ELDERSBURG — Many people would consider working eight hours each day in a 10-by-20-foot darkened room cruel and unusual punishment.
Dr. Robert M. Dobrusin calls it a day's work.
The 44-year-old optometrist examines eyes daily and prescribes glasses or contact lenses from his shop, Eldersburg Optical.
He saidhis career combines vision and perception. After earning a bachelor's degree in psychology at the University of New York, he entered the Pennsylvania College of Optometry, graduating in 1973.
"Our bag isprescribing and designing glasses and contacts," he said, pointing to displays with hundreds of frames. "We can show patients everything that's on the market, then they can decide."
In an optical lab, --the newest addition to his shop in Eldersburg Plaza -- customers canwait about an hour and watch the staff make the glasses they have selected.
"It's $15 to watch and $20 to help," Dobrusin said with a smile.
The lab is one of many innovations the doctor has installedto attract customers away from eye-wear chains, located in many shopping malls.
He also has a soundproof room for two audiologists on the staff and a computer to test peripheral vision.
"We try to test everyone over 40 with this screening device," he said. "We have saved several lives through this test, because most people aren't aware of peripheral problems."
He calls himself a "gatekeeper," who often detects other physical problems and refers patients to appropriate specialists.
Patients with poor vision don't have to fret about the inability to see how they look in new glasses. They are videotaped while modeling several pairs. Then, they can view the new looks in private and select their favorite.
Educational films, charts and models of the eye are also available. Patients leave with an understanding of what their vision problems are, the doctor said.
He also said he tries to match each patient with the most suitable glasses.
"We look at posture, we ask about jobs and hobbies," he said. "We evenhave a mock rifle for hunters, so they can show us just what they need."
Even the youngest patients have a choice of about 100 frames,some with tiny Disney characters at the corner of the lenses. A bulletin board in the children's corner of the shop is filled with photosof children proudly sporting glasses.
Parents often are concernedthat fidget ing small children can't get a thorough examination. Dobrusin solved that problem with a retinoscope and a cartoon.
"I tell them to look straight ahead at the Flintstones film while I shine the scope light into their eyes," he said. "They don't have to say a word."
The optometrist has been building his business since he opened his practice in a house on Liberty Road 16 years ago.
"There was nothing here then," he said. "A friend took me on a drive along back roads to prove people actually had homes in the area."
Since 1976, the doctor has been "in" for generations of families. He estimateshe has prescribed about 9,500 pairs of glasses.
By 1983, the business had outgrown its old quarters and moved to Eldersburg Plaza. Several renovations later, it now fills about 2,000 square feet in the shopping center and enjoys reciprocal arrangements with several of itsneighbors.
"George's provides baby-sitting for our shoppers, too," he said. "Our younger patients often visit the candy store with a sticker for a free ice cream."