On a mission: An OD's story of success

May 1, 2024
Thuy Tran, O.D., shares insights on opening a practice in NYC, emphasizing clinical expertise, financial stability and networking for success, as well as her experiences volunteering to help those in need.
AOA Member Spotlight - Dr. Thuy Tran

As a young OD who opened your own practice in NYC,  what was that experience like? Do you have any advice for members who want to do the same?

I always knew that being a business owner was not for the faint of heart. Until I opened up my own cold-start practice a year ago, I had no idea how much of a strong heart - and stomach - I needed to have. Every month felt like going on a roller-coaster ride with blindfolds on. Despite the uncertainties, I had faith that business would thrive as long as I provided exceptional care. My practice has been growing steadily through referrals from happy patients in the community.

I believe it is important to have a strong clinical background, financial stability, and a team of trustworthy professionals (i.e. CPA, attorney, licensed architect) before opening a practice. My biggest advice would be to connect with colleagues who are also private practice owners. Not only have I learned so much from them, but I am also comforted in knowing that they share similar growing pains and can provide camaraderie when I need it most.  

In 2021, you were recognized as one of the Best Optometrists in America by  Newsweek. What does it take to be the best? How has your approach changed in 2024?

I am honored to have been named on this list alongside my respected colleagues. I believe being the best optometrist means doing the best for our patients. To me, this means having a deep understanding of what their concerns are and showing that we truly care about their well-being.

I believe it is also important to continue learning. In 2024, I am still taking courses regularly to stay up-to-date on the latest technologies, medications, and treatment protocols available. Most recently, I integrated Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) into my approach to treating dry eye disease. My patients are happy that I offer advanced technology to improve their symptoms and quality of life.

You’ve also done a lot of mission trips and volunteer work.  Why is this important to you? Do you have any stories you want to share about your trips?

When I graduated from college, I was torn between pursuing optometry or journalism. I studied both biology and English. I was the president of the pre-optometry club and also a staff writer for our university newspaper. It wasn’t until my first volunteer mission trip to Vietnam immediately after graduation that I realized optometry was my calling. I saw the direct impact that we were able to make as optometrists. I have since been on three other mission trips and continue to volunteer throughout my career because it reminds me of why I chose to pursue optometry 14 years ago.

As an adjunct faculty member for SUNY Optometry, is there anything you like to share with the next generation of optometry?

One of the best things about optometry is that there are many different modalities of practice to choose from. To anyone who ever feels stuck or unfulfilled, consider switching to a different mode of practice. Thus far in my career, I have worked in retail, a corporate laser center, private practice ophthalmology, and private practice optometry. Every job taught me something new and provided a different sense of fulfillment. I am grateful that our profession offers so many opportunities and I hope that the next generation of optometrists are able to see that too.  

You’re also a photographer, and according to your website, you enjoy aerial and cityscape photography. What does it take to have a “photographer’s eye”? Does optometry ever inspire your creative vision?

When I first started learning photography, the concepts of aperture, shutter speed, and focal length were easy to grasp since they were similar to the optics of the human eye. The more difficult things to learn were the principles of composition and lighting. Developing a “photographer’s eye” requires a lot of practice and patience, and the ability to identify compelling visual elements. I discovered that these elements existed everywhere, whether it be the New York City skyline or the beautiful iris strands of a patient with heterochromia iridis.

Related News

Intentional leadership

The AOA’s 2023 Young Optometrist of the Year is a leader—and she has been intentional in cultivating those skills. Uncover her philosophy on leadership.

Congratulations to the AOA’s 2024 award winners

The winners will be honored at a ceremony during Optometry’s Meeting® 2024.

Optometric foundation’s track record leads to $2.5 million grant for children’s eye care in Ohio

The state’s new Children’s Vision Initiative will work toward providing eye care to students throughout the state via the Ohio Optometric Foundation’s iSee program. Under the program, doctors of optometry volunteer to provide services to students who have been referred by school nurses and teachers.