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A Pathway to Success: My Journey from Optometry School Straight to Private Practice
I chose optometry as my field of study because it ties together everything I care about. I knew I wanted to help people and I love the idea of instant gratification—someone comes in who cannot see very well and leaves seeing significantly better. I also loved the thought of owning my own practice down the road and knew I could achieve that with private practice optometry.
One of the most important things I learned in optometry school was to believe in myself. At first, I was so focused on getting the perfect GPA that I did not see the bigger picture of what the profession is about. Optometry is so much more than giving that perfect academic answer. It is about caring for the patient and meeting the person where they are. Once I made that realization, I stopped being so critical of myself and began to believe that I could be successful in this career.
Another important lesson I learned in optometry school was that it was okay to rely on my peers—for moral support and to help navigate the academics. Optometry school is difficult, if not impossible, to get through alone, and having the support of your fellow students is invaluable.
One way I built my network of fellow students was by attending industry conferences, funded primarily by grants from VSP Global. At those conferences, I met students from optometry schools across the country and Canada, and we became each other’s support throughout our education. We navigated our struggles together and were able to lean on each other for help with our courses.
I also had the opportunity at those conferences to network with practicing ODs and professionals in the field. Not only did I make connections with people who might be hiring down the road, but I received such inspiration from ODs sharing their stories about how they have helped patients, even saved their lives. At these conferences, you are surrounded by people who are passionate about optometry and helping their patients. It is something you will not find anywhere else—certainly not in the classroom where you are learning the ins and outs of cells and the eyes—and I am grateful to VSP for providing the financial support that made it possible for me and others to attend.
Providing grants to attend conferences was just one way VSP supported me during my education and continues to support optometry school students. They also organized numerous lunch-and-learns and dinners at the school with speakers who talked about the profession and the different opportunities available. And, most important to me as president of my school’s private practice club, was VSP’s support of these clubs and the Student Optometric Leadership Network (SOLN), an organization that brings the nation’s private practice clubs together.
As one of the largest sponsors of SOLN, VSP helps to offset travel costs so two students from every school can attend the SOLN annual conference. There, attendees gain inspiration and knowledge about private practice optometry, which they bring back and share with the other members of the club. VSP’s support of the private practice clubs and their desire to make all the clubs the best they can be really illustrates their commitment to students and private practice in general.
When I started my job search, VSP was there again to support me. I had exhausted my resources, finding no luck with LinkedIn, online optometry job sites, and even delivering resumes in person. Because I was passionate about getting into a private practice right after graduation, I lacked the residency experience many practices required. However, I felt I had so many other qualities that would make me an asset to the right practice. And, through the VSP Global Premier Pathways program, I found an advocate who agreed. The application process was seamless, only taking about ten minutes, and soon I was talking to a Pathways representative who delved deeper into my strengths and what I was looking for. Due to her connections with a wide network of hiring private practices, she was quickly able to find a match in my target location, the Twin Cities in Minnesota. That practice also wanted residency experience, but the Pathways representative was able to convince them that I had the passion and personality they needed. Soon, I was on a plane to the interview, and shortly after received an offer for my dream job at the Eye Care Center in Fridley, MN. Through this process with Premier Pathways, I got that interview that I could not get on my own and I could not be happier with the results.
As I see it, the most fulfilling career is one that ties your passions together, and that you will enjoy now and 50 years down the road. With all its modalities, private practice optometry offers so much flexibility to accommodate your interests and lifestyle as they change throughout your career. I am so happy I chose this profession and grateful to the partners who helped me to get where I am today—in my dream job, doing what I love.
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