An Eye For Flavor

Everyone is passionate about something. Some say it’s their family, some a career and others their hobby. Few can say they are passionate about all of those things and are able to help and minister to others in the process, but Saline County resident Dr. Justin Franks is one of those people.

After graduating from Southern College of Optometry, Dr. Franks began practicing optometry in 2003 with the last three years spent serving patients at Eyecare Center of Saline County in Bryant. In just his 3rd year of practice in this area, Dr. Franks was voted Optometrist of the year and best of the best in Saline County by his patients.

Dr. Franks’ success is due in part to the long-term relationships he and his staff work to build with the patients, as well as a specialized approach to optometry services for children. Eyecare Center of Saline County is one of only a handful of clinics in Arkansas offering vision therapy and rehab. This treatment consists of activities individually prescribed and monitored by Dr. Franks to develop visual skills and processing. Research has demonstrated that vision therapy and rehab can be effective for treating patients with significant eye disorders such as Amblyopia (poorly developed vision), commonly known as ‘Lazy Eye’, Strabismus (misalignment of the eyes), Oculomotor Dysfunctions (eye movement disorders), Accommodative Disorders (focusing problems), and Visual information processing disorders including visual-motor integration with other sensory modalties.

According to Dr. Franks, signs and symptoms of these conditions are often noticed in childhood by parents, pediatricians, therapists, and teachers. “Many kids have difficulty in school including reversing letters, tracking, reading or processing. Many times it is a result of one or more of these conditions and can be treated effectively.”

Although Dr. Franks provides optometry services for the entire family, his love for children influenced his decision to offer this specialized optometric treatment for the young. “I love kids. I feel like I am a big kid, so I guess I can relate to them well. I feel like we make kids feel at ease and very comfortable, so it is a pleasurable experience for not only them but their parents as well. Also, there was a huge need for this kind of treatment, so it was just a natural fit.”

Because Dr. Franks and his staff are accustomed to seeing so many children, they know how to work with little patients who are often scared about visiting the doctor. “I have been told that I have a lot of energy and I am very positive and upbeat. Kids seem to respond favorably to these traits. Children need to feel comfortable and have fun and we do a good job of making sure that happens.”

In addition to focusing on children in his clinic, Dr. Franks also volunteers for the Infant SEE program, which provides free eye exams for infants between 6-12 months old. He also conducts free vision screenings at many local schools and daycares and has provided many lectures about ocular health. In 2013 Dr. Franks also founded Vision of Hope, which provides free eye care and eyewear to those in need. “I really do love what I do and I get so much joy out of helping people with their eye care needs. I am very passionate about it.”

Dr. Franks’ professional life is dedicated to helping others and he’s found a way to help those in need through a passion in his personal life as well. In 2003 Dr. Franks and a host of family members formed a grill competition team to compete in the World Championship Steak Cook-Off. The Beech Creek Farms team, named after a cotton and cattle farm his grandfather founded in 1949, won numerous awards that first year but it wasn’t until 2006 that the group perfected their recipe and won the World Championship Steak Cook-Off, beating around 50 competitors. “Our team received the Governor’s Cup presented by Governor Beebe and most importantly, we got bragging rights!”

The World Championship Steak Cook-Off has been featured on the Food Network in 2003, 2006 and most recently, 2013. In 2006–the year Beech Creek Farms brought home the trophy–Food Network cameras were rolling to capture a special moment in the lives of Dr. Franks and his wife Michelle. “My wife and I made the announcement that we were expecting our 2nd child as we were preparing to compete in 2006. The Food Network had a crew there and they became part of ‘the moment’. They were essentially part of our family that weekend.” In 2013, The Travel Channel featured a Grills Gone Wilder episode grill and the Beech Creek Farms team then had the opportunity to cook on the largest charcoal grill in the world.

In 2010, Dr. Franks began participating in BBQ competitions with a group of friends on a team they call Mighty Fine Swine BBQ. “Each of us already loved to smoke meats and decided to enter a contest and did well, so we ran with it. We have won numerous awards and competed against some of the top pit masters in the nation. The categories we competed in included, ribs, pork, brisket, and chicken. Each team member has been able to give back with the skills and recipes we honed while competing by barbequing for churches, schools and benefits for tornado victims.”

Through proceeds generated from Dr. Franks’ steak grilling and BBQ skills, he and his teammates have been able to help raise over $200,000 for CARTI, community hospitals, tornado relief efforts and churches, just to name a few. “In a nutshell, grilling has been a really cool hobby that has allowed my family, friends and me to be a part of some really neat things. We all have been able to use this talent to benefit others and have been able to raise a tremendous amount of money for worthy causes. I feel I have been able to use this hobby as a ministry as well, which is very gratifying.”