2023 Best Practices Honorees share how they create opportunities for young ODs.
Between making the move from student to doctor, figuring out how to apply what was learned in school to the workforce, and acclimating to a new practice, entering the optometric profession as a recent graduate can be an intimidating process.
Three of CooperVision’s 2023 Best Practices honorees share how they help ease this transition by creating opportunities for young optometrists to succeed.
How do you help new graduates start their career out on the right foot?
Dr. Boucher: Following the shutdowns due to the pandemic, optometry students had far fewer patient encounters and contact lens fits than ever before. I felt it a priority to give students this experience, so our practice created its own clinic dedicated to training 90 new graduates annually. During this clinic, students learn more about selecting and fitting toric, multifocal and toric multifocal contact lenses and become MiSight 1 day certified.
Dr. Lyerly: Similar to Dr. Boucher, we became hyper-focused on providing students who couldn’t get in-person experience during the pandemic with as many opportunities as possible, including work study and job shadowing. This is a practice that has continued into present day. We’re currently applying to be an externship site for students attending the Southern College of Optometry.
Dr. Hellerstein: As part of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD), I created the Tour de Optometry program. The program pays for COVD board members to visit every school of optometry across the U.S. and Canada to share the message about practicing vision therapy. The tour includes educational lectures, observations, and discussions with faculty members.
Who or what inspired you to invest in creating opportunities for young ODs?
Dr. Hellerstein: I’ve always been an educator at heart. I am currently an adjunct faculty member at five optometry schools and a past president of the COVD. Through this work, I’ve found a passion for educating students and watching young ODs experience “a-ha!” moments.
Dr. Lyerly: I host a podcast with Dr. Darryl Glover called Defocus Media. Between that and my active presence on social media, I am exposed to a lot of feedback from younger ODs. Hearing directly from this audience made me want to work more closely with them to provide the opportunities they deserve to jumpstart their career.
Dr. Boucher: After about six or so years practicing in the lane, I was given the opportunity to mentor new graduates at National Vision. I’d work with anywhere from 15 to 20 young doctors and “show them the ropes.” I found I really loved working with young ODs and teaching them how to work more effectively and efficiently.
What have been some of the greatest benefits of working with young ODs?
Dr. Lyerly: Working with young ODs challenges me to always keep learning. Sure, there’s a lot that this generation can learn from seasoned practitioners, but I think the lessons go both ways.
Dr. Boucher: I’m inspired by their enthusiasm. Working with a younger generation just starting out in optometry keeps me excited about my job. Students complete our training clinic with much more confidence and hands-on experience, and it’s fun to witness their excitement and eagerness to progress in their careers.
Dr. Hellerstein: Working with students keeps me young. They’re always challenging me with questions and keeping me current on the latest trends. Combining the excitement of young ODs with the experience of seasoned practitioners can be a really powerful thing.
What are the most significant opportunities for today’s young ODs?
Dr. Boucher: Young ODs today have choices, which is huge. There are so many new possibilities and avenues to pursue, and finding a niche is so important. Whether it’s vision therapy, pediatrics, specialty contact lenses, or primary care optometry, there are plenty of opportunities for young ODs to find a niche they truly love.
Dr. Hellerstein: The entirely new perspective that young ODs bring to practice presents an enormous opportunity for them—and for practice owners. Quite frankly, I think young ODs are essential to practice growth. It takes a team with diverse backgrounds and generations to fuel success. That variety is so important, and seeing the excitement and eagerness of a new practitioner can really make a difference in a practice.
Dr. Lyerly: Opportunities change with trends, so there are always going to be new opportunities to pursue. For example, specialty contact lens care and vision therapy are underserved specialties right now that young ODs should consider.
What single piece of advice would you offer to new grads straight out of optometry school?
Dr. Lyerly: Always be open and willing to learn. Although you’ve graduated optometry school, your learning journey is not over. Lean on the connections you’ve made and continue to make new connections with people and groups who will help you grow.
Dr. Boucher: Consider all your options. Don’t turn down or accept any opportunities until you’ve thoroughly explored them.
Dr. Hellerstein: All too often, recent grads come out of school with expectations; I know I certainly did. My advice is to stay creative and open-minded—that is the key to success.