When I was a student at The New England College of Optometry (NECO), I was always impressed by the alumni who freely gave their time to speak, mentor, educate, and inspire. I promised myself that one day I would do the same, as it meant so much to me at the time. I am honored to have many roles at NECO, including Adjunct Assistant Professor and Alumni Board Member. I also work with the Admissions Department to interview new students.
I usually have the opportunity to speak to students weekly through one of my roles, and I always look forward to working with them. Last month, I had the honor of presenting to the Private Practice Club (PPC) on “The Pros and Cons of Private Practice.” The PPC did not exist when I was in school, and I was excited to see such passion and interest in independent eye care. My webinar time flew by — and the session even went over our allotted time with the insightful questions the students were asking. The feedback from the event was great, and I look forward to my next opportunity in hopefully inspiring them to follow their dreams and pursue private practice.
I also enjoy my time meeting with prospective students in their NECO interviews. Often as experienced practitioners, we can get burned out or stressed with the day to day of optometry, but hearing what drives these students to pursue optometry as a career reminds me of what I love about eye care. They are bright, passionate, wanting to make changes and leave their mark, and they are genuinely interested in helping people. Listening to their personal stories and their true excitement of starting school is a great reset button for me, and it makes me appreciate optometry even more.
Are you feeling stuck, unmotivated, or missing the passion that brought you into optometry? Reach out to your optometry school’s alumni or admissions department and ask how you can be involved. Student-run clubs are always looking for speakers, and they often don’t know how to reach alumni or practicing ODs. With the ease of technology today, it can be as simple as logging into Zoom in the evening and giving a brief presentation or Q&A.
As someone who is passionate about independent eye care and private practice, I love sharing my story with students to show them it is possible to own a practice soon after graduation. Many feel a commercial location is their only path, as they don’t know how to connect with other optometrists. If you have a specialty, there are often clubs or groups of students who also share this interest. I’m always proud that the Performance Vision Club that I founded 20 years ago is still going strong and is even more robust today!
Are you looking to add an associate or a possible partner? Students who are in these clubs are often the hardest working, brightest students at the schools. They are taking time from their studies to learn more and network, and they can be a great fit in your practice. Lastly, remember the impact that alumni had on you as a student — their wisdom, advice, experience, mentorship, and inspiration certainly guided me through my career, and it is a true honor to have that impact on students today.
Yours in success,
Jennifer L. Stewart, OD