Beyond the Classroom—4 Things ODs Wish They Knew When They Graduated

October 25, 2023
AOAExcel talked with four doctors of optometry to learn what they wished they had known at the time of their graduation.
Envelope with thank you note

While optometry school prepares you to practice, it’s no secret that doctors of optometry continue to learn and grow throughout their careers. AOAExcel asked four doctors of optometry what they wished they had known at the time of their graduation:

Dr. Blair Holden of North Carolina points to the “art and science” of optometry as something she wishes she knew at her time of graduation. “In school, we spend so much time learning the details of medical conditions, treatments, and practice techniques—which are all important, of course—but so much of the day-to-day experience of caring for patients truly is an art,” she says. “There are so many nuances with caring for a whole person, including managing expectations, navigating guardian and caretaker relationships, and ‘meeting patients where they are’ by communicating with empathy and compassion. These skills are critical, but they’re often learned through experience and not easily taught in the classroom.”

Dr. Lee Peplinski of Texas wishes that he had had a better understanding of the business aspects of practice at the time he started his career. “Optometry school prepares you for patient care. Yet that is only a portion of the ‘optometrist’ job description— having more of a business acumen and understanding of all that running a practice entails would have been very helpful.”

Dr. Matthew Jones of Arkansas wishes that he had known to prioritize practice over location. “Find a practice and modality that you enjoy and go to that location,” he advises. “I believe so many young graduates pick a city they want to live in and then find work. I would recommend the opposite— find the right practice opportunity, wherever that may be.”

Dr. Lori Roberts-Hauser of South Carolina says she had no idea how important organized optometry was when she graduated from optometry school. “It’s so important to get to know colleagues, to learn from and teach others,” she says. “I am so grateful and blessed that, right out of school, I had doctors who mentored me and got me involved early. I would not be where I am today if those doctors in leadership roles and associations had not taken me under their wings—being involved with the AOA and its state associations has made me a better doctor.”

Whether you’re a student, recent graduate, or experienced physician, it’s always useful to reflect on what you’ve learned. Make the most of your AOA membership and continue to share knowledge with your fellow doctors of optometry.

To read more professional advice and best practices from doctors of optometry, visit the AOAExcel Career Center. In addition to informative resource updates, the Career Center hosts an optometry-exclusive job board and resume database that makes searching for qualified candidates and exciting opportunities simple.

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