What is your current mode of optometry practice?
I am a solo practitioner in a private practice specializing in pediatrics and custom contact lenses on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
Describe your career path from graduation to where you are today.
Like many young optometrists, I left school with hope, a degree, and a rather negative number in my bank account, so I took as many jobs as I could for two reasons. First, I needed money rather desperately. Second, I wanted to garner as much experience as possible before taking the plunge and opening a practice of my own. I filled in here and there; worked one day a week for a professor who had a peds and VT practice in the suburbs; worked a couple of days in a private practice which the doctor wanted to sell; a few more days in a boutique optical chain as an independent contractor; a few nights at an ophthalmology practice in the city; sometimes slept a night or two… Soon I found that VT was not my cup of tea, mainly after an incident where I was encouraging a very reluctant ten year old boy to do his convergence training. As I was patting his shoulder and telling him he was doing a good job, he blurted out, “Bad touch!” His mom, who thankfully was in the room, turned beet red and said, “No, Johny! That’s not what the teacher at school meant when she told you to report child molesters!”
The OD who wanted me to buy her practice was asking for a sum I could neither beg nor borrow nor could justify by looking at the practice’s books. The ophthalmologist I worked with was great but sat me down one day and said, “Viola, you are a really good doctor and there can only be one really good doctor in this office. Go out on your own.” We refer back to each other to this day but at that time, I could not yet afford to take his excellent advice.
That left the optical. I continued there for the next 13 years, building my reputation and growing their practice. I got married, had two kids, bought an apartment, paid some loans, saved some cash. Life was simple. One day, the owner sold to a corporation. They asked me to see more patients per hour, stop seeing kids because they took too much time and didn’t spend enough money on glasses… I knew the end had come. I gave notice, found a small space to rent and never looked back. 11 years later I am ready to move again. This time because my practice is thriving and needs more space and because it is time to step up and buy the real estate in which I work. SO back to loans...
What made you decide to specialize in pediatrics?
My grandmother was a pediatrician. I have always loved kids and babies. They never lie (at least not to me). They are always happy. They can be made to giggle even in the face of catastrophe. But really, because I love to play with puppets and tell stories.
What do you love about examining children?
What is the hardest thing about seeing kids?
Finishing the exam and realizing you now have to deal with their parents.
What made you decide to come up with the "I am a Doctor Of Optometry" video?
The recent onslaught of disruptive technology and online marketing of not only materials but services has made me realize that the profession is at a crossroads. We can either continue to whine to each other on Facebook or take matters into our own hands and present a positive, professional image to the public and educate them about the value of what we do.
What do you do for fun outside of Optometry?
Oh so many things… where to start?! I love to cook, ski, read, travel, volunteer on boards of non-profits, help my parents put together art installations, write, produce concerts, throw wild parties, dabble in local politics… sleep is highly overrated.
Any advice for a young optometrist looking to specialize in pediatrics?
Get as much experience as you can, wherever you can get it. Send a report to the pediatrician every single time you see a kid and thank them for allowing you to participate in the care of the adorable monster. Learn to use puppets and throw your voice. I could tell you more but then I’d have to kill you...