I didn’t always know I wanted to be an optometrist. But I did know that I wanted a career where I could actively help others. My path to optometry was definitely not a straight line—I first explored genetics, genetic therapy, and even clinical psychology in palliative care. And while these are definitely careers that benefit patients tremendously, I wanted to actively help more than I believed I could do in these professions.
I literally stumbled into the optometry field when I took a job as a technician near the end of my undergraduate studies. I had never even had an eye exam before, but within the first week, I was in love with the eye. On my first day, I saw a patient with asteroid hyalosis. I had no idea what was going on with that patient’s eye but the doctor was very calm and told me the patient would be ok—and I was fascinated by the mysteries I encountered and observed on the other side of the lens.
What really won me over about optometry, though, was my interaction with a six-year-old boy. He was running around the clinic, knocking over chairs and being disruptive. He was really difficult, but it turned out he had uncorrected high myopia. When he returned for a follow-up after he got his first pair of glasses, he was a whole different character. He was just sitting in the waiting room reading his book and he was so polite in all his interactions. That transformation really made me see how our sight can impact all areas of our lives. Even more, I knew I had found what I wanted to do with my life. I started applying to optometry school and was accepted into the New England College of Optometry (NECO).
How I landed in corporate optometry
I’m originally from Toronto, Ontario and have dual citizenship in the U.S. because my mom is Puerto Rican. After optometry school, I matched for a pediatric residency at Duke University. I was really excited, but due to poor timing, I wasn’t able to apply for my North Carolina license for the August start date.
While I was working on a new game plan, I moved to Michigan where my parents and sister live along with my beautiful nieces and nephews. I still wanted to work closely with surgeons in ophthalmology, and I knew I wanted to help kids. To be honest, I never saw myself in corporate optometry. I called a friend of mine who works for National Vision. He was having a really positive experience and told me I should check it out. I was connected to a recruiter who found me a position within a 15 minute drive of my family. Sometimes little losses are just another opportunity to find a way to win.
My experience at National Vision
When I accepted the job, I thought working for National Vision would just be temporary. But over the last two years, I’ve seen so many different patients and have been exposed to so many different ocular disease conditions. In fact, all of my previous experiences are used in my role at National Vision—from working with kids and helping the community, to meeting my goals of becoming a better doctor.
I live in Flint, Michigan and I love that I can share my gifts with this community. There are many young students looking for guidance and leadership. I am fortunate to have an employer who is supportive of my commitment to mentorship. As a way of giving back, I welcome high school students to come into my practice and shadow me for a few hours to get a taste of what optometry is like. I make sure to talk to their parents, because I want them to know that they have many opportunities. I’m the first in my family to achieve a doctor of optometry degree. And because of that, I want to open the door for others. I believe in leading not just with words, but with actions. Seeing that someone has overcome challenges is much more valuable than just telling someone, “Hey, you should do that.”
I also take an active role in National Vision Cares, which is a program that empowers practices affiliated with all National Vision retail brands to support those in our local community. We are able to give vouchers for free eye exams and glasses to those who need them. If there is a child with vision issues, it’s a privilege to be able to treat them and offer them free glasses and frames through National Vision. Needless to say, I have taken great advantage of this program in conjunction with my philanthropic work.
Achieving career success with National Vision
Financially, I’ve been well-rewarded by National Vision in terms of compensation and benefits. They offer incentive programs, student loan forgiveness, ample opportunities to fulfill continuing education requirements, and even cover my optometry license renewal.
National Vision began supporting me even before I began working there. Licensing can be a complex process, but the practice manager and doctor provided information for me at every step. It’s incredible to me that I had a team behind me even before I started official employment. To this day, they assist with malpractice insurance and licensure renewal which is a huge help. From my first day of practicing with National Vision, I hit the ground running seeing patients, but the entire staff supported me along the way. The team and mentoring doctors were always willing to let me learn by doing, while also always ensuring we were adhering to best practices. National Vision also has a new graduate event for all young doctors who join the network where you are able to socialize with others who are just starting out in their careers. I was able to get a lot out of that valuable time together and form relationships with other doctors who may turn into colleagues as we all advance together.
How National Vision supports my growth as an optometrist
While working in a corporate environment and managing so many diverse patient cases, I have also had the privilege of working closely with other optometrists and ophthalmologists who share valuable clinical pearls. This collaborative care approach provides tremendous insight into how to provide optimal care for our patients. Working in this setting has exposed me to patients with rare disease as well as situations where urgent intervention is warranted, where the care and decision making I provide makes a real difference in that patient’s life. As a result, I have built up a lot of confidence when it comes to managing complex cases which was one of my core goals when I had been considering residency.
Having been with National Vision for two years, I am now starting to see patients come back. This is really rewarding to me, as I believe it is important to build strong relationships in our profession. Today, I have patients who ask if they can see me when they return. And I let them know I’ll be here and it will be wonderful to see them again. That feeling of giving back? That’s really important to me. At National Vision, I have that in so many ways while also receiving a tremendous amount in return.