The doctors of optometry at Fairbury Vision Center in Fairbury, Illinois, saw something special in Janet Millis, CPOT.
They saw that she was a self-starter; that she performed well in every area of the office; and that she had leadership potential. So impressed were they over the previous seven years, that in 2018 she was promoted to patient care manager/staff manager, where “she has thrived,” writes Sasha Radford, O.D., in nominating Millis for the 2020 AOA Paraoptometric of the Year.
A Certified Paraoptometric Technician (CPOT) is a rare breed when it comes to paraoptometric certification. CPOTs have attained national certification by demonstrating their ability to understand, apply and interrelate the concepts used in optometric care. Of the more than 7,000 paraoptometrics certified in this country by the Commission on Paraoptometric Certification, fewer than 525 (about 7.4%) have achieved the advanced CPOT certification.
Millis shares with the AOA how her career has evolved from optician to patient care/staff manager.
You’re an example of how you can make a career out of optometry without being a doctor. How did you get started?
When I first came to Fairbury Vision Center, I was hired as an optician. As an optician, I learned to verify glasses prescriptions, help patients select their new frames and adjust and troubleshoot when patients had problems. Dr. Robin Coady, who hired me, gave me a chance and encouraged me. I never wanted to disappoint her, so it made me work that much harder to be sure I was doing my best work and learning all I could. Dr. Coady was very big on education and would help any of us get what we needed to succeed. When I started here, I had no idea what I was going to do with myself and, two years later, I knew I had finally found my place. I really encourage everyone to at least get their CPO certification. It is a good starting point and it gives you a sense of pride.
How have mentors played a key role in your career?
Dr. Radford was my mentor when I was taking courses at Madison Area Technical College (courses included ocular anatomy, patient history, pre-testing, dispensing and patient relations). She gave me two years of her time, helping me learn the things I needed. I wanted to be sure I didn’t waste her time and not succeed. Dr. Janelle Brown came into the practice in 2015, as I was finishing up MATC and getting ready to take my CPOT. Whenever I have worked with her, she has always been very kind and helpful. Which brings me to Dr. Brian Stoller. I have worked with Dr. Stoller a few times and he is always very calm and easy to work with. He let me help when he did a homeschool lesson and dissected a pig’s eye. That was probably one of the best days ever. Dr. Terri Rieger has been with us for three years and she has taught me a lot about children’s vision and vision therapy. While Dr. Radford was the one who trained me to scribe, Dr. Rieger also helped me develop those skills.
How has your certification prepared you for modern optometry?
Studying and learning new things opened up opportunities for me to be able to do more in my job—made me feel more useful. Because of my certification, I am ready and up to any challenge that is presented. I am eager to learn new things that will better serve our patients. We treat our patients like family and you always want the best for your family. As scope expands, I’m confident the doctors will provide us with the tools and training we need to be successful.
What do you find most appealing about your job?
There is so much about my job that I love. Learning new things, watching kids as they grow up in our practice and seeing my co-workers grow as well. I like that no two patients are the same. Everyone has a unique ‘eye’ story, even if they are here for a routine exam.
Learn more about paraoptometric certification and renewal.
The AOA InfantSEE® and Children’s Vision Committee recognizes Sarah Fratesi, O.D., for raising awareness around children’s eye health and vision care in her Mississippi community. Inspired by a challenge from a former U.S. president, Dr. Fratesi has been an InfantSEE provider since 2005.
Optometry’s Meeting®, June 24-26, in Denver, Colorado, is taking shape now, and so is the AOA Board of Trustees—familiarize yourself with the doctors seeking to represent members.