Navigating your optometry career can sometimes feel impossible. We gathered some of the biggest names in the eyecare industry to discuss their career journeys and how they reached their positions of leadership in corporate optometry.
Erinn Morgan, Editor-in-Chief of Eyecare Business and Corporate Optometry Today, moderates a panel including:
- Dr. Matthew Geller, OD (Co-founder and CEO of CovalentCareers and NewGradOptometry)
- Dr. Michael Chernich, OD (Senior Director of Eye Care for Pearle Vision North America)
- Dr. Tracey Glendenning, OD (Director of Recruiting at MyEyeDr)
- Dr. Pamela Riedy, OD, MBA (Clinical Director of Services at National Vision)
- Dr. Maria Sampalis, OD (Founder of Corporate Optometry on FB)
- Dr. Carl Spear, OD (Senior Vice President of Eyecare for Luxottica North America)
Today’s practice model opportunities
Optometry offers such a spectacularly wide range of options for healthcare professionals to practice how they want to. Dr. Spear weighs in on the matter and says that “...I would encourage all of you to...look at your individual situation and think about ‘what is it that I want to do?’ ”
Ultimately, the decision should come down to a lifestyle decision. What are your goals for your career? Identifying these goals can help you find which one works for you. You have innumerable opportunities to find the practice modality that works for your career! Let’s dive into a few.
Owned vs. employed
At a high level, the two clearest ways to practice in eyecare are as an employee or as a practice owner. Each of these distinctions can be broken down into several subcategories. Starting from the top, let’s look at some of the pros and cons of each position.
As a practice owner, you’ll be responsible for administrative tasks, vendor relationships, equipment, hiring and training staff, and many more elements.
One route you can take toward ownership is subleasing a location. With a sublease opportunity, owners are afforded the opportunity to grow a private practice, but that practice is then affiliated with a reputable brand. Leasing in this way still grants you ownership, so your income is only limited by your ability to see and attract patients to the location.
Alternatively, you can take on a franchise location. “From an earning perspective, you can then collect from the exam fees, the glasses, and the contacts.” Dr. Chernich says. This model provides the most overall flexibility for someone interested in growing their own business!
As an employee, you have decreased financial risk which means your responsibility is fire and foremost direct patient care. Due to decreased financial risk, you are guaranteed income immediately because you have set pay hours and rates. Along with this, you are afforded things like benefits as well!
Employed opportunities can come in several places as well. One of which is with private practice groups like MyEyeDr. Working with a company like MyEyeDr. affords you the chance as an OD to practice in a private practice setting as a full W-2 employee, but you also have the support of a large company assisting the practice.
Candidates looking for an experience like this are able to communicate with MyEyeDr. directly and find positions that fit perfectly with their interests! When considering a new role, think about where you want to practice (geographically), what populations you’d like to work with, and what kind of opportunities (part-time, full-time, etc.) you’re open to.
Common myths about corporate optometry
“Quality of care is not as good in corporate optometry”
Quality has nothing to do with the location itself. “Quality is a direct function of the doctor delivering the care.” Dr. Spear says. Dr. Glendenning adds that one of the most important things about patient care, regardless of location, is ensuring that patients receive the care they need, even if that care isn’t in your practice. If you do not have the equipment required to treat them, you can always refer them out.
Patient retention and patient bases are dramatically different from private practice
Patients in a corporate setting are often drawn by the reputation of the brand that you are affiliated with. The important distinction when working in a corporate setting then is that you are working with a company that shares your values as a healthcare professional. You also recieve the benefits of the larger brand marketing and drawing in patients for you.
Dr. Riedy believes that there are three key things a patient is looking for, regardless of your setting or location that will improve retention:
- Having a positive experience with the doctor
- The location provides value
- The experience is convenient for them
In order to support these tenants, she strongly encourages being a “listening organization.” You can do this by serving the doctors and patients; find out what is working well and what isn’t. To take a step toward doing this, it helps if the organization has optometrists working directly at different levels of the organization so that they can continually provide that feedback in a way that is meaningful to their fellow practitioners.
Corporate optometrists work longer or more challenging hours than private practice ODs.
The adage “you get out what you put in” will be applicable no matter where you work. Dr. Geller refers to NewGradOptometry’s corporate optometry survey from 2018 which found an increase in ODs interested in maintaining their corporate positions. This, he says, is attributed to ODs practicing in corporate settings actually enjoying the flexibility and opportunities that come with their roles.
Dr. Sampalis also sees great opportunity in corporate positions for ODs interested in starting or raising a family. Folks in these roles can sometimes work 3-4 days per week and retain full-time status for benefits as well as a comfortable salary alongside a good deal of time with their families.
We can all work to restructure and redefine what is currently considered “corporate” optometry. Regardless of where you choose to practice, the most important thing is that you are practicing somewhere that feels right for you, your goals, and your life. Even in these settings, it’s important to remember that at any stage of your career journey you will remain as much of an optometrist as you would practicing in any other setting.
The most successful optometrists will be those that see themselves growing in leadership roles; they are those who take ownership of practice marketing, patient care, and patient relationships. It’s your career. Take charge of it and make it your own!