A 30-Year Journey Up the Block

| |

Thirty years ago, I opened my first optometric practice cold at 317 Orange Road in Montclair, New Jersey. It was 750 square feet, on a street that had never included an eye doctor, but my wife and I loved the community and knew it was where we wanted to raise our family.

Over the next ten years we grew our practice (and our family) and purchased the building next door—this one 1,500 square feet with three exam lanes instead of one. My wife Tanya Carter, OD, joined the practice, and we continued to grow, ultimately purchasing the 6,000-foot building at the end of the block in 2020. 

As we moved up the block, from 317 Orange Road to 321, and from one exam lane to seven, Dr. Carter and I became immersed in the community that had welcomed us from the beginning. We live four blocks from the practice, and I relish my daily walks to and from work, stopping to chat with my patients, neighbors, and friends. The community has become family, and patients have become friends. 

From the beginning, my vision was to create a practice like the one I wanted when I first graduated but wasn’t available to me. As the only Black optometry student in my graduating class, I sometimes felt alone, and it wasn’t until I attended my first National Optometric Association (NOA) conference in 1983 that I experienced the comradery and support of doctors from around the country. Today, as a practice owner and new president of the NOA, it’s my mission to provide that same support to students and new ODs who are like me when I first started out. 

We accomplish this in the practice by hiring members of our community and training them on the profession; hosting networking dinners at our home for students; and mentoring and hiring students and new graduates like our most recent hire, Dr. Sophia Johnson, recent president of the SUNY National Optometric Student Association (NOSA) that I started back in 1983 and former national president of NOSA. As part of the NOA, we support this community of new and emerging minority ODs through alliances with Black EyeCare Perspective, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and VSP Vision to improve and increase the representation of Black individuals and African Americans in the optometric industry.

VSP Vision has supported our practice and our mission from the beginning, not only through scholarships supporting minority students, but going back to 1993 when they helped patients find us, worked with us to stock our inventory with products our patients loved, and then provided financial assistance to help us expand the practice. Our relationships with our VSP reps have been invaluable as we navigate the business side of private practice, and being part of VSP Premier Edge has provided significant benefits to our patients and to the practice, which have supported our growth. 

Today, as I stroll up Orange Road, I am so proud to see where we started and where we are now. As Eye See It, we succeeded in building the practice I wanted to join back in 1986. Not only that, we laid the groundwork for future generations to further our mission to expand access to eye care so everyone feels represented and gets the care they deserve.

Check Premier Edge Status