By Hayley M. Cook
WILLIAMSON - Matewan High School and Marshall University alumnus Dr. Shawn Sammons is the new optometrist at Wilson Eye Care Associates in Williamson, but according to fellow optometrist and owner of the establishment, Dr. Steve Wilson, he has a vision all his own beyond just eye care.
“Shawn is a very young, bright superstar and he intends on creating a vision for our area,” said Wilson said. “He is going to thrive here because he is a strong leader and the vision he has for his life is much bigger than eye care. He wants to truly contribute to this community. There are so many people who don’t see an opportunity in this area, but Shawn has proven that isn’t the case.”
Sammons received his Doctor of Optometry degree this year from Indiana University, but his decision to work in the field came many years ago as a young boy on Wilson’s exam chair.
“I knew definitively when I was 11 or 12,” he said of his decision to become an eye doctor. “I had trouble with my eyes and couldn’t see very well, so you know, you go and get glasses. Then everything is clear, the mountains and the trees. That made an impact on me at a very young age, so I created a checklist in my mind of everything I wanted to do, and through the years I have managed to check everything on that list off.”
Sammons, who grew up in the Matewan area, has lived in both Huntington, West Virginia, and Indiana, and says being away from home was an experience that helped shape him but was sometimes difficult.
“There were good and bad things about being away from home,” he said. “It was different, and I liked that it was different. I was far enough away that I couldn’t come home whenever I wanted, so I had to plan it, and it was kind of tough. I am close with my family, and being that far away from them was the worst part of it.”
According to the American Optometric Association’s website, the field of optometry is in high demand and a degree could take most young doctors anywhere in the country. Sammons made it clear that, although he was aware he could go other places, he wanted to come back to Mingo County.
“This area truly taught me the value of hard work. My dad works in the coal mines and my mom was a high school guidance counselor, so nothing has been handed to me. All of this comes from hard work, from my parents and myself. I learned and was inspired by the fact that nothing worthwhile in life would be easy or free.”
Sammons noted that the trials he has faced in achieving his goals only pushed him to strive harder, saying, “That just really gave me some drive to prove I can do it. A lot of people think that because of where we’re from that we can’t be whatever we choose to be. I know that couldn’t be further from the truth. Only hard-working, proud people got me where I am today.”
Sammons, who says he has a lot of Mountain State pride, said he has heard about the “Turn This Town Around” campaign in Matewan, which promises to better the town and improve tourism.
“I think that’s great! Matewan has so much history, and everywhere I’ve gone people have heard of the Hatfields and McCoys. They know the history,” he said. “There are ways that the community can capitalize on that and bring tourism here. I think tourism can be a larger part of our community, and people will want to come here to experience the trails and history.”
Sammons’ goal is to inspire those who are younger than he is who truly want to make a difference and who don’t realize the potential they have because of (not in spite of) their Southern West Virginia roots.
“The people who inspired me are my grandparents, parents, and Steve (Wilson), too. Steve played a big part in being a role model for me because he’s kind of set the bar pretty high for me,” Sammons said. “All of these people are hardworking, and I look forward to being a role model in that same capacity for people who are younger than myself.”
Shawn not only has professional success to look forward to, but a wedding that is set for June of next year. His fiance, Laura Suppa, is also an optometrist who works in the Charleston area.