Kirks keeps sights on family
Ophthalmologists (from left) Tyler, Scott and Kent Kirk discuss issues in front of a picture of Kirk Eye Center founder Harold Kirk. | Contributed photo
Updated: October 28, 2012 6:21AM
RIVER FOREST — Scott Kirk had ever-so-fleeting thoughts of not following in the family business.
He went to medical school and planned to be an ophthalmologist like his father Harold, a longtime eye professional in Oak Park. However, as a third-year medical student, Scott’s first rotation was in neurology and he was convinced that was the profession for him.
“I called and told my dad I was going to be a neurosurgeon,” Scott said. “After a big pause, he said, ‘There is no way you are going to do that. You’re crazy.’”
His father explained the hours and lack of family life Scott would face as a neurosurgeon, that he would be married to the field. Scott was soon back on the ophthalmology track.
“For 50 years, my dad was able to keep a balance with family. He was involved, he was always there,” Scott said. “As an ophthalmologist, you can keep that balance. There are not that many emergencies.”
Family has always been paramount in the Kirk family business. Scott’s son, Tyler, is the third-generation Kirk ophthalmologist – and there are more on the way. The Kirk name has been synonymous with eye care in the Oak Park and River Forest area for 57 years now.
Harold Kirk started the practice at Lake Street and Oak Park Avenue in 1955. Scott joined the practice in 1982. His brother, Kent, followed suit three years later. Their other brother, Todd, has an ophthalmology practice in Palos Heights. Their sister, Ann Kirk Williams and her husband, Doug, are ophthalmologists in Hammond, Ind.
Scott’s other children are all studying medicine and likely on the path to ophthalmology. Allison Kirk Babiuch is a third-year resident at Louisiana State University, Carter is an intern at West Suburban Hospital and will be a resident next year at the University of Alabama; and Spencer is a third-year medical student at Rush University Medical Center.
Tyler, the latest Kirk in the ophthalmology profession, said he never talked about joining the family business. After being with his dad and uncle at the family’s River Forest clinic on a continual basis, he knew that was the place for him.
“After spending days with my dad and family here,” Tyler said inside the Kirk Eye Center, which has stood on Lake Street in River Forest since 1986, “no other work was going to compare.”
Tyler saw the family balance his grandfather had talked to his dad about so many years earlier. Scott was Tyler’s T-ball coach and running partner, and was involved with all his children’s activities.
“I saw how important the family relationship was,” Tyler said. “I had an awesome childhood.”
Spending so much time with family can have its difficulties. Scott remembers not just working with his dad, but moving in with him for three months while Scott and his wife had a house built. Not only did the tight quarters wear on nerves, but Scott was a young, eager professional.
“I came in and was going to build the practice because he couldn’t figure it all out,” Scott sheepishly admits. “I was ready to build the practice with his money. I had the cart wagon before the horse.
“In some cases, it took two years instead of three months to get things done.”
It is not just the time he spent with his dad or the time he gets to spend with his son every day that excites Scott Kirk. He also gets to work with his best friend, his brother Kent. The two are inseparable, golfing together, spending time at the country club together, and even working out together.
“We have fun together,” Kent Kirk said.
“It becomes difficult because we want to take vacations together,” Tyler said.
Tyler said it is neat to open the files of longtime patients and see notes handwritten by his grandfather. Service, he said, is what sets the Kirk Eye Center apart from others and has kept patients returning for decades.
“We are going to do what’s right for the patient,” Tyler said.