got SCUBA certified in spring 2019, so we took a Boy Scout scuba diving trip down to the (Florida) Keys that year. You’ll find us fishing, hunting and we love to water ski.

“Last summer, we also did a kayaking trip down the Peshtigo River. We started at our lake house. We loaded up our three kayaks with our tents and sleeping bags. We had food for several days. Basically, we were going to live off of the land. We ended up going about 40 miles as we kayaked down the Peshtigo River and camped out on the riverbank. Adventures like that, that’s kind of what we like to do.”

Published: Friday, September 3, 2021