A Career with No Boundaries

Monday, May 23, 2016

I’ve known from a young age I wanted to be a health care provider. I come from a family of nurses and doctors, and taking care of people seemed the perfect occupation for me.

However, I also had a love of travel. I remember meeting with my high school counselor my junior year and being told that being a doctor and traveling for work were not compatible. I felt like I was forced to make a life choice and figured if I chose to pursue optometry, at least I would be insanely wealthy and I could travel leisurely on endless vacations whenever I wanted—such were the thoughts of a high school student with a glimmer in her eye. So many inaccuracies in those thoughts.

Over time, I was determined to continue to pursue both of my dreams but was not aware how I would be able to merge these two passions. Through the amazing profession of optometry, I have found this opportunity.

Choosing to seize this opportunity has made my life so much more fulfilling. When entering optometry school, I believed once I had found a good job, I would more or less stay put in a small community and devote all my time and energy to setting up a private practice and a family. Today, I have that dream practice and the best family, but the extent of my optometric influence has no boundaries.

It all started in optometry school. I took the opportunity to travel to the AOA and AOSA conferences. As the location of the meeting rotates annually, I was able to go to places in the US I had only dreamed of. Being from a rural town in Indiana, child to parents of modest means, travel to big cities happened only via TV. My mother was an immigrant from Thailand and I remember vividly the first time I traveled there to meet my extended family. It was surreal. I wanted more of that feeling.

Through school and industry grants, travel for students is a reality and the value of the peer-to-peer networking, vendor relations, world class education, and exposure to US cities was invaluable. Additionally, many of our industry partners offer programs to schools that allow students to visit their campuses to see hands-on what they do. I took the opportunity to visit Alcon in Texas and Vistakon in Florida, as I am sure many of you did. I am forever grateful to the hospitality shown to me by these corporations and continue to demonstrate my loyalty today.

My most powerful influence in optometry school was my travel to Nicaragua with VOSH. Traveling to a remote destination and helping underserved individuals solidified my determination to pursue both my passions. Finally, choosing my internships based on location allowed me to travel to other cities I wanted to explore. The choice to pursue my love of travel has extended long after graduation.

As optometrists, we have many affiliations to choose from and whether we attend conferences and seek education locally or across the world, I feel we are very fortunate to have an infinite number of these opportunities. On any given month, you can find an optometric educational opportunity being offered at phenomenal locations! Additionally, through the work of organizations like VOSH, Optometry Giving Sight, and other faith-based organizations, we have the ability to travel the world to share our skills with those that wouldn’t otherwise have access, and I feel a personal responsibility to do just that. Obviously, there have been many years when my children were young that made such travel infeasible. During those years, I chose to financially support programs that aided such efforts by others docs and students. Someday soon, I intend to have my children join me on such a life-altering experience abroad.

I know many optometrists that never leave their home state. I love that we have the ability to be successful and are never “required” to leave to earn a living or seek a good education. But for me, as I see it, traveling our country and our world is an often underestimated amazing opportunity – a gift – our profession affords us, and I am grateful for support of my family and practice that allow me to continue to pursue both of my dreams.

How has optometry helped you accomplish your dreams?


Optometry Provides Ample Opportunity

Monday, May 16, 2016

Optometry has been a magnificently rewarding professional opportunity, fulfilling my entire life of dreams and goals. These include caring for my patients and my staff; community involvement; flexibility for family time; ongoing education; and wonderful comrades whom I am continually inspired by. I have had the opportunity to start my own practice and to be an employee in colleagues’ private practices.

Having the opportunity to help with vision screenings, mobile medical and eye clinics has been a perfect way to augment the private practice setting. Reaching people who may not have the means to take care of their eye care and vision needs is immensely rewarding. For some eye care professionals, this means traveling to other locations or countries to help people. What a rich opportunity. What a life-changing opportunity!

The opportunities for me have been rewarding. But the opportunities for my patients are just as important. I provide my patients opportunities of choice—educated choices following individualized recommendations I give them at the conclusion of their exams.

Also, my patients deserve and do receive the opportunity to ask questions; get printed information about any and all described entities, such as meibomian gland disease, computer vision syndrome, dry eye, astigmatism; and get reports to their school or employer (specific requests regarding ergonomics at their work place).

As I see it, optometry is full of opportunities for us all. Take advantage of as many as you can for a rewarding experience, and achieve your dreams and goals too.

What opportunities do you provide your patients? Reply in the comments section below for a chance to win during our May giveaway.


Sports Eyewear Marries Fashion and Function for a Winning Combination

Monday, May 9, 2016

Keith Smithson, ODThe launch of the Spring 2016 Nike Running Collection brings the topic of true “sports glasses” versus “sports goggles” as an easy conversation piece with many of my athletic patients who are seeking proper vision correction for their sport of choice. The cosmetic and functional upgrades are incredibly helpful in encouraging use of appropriate and safe eyewear for adults and children, alike. Marrying fashion and function is a winning combination.

Important factors I consider when fitting sports glasses are the weight and fit of the frame. Runners, for example, want a lightweight frame that fits snug to the head and won’t move around when running. Most sports glasses will be fit with single vision lenses, however, feel comfortable at least having the conversation of using progressive lenses for sports frames for your over-40 athletes. Many runners and cyclers will want to be able to look down at a watch, speedometer or some other wearable technology.

I also discuss photochromic lens technology for those looking to have their sports eyewear continue to be functional over longer term competition in varying light conditions, such as long distance running and golf. We discuss the pros and cons of function and ultimate safety using full frames versus rimless frame designs. Finally, I don’t underestimate the fact that the sports eyewear needs to look cool! I personally walk my patient out to the dispensary and get them started with a couple of frames I recommend for them, for the sport they play and regarding the factors above that were discussed in the exam room.  Never forget the power of the doctors to “prescribe,” not recommend, the necessary sports eyewear.

Having a conversation about UV protection is another essential point to include during any eye exam, especially when discussing eye health with athletes. Most athletes understand and appreciate the need for suncreen when competing in outdoor sports environments, however, they neglect ultraviolet protection for their eyes.

Prescription sun coverage has long been an option for most insurance plans. However, I’ve found plano sun coverage to be a little more elusive. I have long been an advocate for plano UV protection coverage as a part of vision insurance plans, to truly define the importance of UV protection in the scope of overall eye health. VSP has been an example of such a vision care plan that offers more than just discounts on eyewear. I’ve found many VSP plans have plano sun coverage for post-refractive surgery patients, as well as patients who have elected to have that benefit. This speaks to the importance of UV protection for the patients, and we as optometrists should echo this level of concern.

As optometrists and business owners we should always look to find opportunities to carve out a unique niche in our markets. One of those opportunities to differentiate your practice from a “big box store” is to offer specialty testing, training, or products for athletes. The appropriate use of sports eyewear can also help your bottom line by increasing second-pair sales.

Learn more about the technology and development behind the new Nike Running Collection.