The summers of 2007 and 2008 come with blazing temperatures, yet I find myself sheltered in the air conditioned walls of Optix Family Eyecare Center, a private practice on Long Island operated by O.D Joel Kestenbaum who graduated from the New England College of Optometry. I sit in the dimly lit pre-test room behind the GDx instrument and explain the importance of early glaucoma screenings to a 55-year old male with a family history of retinal detachments. This is close to my 1,000th pre-screening, and I’m operating the controls on the auto-refractor, non-contact tonometer, and the GDx with expertise. During one-on-one personal time with patients in the pre-test room, while selling eyewear, and while discussing patient medical records, I quickly learn the importance of rapport, empathic understanding, and quality communication. The value I am able to provide during these interactions make them highlight of my experience as a pre-optometry student. Yet it was my mentor, Dr. Kestenbaum that really showed me the beauty of optometry. He sat me down on lunch breaks and taught me to have the short term objective of learning as much as possible about optometry and the importance of building a network of people who are involved in all areas of optometry. I took his advice and set myself up with an optometric business consulting company called Gateway Provider Network.
In July, I purchase a round trip flight ticket for October 19th 2008 from New York to Georgia for the consulting companies “Power Day,” one of the largest optometric business conferences ever organized. The goal of the event is to teach independently practicing optometrists how to maintain a successful private practice, maximize profits, and retain patients. The conference is the result of many hours of planning which I am thrilled to have been a part of. In addition to time spent planning the conference, I also work many hours per week as head of the companies online advertising and marketing department. This position gives me the chance to extend the reach of private practices all over the United States, while building an extensive network of valuable optometry related relationships in the process. In order to work with this outstanding company I must saturate myself within the world of optometry by reading and understanding things like the AOA’s “Caring for the Eyes of America 2009” and also by fully understanding the medical model of optometry. Being heavily involved in the private practice scope of optometry has allowed me to begin planning out my future career as a privately practicing optometry doctor.
Just like a home thermostat works to maintain a stable temperature even when the front door is wide open, I have set my internal life thermostat to maintain a consistent level of proactive action and commitment. I focus on living a fulfilling life as an outstanding optometrist who helps thousands of people to see better and who works with state legislature to bring optometry in a positive and growing direction. Heat and pressure enter my life, but my internal thermostat keeps me on an undeviating track. I do whatever it takes both mentally and physically in order to live up to the high standards I set for myself. Last summer my commitments were put to the test as I balanced a 35-hour work week at the Optix Family Eyecare Center, a 15-hour work week with GPN, a 16-hour school week of Physics II lectures and labs, along with daily study sessions for the OAT test. At this very moment I am creating and planning the first ever Optometric Conference arranged by SUNY students that will unite Optometry students, Optometrists, Opticians, Ophthalmologists, and Optometry Schools for a night of value and knowledge. These worthwhile experiences enhanced my ability to maintain composure in high-pressure situations while teaching me the benefits of viewing all experiences in a positive light. My entire journey to becoming an optometrist has been a glorious voyage and a strengthening of my core self. As I stand on the doorstep of the next phase of my career, I can’t help but smile about the past experiences and events which have made me who I am today. My purpose and my path have been set in stone since that first meeting with Dr. Johnston while my desire to be an optometrist and to provide value to others is stronger than ever before.
Stay tuned for PART 3, which is being written as you read this!