Live From New York

Photo Credit: Andrey Denisyuk, Getty Images

This year, after nearly four decades, Vision Expo East (VEE) bids a fond farewell to New York City. This will be the last year this event is held at the iconic Javits Center, as the conference moves south to Orlando in 2025. While many are excited for warmer weather, easier travel, and a family-friendly destination, NYC has been such a memorable destination.

I started attending Vision Expo East in 2003 during the year I took off between graduating college and starting optometry school. While studying for the OAT’s, I took a break to wander around our local mall, and I noticed that the Sterling Optical there was hiring. I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn for a year before I headed to school, so I applied (and was hired!) on the spot. This began my love of all things optical, and I spent the year helping patients with frame selections, contact lens trainings, insurance billing, and even learning to cut lenses.

When the opportunity came to join my team at VEE in 2003,  I had no idea what to expect. I was inspired by the breadth of vendors, booths, excitement, and energy when I walked in. I still remember walking up and down the aisles, blown away by the styles, colors, and offerings of the companies. My favorite part that day?(And to this day?) People watching! I had never seen so much color, fashion, and thought put into the eyewear people chose. I remember looking around and thinking I was so fortunate to have found this industry, and I couldn’t wait for my real journey to begin.

I attended VEE as a student at the New England College of Optometry and spent most of my time racing around, trying to get as much free stuff as possible (hey, I was a student!). At that point, I was a bit more well-versed in contact lenses and technology, and I was excited to be able to talk to the reps as an almost-doctor. The end was in sight!

The first year after I graduated, I made sure to attend VEE, now as a doctor. What a difference a year made! I proudly walked through the expo, head held high, my badge with “OD” prominently displayed. I talked to every rep and vendor possible and let them know I was a new grad – I didn’t have any purchasing power, but I would someday! I attended my first continuing education session (learning didn’t stop in school!) and networked and shook hands with as many people I could meet.

I have so many wonderful memories of attending VEE since those very first days. I’ve been able to meet up with classmates, friends, and colleagues throughout the years, watch fashion shows in the exhibit hall, try new technology and equipment, meet celebrities (Shaq was my highlight!), attend incredible CE, and leave inspired every year. I proudly presented on the Vision Monday Global Summit Stage, accepted an award in front of 400+ eye care leaders at the Optical Women’s Association Champagne Breakfast, and toasted another year at the OWA Happy Hour event.  

This year, I look forward to another year of amazing eye care and eyewear innovation, education, and networking. As I walk into the incredible Javits Center, I’ll pause and reflect how far I’ve come in the eye care industry and how influential Vision Expo East has been in my career. I can’t wait to see all my friends and colleagues and raise a toast to this final year in NYC and celebrate together!

What is your favorite VEE memory? I look forward to hearing from you!

Yours in success,
Jennifer L. Stewart, OD

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