Most Influential Women in Optical: Innovators



Maria Dellapina

Burton, Ohio

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Despite all odds, Maria would not give up helping her daughter and others like her.”

For Maria Dellapina, necessity was literally the mother of invention. Though she counts Giselle Lander, OD, and Renee Martino, OD, as mentors and inspirations, it was her children, especially Erin who has Down syndrome, who she credits for her success.

Dellapina has been in the optical business for 35 years, was licensed in Ohio in 1980 and has done everything from retail to lens surfacing, but in 2004 she designed and patented the Erin’s World Frame line for children with Down syndrome and others requiring a lower bridge placement and shorter temples.

“Originally, anyone I spoke to thought there was no need for my design,” said Dellapina. “I knew a lot about optical and lenses but not how to get a frame made. I kept sending off my drawings and they would get returned re-designed like a standard frame. It took me four years to find a manufacturer to listen and the first four models arrived in 2008 on my daughter’s birthday.

“We now have 14 models and refit many older individuals with Down syndrome whose parents gave up trying to get them to wear glasses years ago. I ship all over the world, donate to the Special Olympics and present at Down syndrome conferences.”

In fact, in 2010, Dellapina was awarded the President Award by the National Down Syndrome Congress and this year will receive the Exceptional Meritorious Service Award.

“My biggest challenge now is just getting the word out,” she concluded.

SHE SAYS… “Never give up.”

Elizabeth Faraut

La Loop
Santa Monica, California

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She invented a whole new fashion accessory and product category—a line of jewelry that includes a loop with a patented hinge designed to keep glasses in place around your neck.”

So how did a former fashion editor, advertising and PR exec invent a new type of optical accessory and then get people to buy it? “I was introduced to the optical industry 14 years ago when I launched La Loop in 1999 out of my partner’s NYC apartment,” said Faraut. “We created La Loop because we were tired of what was on the market and saw an opportunity to create a product that kept track of glasses that we’d actually want to wear, not have to wear.”

Early inclusion of the optical market was a natural for Faraut. “When you walked into an optical retailer all you saw was frames,” she described. “You have the customers’ attention; why not bring in products besides eyewear? I immediately understood the importance of the add-on sale.”

So did one of her early supporters, Robert Marc. “Robert was one of the first believers in La Loop. He was our first customer and really got the power of the incremental sale. Robert introduced us to the industry and to customers he believed would benefit and get it.”

Today, she designs and manufactures up to 50 new designs a year, as well as marketing and selling La Loop to over 600 stores around the world, including Sunglass Hut, Bergdorf Goodman, the Museum of Modern Art, Robert Marc, Optical Shop of Aspen, Ilori and Morgenthal Fredericks, as well as Harrods and Selfridges in the U.K., Marc Le Bihan in France, Isetan and Hankyu in Japan and Puyi in Hong Kong.

SHE SAYS… “Be daring and authentic. Speak up. Share your ideas and your passion—they are worth a lot.”

Karen Perry, OD, FAAO

Compulink Business Systems
Westlake Village, California

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Dr. Perry has been honored by both the community and her colleagues with numerous professional, academic and civic awards, recognizing her outstanding leadership, achievement and academic merit.”

In 2008, while delivering a presentation about Electronic Health Records (EHR) to the Florida Optometric Association, Karen Perry, OD had no idea that the COO of Compulink Business Systems was in the audience. He liked her views and passion when it came to saving patient data and delivering better health care using the tools and efficiencies EHRs provided. She was subsequently hired by Compulink and today she manages and develops team strategies for the delivery of client educational programs for the company. In addition, she oversees client training initiatives, and develops learning pathways and programs for forecasting success with the implementation of EHRs.

Perry has been a partner in a private practice with her husband, Dr. Mark Perry, located in Orlando, Fla. for over 24 years, where she is also Vision Source co-administrator. Although her Compulink duties take up her weekdays, she still finds time to practice optometry on the weekends.

Perry believes, “Opportunities for the optical profession are boundless. With the dynamics occurring in health care, the aging population, exponential chronic disease and new technological advances, the optical business is in its infancy.”

SHE SAYS… “As a very first job, I worked at Walt Disney World and was ingrained with the principles and philosophies of ‘creating the magic.’ I was inspired by Walt Disney who said, ‘All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.’”

Chelsy Pham, MBA, ABOC

VSP Optics Group
Rancho Cordova, California

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Chelsy developed VSP Global’s otto (one touch to optical) iPad app.”

In optical for 18 years, Chelsy Pham started at VSP as a customer service rep, went on to be an analyst in the contract lab department, then furthered her career overseeing pre-production at VSPOne Optical Laboratory in Sacramento. After going back to the corporate side as a supply chain analyst working on international and ophthalmic supply chain projects, she now focuses on bringing the latest technology to optometric practices in her current position.

In addition, she has three optometrists in her family, with whom she works in the family practice as optician, business administrator and event coordinator. This, combined with her work at VSP, has helped her see the big picture. “To some, it’s just a pair of glasses. What I see is a combination of science and art, creating a customized medical device in a mass production environment that helps you see and is fashionable at the same time,” she said. “Optometry is a humble practice, while taking care of a patient’s eye health, checking for illness such as diabetes, hypertension and even tumors, they help people clearly see the world around them.”

SHE SAYS… “Seeing all facets of optometry and seeing the profession advance with new technology, it is an industry where once you’re in, it’s hard to step away. VSP was a job for me as a young woman starting a family. With my experience at VSPOne my interest in optics grew, and I wanted to learn more.”

Kathy Wallace

Kaiser Permanente
Richmond, California

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “For more than 20 years, Kathy has been a tough woman negotiator in a world usually filled with men. She is in charge of all bids, RFIs, and RFPs for lenses, frames, contacts and accessories.”

With a post graduate degree in Purchasing Management from UC Berkeley, Kathy Wallace began her career in procurement in the wholesale jewelry business which, she noted, “has a remarkably similar culture to optical.” It was there that she honed her negotiation skills and for the last 22 years she has been an optical products sourcing manager. At Kaiser Permanente, she facilitates three national sourcing teams for frames, ophthalmic lenses and contact lenses.

“We develop formularies for lenses and CLs, do product evaluations, choose vendors and products in support of our 150+ stores and five laboratories where we manufacture approximately 1 million pair of glasses per year.” She negotiates and writes all contracts for these commodities for Kaiser nationwide and manages 47 contracted vendors in all areas of the optical industry, including OTC, lens treatments and digital software.

“I never forget that there is an invisible thread between me and every patient we have. They don’t know me but they depend on me for high quality, good value products, fast deliveries and good service born of solid supplier relationships and excellent contract terms.”

She said her long tenure at Kaiser is due to a “wonderful corporate culture. Being a member of the Kaiser Permanente team is an honor and a responsibility I take seriously.”

SHE SAYS… “Team Think is superior to Me Think. Consensus driven decisions based on data and team member participation generates not only excellent outcomes, but full implementation of new decisions, directions or policies.”