Scott Lee, OD, Serves Up the Lighter Side of Optometry With ‘Sight Gags Cartoons’

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If you are involved in the optical field in any way—student, optometrist, optician, supplier, retailer even journalist—you have definitely come across one of Dr. Scott Lee’s popular cartoons. While he is a full-time practitioner at Atlantis Eyecare, online, he is the witty brains behind Sight Gags Cartoons, a collection of humorous optometry doodles that depict the hilarious and sometimes eyebrow-raising side of the science.

An artist turned optometrist, Lee got his art degree from the University of California Irvine in 1998 and later on went to get his doctorate in optometry from the UC Berkeley School of Optometry in 2002. In 2004, he decided to combine his love for both fields and created Sight Gags Cartoons in an effort to share some of the quirky encounters he experienced with patients. “I had a funny moment that happened during an eye exam and I made a doodle about it on our patient schedule,” Lee stated. “The staff liked it so much that I started making Sight Gags Cartoons. On the way home that day, I came up with about 20 more ideas.”

While Sight Gags feature mostly optometry humor, they are created in such a way that the general public can understand even if they have ever stepped foot in an optometrist’s office. The cartoons feature characters such as Santa Claus, firemen, astronauts, the three wise monkeys and many more, in order to be relatable; their text is often punny combining our colloquial understanding of said characters with optometry-related terminology. Of course, because he is an optometrist, Dr. Lee also showcases the colorful characters of patients who show up in his chair and are immediately recognized by other optometrists around the world.


Since their conception in 2004, Sight Gags Cartoons have garnered so much attention that they have been published into two book collections. The first one, Sight Gags: Cartoons for Eye Doctors and Their Patients, came out in 2006 and the second book, Sight Gags: The Follow-Up Appointment was published this past March.

Because he was targeting different audiences with both collections, his creations also differed in content. “For all of the cartoons I drew leading up to my first book collection, I wanted to use humor that anyone could understand; doctors and patients alike,” he told VMail Weekend. “Then, I was approached about submitting them to the Review of Optometry and I took the opportunity to draw cartoons that were specific to people in the eyecare profession. So, the second book has a lot of jokes that are mainly directed at doctors and their staff.”

When it comes to creating the cartoons, Lee has an entire idea list that he’s added to over the years. He derives his inspiration from the different facets of his life—whether he is chatting with a patient at work, driving somewhere or just hanging out at home, Lee is constantly coming up with concepts. His wife—who even contributed two ideas to his latest book—is also always keen to help.

“My initial inspiration was Gary Larson of The Far Side. That’s why they are all single panel cartoons,” he explained. “Most of the time, ideas hit me when I’m driving or just hanging out at home. There are times I get an idea from a patient experience and I have to rush off to jot it down after the exam is done. My wife also knows I have an idea list and when she suggests a joke, she points out that I didn’t add it to the list. I have used a couple of her ideas, though.”

Though he has a running list, not every idea on that list comes to fruition. Some ideas remain there for years before he circles back, others are immediately thought of and created in the same day. The fastest one he’s created took about four hours from start to finish, Lee said. Posts that involve jokes about difficult refractions and non-contact tonometry are always a hit with his followers, he’s observed. “With each post, I try to touch upon a topic that people can relate to. It helps them know that other people are experiencing the same thing. It’s what makes combining my art with optometry feel relevant.”

  

Lee took Sight Gags Cartoons to social media in 2007 with a Facebook page in an effort to reach a larger audience. Since then, the page has amassed over 11,000 followers and has been liked by over 10,000 people. In October 2018, Dr. Lee brought Sight Gags to Instagram in order to reach people who didn’t use Facebook. He updates both pages on Fridays. “Both Instagram and Facebook are platforms that instantly connect with people all around the world. I can share my cartoons with readers in countries that otherwise would be totally inaccessible. I love the Insights feature that tells me all of the different places people are accessing my posts (Hello, Singapore!),” he said.

Though he is constantly thinking of ideas, setting the time aside to draw and post each cartoon can be challenging in-between juggling work and family. “Posting my content is made pretty easy by both Instagram and Facebook. The challenge is coming up with material each week. Drawing new cartoons while working full-time definitely requires me to manage my time at home, balancing art and family,” Lee said.

“I have enough material to post for 2 to 3 years without repeating a cartoon and even then, changing the comment that goes with the post can keep it feeling new. Being a full-time practitioner does help in giving me new things to comment on or draw about.”

 
 

Judging by his social media pages, though, it seems Dr. Lee has found the perfect balance for it all. Though he is not a professional artist, the amount of comments and feedback he gets from his followers has been rewarding for Lee. Occasionally, if a patient does something that reminds him of one of his drawings, he’ll share it with them and in some instances, he’s found that the patient saw the drawing on the internet prior to their appointment.

He hopes that whoever follows his pages finds some comic relief in his cartoons. “Everyone has moments in their profession that can be frustrating or baffling,” he explained. “I just want to show them that they’re not alone and they can laugh about it—that’s what makes it all worth it.” Though Sight Gags started merely as a drawing in his practice, Lee wants people to understand that though it’s a hobby, Sight Gags Cartoons is still something that he is equally passionate about. “I’ve always thought that people need a passion outside of their work to keep life fresh, interesting, and stimulating. Whether that be art, music, fitness or family, we all need something that shows us that work isn’t everything. In my case, Sight Gags gives me the best of both worlds.”