OT to OD: My Journey from Hockey to Optometry

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Born and raised in Wayne Gretzky territory, aka Western Canada, it was no surprise that I played ice hockey as a youth. In fact, it’s what got me to the U.S., as I came here to play for Norwich University in Vermont on a hockey scholarship. After graduation, however, it was time to put the stick down and choose a profession. Private practice optometry proved to be the right fit for me.

I knew I wanted to pursue a career in healthcare, and private practice optometry stood out to me because of the doctor/patient relationships it affords. I witnessed this firsthand as I observed our team optometrist, who had been practicing for about 30 years, engage with every one of his patients as his friend. That’s what I wanted.

Immediately following graduation from the New York College of Optometry, my wife and I traded the hectic New York City life for the picturesque landscape of Reno, Nevada. Today, I share a successful practice with six ODs in Reno and am happy to report that my patients are my friends. In fact, patients frequently call and say things like, “I’m Dan’s buddy; can he fit me in at three?” It drives my staff crazy; I love it.

My relationship with VSP started at the beginning of my career, when I had literally five or six patients. VSP was the only one who was truly there for me, supporting me as I launched my practice. Other vendors pretended they had my back until they learned I had nothing yet to give them in return. For that reason, I’ve always stayed in close contact with VSP. Recently, our practice partnered with VSP Ventures as we look toward transitioning our practice ownership—with VSP, we know what the future can hold for our practice and we want to be a part of that.

I am optimistic about the future of private practice optometry. Corporate optometry is here; it’s been here; it’s going to stay here. But if we allow it to become the largest segment of the profession, it will profoundly change how our patients are treated. As I see it, we’re unique in private practice because of the strong doctor/patient relationships we develop. Once you get outside of the private practice setting and lose control of patient care, you naturally lose control of those relationships. If we keep that in mind as we adapt and grow, we’ll continue to solidify relationships with our patients and capture that uniqueness of the profession. That connection is what will sustain private practice optometry.

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