NEW LEXINGTON — Having passion for your community is something most can relate to. For one optometrist, it means giving back to the community and providing professional service for over 40 years.
Robert Dittoe was born and raised in the Village of Somerset in Perry County. According to his son, Mike Dittoe, their family history goes far back in terms of having roots in the area.
While Robert now lives in the City of Lancaster, his optometrist practice has been centered in the Village of New Lexington for the past 40 years. He first began his eye care practice in 1980.
Robert went to Miami University located in Oxford, Ohio, where he completed his undergraduate work in the late 1970s. He went on to graduate from The Ohio State University College of Optometry in 1980 for his graduate school work.
While he was attending OSU, he conducted several research studies. According to his son, one of his biggest accomplishments was being a part of a research study dealing with contact lenses.
“I wasn’t alive in 1980 so I don’t know how many people wore contact lenses back then,” Mike told The Perry County Tribune.
His work in the OSU study focussed on new materials for contact lenses of which Bausch and Lomb, one of the oldest eve care companies in the country, gave him an award for his work in the study.
After graduating from OSU, Dittoe made his way back to New Lexington and began taking his professional optometry skills to his native county. He recently celebrated his 40 years of service in the community on Aug 11.
As of now, Dittoe has one of the only optometrist practices in the county, according to his son. While also growing up in Perry County, Mike said that his father was always reinforcing how important it is to give back to your hometown.
“My entire life growing up, my dad was always telling us how important it was to give back to the community… it is just one of the staples he has always taught my brother and sister and certainly his grandkids now,” Mike said.
With Robert’s home-centric ideology, he has been able to be a part of several other organizations of which seek to help others in Perry County. He is a former president of the American Cancer Society for Perry County, past president for the New Lexington Jaycees and a board member for the Perry County Chamber of Commerce.
For the entire time he has been in his practice, Robert has been a member of the Optometric Association and the American Optometric Association.
In 2017, the Ohio Optometric Association awarded Robert the Key Optometrist of the Year for the entire State of Ohio for all his many donations as well as the entirety of his practice.
“Even though he lives in Lancaster, he is a Perry County guy through and through,” Mike commented. “He is proud of his roots, proud of his work that he does at his practice and is proud to be a staple in the community.”
Mike added that both his brother, Tyler, and his sister, Emily, along with all their children are proud of the work and effort Robert puts forth in the community. Robert has five grandchildren; one from Emily and four from Mike.
Mike shared that his father made it a point to give back to his hometown roots teaching that to his children. Many have pondered the idea to Robert on how he could expand his practice to the City of Columbus, but according to Mike, it was never really something he wanted to do.
“He really cares about the people of Perry County and he really cares about improving the quality of life for those people in the county,” Mike explained. “That's why he stayed there and he’ll continue to be there.”
Compared to Columbus, healthcare needs can sometimes be hard to find or have access to for some. Robert has set the example when it comes to providing some much needed health services at a local level.
“As more jobs come in… I think for him, having the different types of medical professions locally and readily available to people in the community is vitally important,” Mike said.
According to Mike, his father knows everything about his patients when they come in for a visit. It's no secret that 40 years in the community can assist in detailing what some patients are going through as well as to connect with them on a personal level.
“He just genuinely cares and I think that can be lost in big city professionals,” Mike commented. “We love our dad. All of us are so proud of him and were thankful he has instilled some of the great lessons of giving back to the community in each one of us.”
“I was born and raised in Perry County, so this will always be home to me,” Robert told The Perry County Tribune. “I had offers to practice elsewhere, but something always pulled me back here. People are down to earth and genuine. The community is very close knit and like family to me. I can’t think of a better place to practice, and I tell my associate doctors that all the time.”