Rising Stars

By


Kirsten E. Albrecht, OD


DIRECTOR OF PROFESSIONAL SERVICES FOR ACQUISITIONS
MyEyeDr
Kannapolis, North Carolina

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Kirsten works with ODs in newly acquired practices over a large geographic area to integrate them into a new practice modality for MyEyeDr. She is an important first point of contact for many established ODs as they transition from ownership to working for a large regional practice.”

 
Having run two eyecare practices in North Carolina, Kirsten Albrecht, OD knows a thing or two about keeping one eye on patient care and the other on the business side. “When I started in Concord in 2002, I was one of the first female optometrists practicing, so in the beginning I was met with trust issues. My patient base grew after I earned that trust, which I did by listening, being an educator and building a relationship that kept them coming back,” she said.

In 2013, Albrecht decided to merge with MyEyeDr and was promoted to her current position as MyEyeDr’s head of professional services in September of 2014. Today, she oversees acquisitions in all of their regions spanning Maryland, Virginia, D.C., North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, developing and implementing custom tailored integration plans while preserving and promoting the MyEyeDr OD culture.

“Having gone through the integration process personally, I am able to serve as a mentor and advisor to new ODs during the transition, able to address individual concerns, and provide feedback to our operational divisions to ensure protocols that are constantly evolving and improving.

SHE SAYS… “Determine what you love to do most and prioritize/search out the right path to make it happen. Don’t be afraid to change if you aren’t getting led down the path you thought you were. Make decisions that you can stand on because you researched and made the decision, not because you have used conclusions from others.”


Deirdre Carroll

SENIOR EDITOR, SOCIAL MEDIA DIRECTOR

Vision Monday
New York, New York

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Dee’s creativity in VM’s coverage of frames and sunwear brings new perspective to readers, online and in print. Her style and her ‘eye’ has raised VM’s profile among the fashion eyewear companies and retailers in the U.S. and abroad.

 
With a B.A. from Lehigh University, Deirdre Carroll’s keen interest in fashion led to an A.A.S. Cum Laude degree in fashion merchandising management from New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology. She did editorial work at YM Magazine and Family Circle and for a brief time in corporate PR before joining VM in 2006.

Carroll interviews designers, executives and celebrities around the world. She conceived VM’s successful trend-spotting Style.Pages, its popular Check.Out, and each week’s Bold Face celebrity eyewear web posts. Carroll reports news for VMail and oversees and writes VMail ProductWatch. She’s tackled cover stories ranging from last month’s “FrameWorks” article to architecting the retailing excellence “D.A.R.E Awards,” the “A Day in the Life” project and more.

She will be editor of VM’s Millennial Project, a year-long print, web and live event series, part of a Jobson 2015 editorial initiative with sister pub, 20/20 Magazine. Carroll also established and manages VM’s social media, including ideas like the #VMSpirit campaigns.

“I enjoy my job and have the pleasure of working with some of the best, most knowledgeable people in the industry, who inspire me to raise the bar,” she said.

SHE SAYS… “Seek out opportunities that excite you. Success is easier when there is passion behind your actions. If you don’t get what you want the first time, figure out why, and keep plugging away until you get there.”



Erin O’Fallon

DIRECTOR OF VENDOR RELATIONS
SportRx, LLC
San Diego, California

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Erin meets with vendors and determines key product assortments. She makes educated decisions based on what’s best for focused business growth within SportRx, which hopes to double its revenue in the next two to three years.”

 
Erin O’Fallon, who’s been in the optical business since 2003, felt like she found a home when she stepped through the doors of SportRx some 12 years ago. Starting out as a filing temp, O’Fallon quickly learned the ins and outs of the online Southern- California-based company which specializes in custom prescription sunglasses and prescription snow goggles for athletes in virtually every sport. “Being an athlete growing up, and as someone who needed glasses most of my life I felt like this is exactly where I was supposed to be.”

O’Fallon earned her ABO certification in 2008, and she is currently studying for her advanced certification. As director of vendor relations for SportRx, she coordinates all communication between current and prospective vendors and manages those relationships. “I do all the buying and inventory management which covers about 30 different brands,” she said. “I was fortunate enough to start my optical career with a very unique company, who fits patients virtually over the internet or via phone for their optical needs. We help people see better doing the things they love.

“I feel like I work in a very unique position. I am a buyer, and work very closely with reps and companies, but I’m also an optician. I’ve definitely noticed more women stepping into management positions, and men stepping into the optician role. So there is definitely a shift happening.”

SHE SAYS… “Glasses have a way of changing how people view themselves. There is no better feeling than that of confidence. When you feel good about yourself and your appearance and can see the world clearly, anything is possible.”


Gilda Mehraban

DIRECTOR OF BRAND MANAGEMENT
REM Eyewear
Sun Valley, California

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Gilda’s ability to connect with her team members and motivate them to uphold the values of REM is remarkable. She’s highly intelligent and goes above and beyond to make sure REM is successful.”

 
If you ask Gilda Mehraban she’ll tell you glasses are a lot more fun than law. “My background is in law with an emphasis in marketing. Prior to coming to REM, I worked in licensing with celebrity properties, but I’ve been in the eyewear industry for a little over three years now. I am inspired by the fact that I can go to work every day, be 100 percent authentic and have fun while accomplishing my goals,” she said.

As director of brand management at REM, she oversees all branding and marketing initiatives for the company’s brands domestically and internationally. Launching new brands also plays a big part of her role at REM. “In 2011, I helped REM launch Tumi Eyewear and I’ve been driving the 2015 launch of Jonathan Adler Eyewear, which is really exciting and something I’m very proud of. I’ve always loved fashion, so having the opportunity to establish and contribute to the growth of brands was appealing to me,” Mehraban added.

“I also enjoy having access to a sneak peek of our brands’ new collections, the product direction and getting a heads-up on future trends. One of the things that I love is my ability to directly impact our business. I get to establish sales and marketing strategies that get results and show up throughout our sales around the world,” she concluded.

SHE SAYS… “The optical industry is filled with wonderful, warm, smart people. Maintaining good relationships is one of the most important aspects and I think everyone will gain when we add more fabulous women into the mix.”


Amanda Nanasy, OD

DIRECTOR OF OPTOMETRY
The Eye Center
Pembroke Pines, Florida

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Amanda is truly a role model. She is a director for IDOC, a great optometrist and a mentor to the interns at her office.”

 
Sports vision is a major focus for Amanda Nanasy, OD. Her interest in the specialty was ignited while doing research involving baseball and vision training as an optometric student at Nova Southeastern University. Graduating from NSU in 2010, she was the first Stuey Award winner for Student of the Year from the School of Optometry.

Today, Nanasy is a member director for IDOC (Independent Doctors of Optometric Care) covering the central/south Florida area. She is also part of the High Performance Vision Associates “A Team”—a national group of sports vision specialists that provide vision testing at sports events around the country. She has also screened LPGA players and NASCAR’s Hendrix Racing team, and is a team optometrist for the Miami Dolphins and for NSU Athletics.

Nanasy’s professional goal is to be an “approachable health care provider” who encourages patients to ask questions. “I love seeing very young children that are very timid when I walk in the room, and are smiling on their way out to the front desk.”

Nanasy believes optometry is a great profession for women to succeed both professionally and in their personal lives. “Be passionate in everything you do. It’s 100 percent possible to be an amazing mom and wife when you’re with your family, but to be at your best professionally, you have to be there for your patients when you are at work.”

SHE SAYS… “My patients inspire me. Such as the aspiring athlete that is working for a baseball scholarship that I can make 20/20 for the first time, improving his batting average and his odds of going to college.”



Heidi Schwitzer

SALES DIRECTOR
Zig Eyewear USA
Madison, Wisconsin

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Heidi is responsible for sales and the sales staff at Zig and is leading the brand from a little known line into a nationally recognized designer brand.”

 
It has taken Heidi Schwitzer 25 years to become a “Rising Star” but that time was put to phenomenal use. She began her optical career in 1989 as a sales rep for Tura, a long and fruitful tenure that set the foundation for her current role as sales director for Zig.

“In December 2012, I was recruited to join Zig Eyewear USA as their sales director. The position was brand new and created just for me,” said Schwitzer. “That means I got to forge my own path and really make a difference in how we sell, build our brand image and grow the company.

“I’m responsible for a team of 14 national sales representatives. Since I’ve become the sales director for this growing company, I’m proud to say we’ve doubled our business in 12 months. I also have my own accounts that I travel to see continually and that’s one of my favorite parts of the job.”

Another favorite? “I love the product that I sell and enjoy introducing accounts to a line that not only provides a way to grow their business, but excites them about offering artistic eyewear to their own customers.

“On the brand management side, I’m in charge of creating fun promotions for my reps and I also develop our marketing and ad campaigns. I need to have fun every day in my job, and I want my reps, my coworkers and my customers to live that philosophy, too.”

SHE SAYS… “The optical industry is changing very quickly. I’ve always said my career is like a roller coaster. To survive, you must be adaptable and anticipate the next big thing.”


Kelly P. Smoyer

MARKETING DIRECTOR
Essilor Laboratories of America
Dallas, Texas

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She is a true thought leader and can make positive changes to any environment and any organization she serves.”

 
After majoring in communications in college, Kelly Smoyer started her career in the wireless industry. As a 20-year marketing professional, she has held leadership positions across all marketing disciplines including consumer, product, B-to-B, channel and strategy. Since joining Essilor in 2006, she has held critical marketing positions with increasing responsibilities from Definity brand manager and Varilux associate director to her current role as director of marketing for Essilor Labs.

She enjoys working with the diverse teams within the Essilor lab organization, which include many people who grew up in the lab business. “I get to tap into their knowledge, test their ideas and get practical implementation,” she said.

Smoyer believes her strengths as a manager include an ability to “distill complex ideas into tangible solutions combined with the professional relationships that help me take those ideas to outcomes.” During eight years in the optical industry, Smoyer has seen women rise to become equal to men. “I see people coming out of optometry school, working and changing the industry. It’s a great industry for women to grow and thrive.” She adds that women can be effective when they can bring out the qualities of a product that resonate with patients, and help find customized solutions to their needs.

As a member of the OWA, Smoyer likes helping other women advance their optical careers. She advises, “come to the table prepared to learn, to team, to work, to have a perspective and to keep to your convictions.”

SHE SAYS…“As Bill Gates noted, ‘business is a game.’ Understanding how to keep score, build a strong team and create a winning tradition drives me daily to seek opportunities for improvement.”


Katie Gilbert-Spear, OD, MPH


OWNER

Sight and Sun Eyeworks
Pensacola, Florida

CHOSEN BECAUSE… She owns a multi-location practice with specialty services for vision therapy and vision rehabilitation. Co-edits Women in Optometry magazine, and shares her business knowledge consulting to practices.

 
Katie Gilbert-Spear, OD, MPH, owns Sight and Sun Eyeworks, a four-location practice in Pensacola, Fla., along with her husband, Carl Spear, OD, FAAO. Gilbert-Spear admits to being “passionate and goal-oriented.” One recent achievement is the opening of a Visual Performance Center—where patients of all ages work with ODs and vision therapists to improve learning skills and maximize sports performance. The center also realizes often dramatic successes with low-vision patients and patients recovering from traumatic brain injuries affecting vision and perception.

Gilbert-Spear is delighted to share learnings from the process of running and growing a multi-location practice. She consults to other practices and is co-professional editor of Women in Optometry, which conducts live networking events for women ODs at major professional meetings.

When it comes to inspiration she says, “My husband is my biggest fan and a great mentor. He supports me in everything I do and pushes me to go outside my comfort zone. My children and employees inspire me every day to set an example that they can be proud of and hopefully follow.

”By 2020, women will comprise the majority of practicing ODs. We now see women in key leadership roles, and those opportunities will continue to expand. Seek out other women and learn from them,” she advises. “There are so many practice modalities as our field continues to expand. Decide what you want out of this profession and make it a reality.”

SHE SAYS… “Take care of the patient, and the patient will take care of the practice.”



Captain Lauren Joy Stone, OD

ASSOCIATE OPTOMETRIST
Drs. Foster, Steele and Stone
Newport, Tennessee
McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base
Tennessee Air National Guard

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She is the first female Captain OD at McGhee Tyson Air Force National Guard. Everyone that knows her listens to her.”

 
Captain Joy Stone, OD is excelling in both private practice and in the military as the first female optometrist-captain at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base in Tennessee. In civilian life, Stone works with a three-doctor practice that she joined in 2010 after graduating from Southern College of Optometry. She helped the practice achieve record growth in her first year there, introducing early morning hours to accommodate third shift workers in the community.

Stone’s military career began in 1999 when she joined the Tennessee Air National Guard and performed as a vocalist and instrumentalist with the Air National Guard Band of the Smokey Mountains (now Band of the South). In 2012, she began practicing as an optometrist at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base. Her optometric mission is to help ensure the military readiness of Tennessee Guardsmen.

Stone said her greatest challenge is maintaining a balance between her professional responsibilities and her family, including her three-year-old son and her husband who is also in the Air National Guard. As a working mom and optometrist, she has a knack for getting even uncooperative children to respond positively during their eye exams, setting the stage for future success. She credits her ability to connect with patients to her personal philosophy based on the 3 Cs: Competency, Commitment and Compassion.

Stone’s advice to women in optical: “Have a plan, for yourself, for your personal future and for your career, but be flexible, as things do not always go as planned. The unplanned events are sometimes the greatest opportunities!”

SHE SAYS… “Every opportunity is a learning experience. Education is a lifelong process.”



Heather Suggitt

SOCIAL MEDIA AND PUBLIC RELATIONS MANAGER
Vision Source
Kingwood, Texas

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She is the face of Vision Source’s more than 5,000 doctors.”

 
About 20 years ago, Heather Suggitt realized her talent as a writer when she was published in the Houston Chronicle and some other national publications. She learned to push the envelope, knock on doors, and take it to the streets in the restaurant business. In the past five years, taking it to the streets transitioned into “putting it out there” on social media, which is her current role with Vision Source. “One of the aspects that I love about social media is that there is an instant report card—engagement—that allows me to know with each post if I am successful,” she said. “My greatest challenge is managing content. There is too much content and too little time!”

Intrigued by the optical field and Vision Source, she said, “The ability to embrace vision and turn it into style and something fun is the message that I like to convey through social media.”

She advises women that “The optical business has unlimited opportunities for women. From office staff to optometrists, the sky is the limit. I haven’t seen a glass ceiling or gender discrimination as in some other industries.” She feels that women can bring a unique perspective to any industry. “Women demand fashion and are shoppers. Many are working moms and make most eyecare decisions for the family,” she said. “As an industry, we need to find new ways to cater to women as well as create more eye health awareness.”

SHE SAYS… “This is one of my favorite Steve Jobs quotes: ‘Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes…because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones who do.’”


Barbara Vitchus

GENERAL MANAGER
Global Optics, Inc.
Green Bay, Wisconsin

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Barbara has brought her knowledge and experiences to Global Optics, and has developed the company into a major player within the optical supply chain.”

 
With 22 years of experience in supply chain logistics, including positions as CFO and VP/general manager in other industries, Barbara Vitchus brought exactly the skill set required to take over as general manager at Global Optics three years ago. In this role, she oversees operations for the company, which provides logistics solutions, consolidated purchasing power and product distribution support for its independent optical lab members.

Unlike buying groups, Barbara points out that Global Optics has its own warehouse and distribution network. To appreciate the scope of her job, consider that Global Optics warehouses over 165,000 SKUs of optical lens materials and designs from 22 lens manufacturers. Its 34,000 square foot distribution center ships products daily not only to 65 member lab locations but also to its members’ customers as well.

Communications are key to the success of this large-scale operation. Vitchus meets regularly with product vendors to identify new solutions to keep the supply chain running smoothly and to negotiate the best pricing for members. When a new product is introduced, she and her team develop distribution plans and computer ordering systems to ensure a smooth launch. “I am a problem solver. As the leader of a great team, I hope I have learned when to get out of their way. Let people work to their strengths.”

She believes the optical industry is a great place for a woman just starting or in mid-career. “The opportunities are endless.”

SHE SAYS… “I’m inspired by the emotional high of knowing that what you do makes a difference.”



Gina M. Wesley OD, MS, FAAO

OWNER
Complete Eye Care of Medina
Medina, Minnesota

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Gina is a DIY force in learning how to grow an optometric practice from scratch in her small-town community. Her ability as a communicator and influencer of other emerging OD owners is impressive.”

 
Gina M. Wesley, OD, MS, FAAO, graduated in 2006 from The Ohio State University with both her OD and Master’s Degree in vision science. She started as an employed OD, and just a year and a half after graduating, opened her own practice and obtained her Fellowship with the AAO.

Her practice concentrates on primary care, contact lenses and children’s eyecare. Wesley also participates in clinical research trials. She’s been an active member of the AOA and her state affiliate, the MOA, since she was a student. Other industry involvement includes publishing and lecturing on a variety of practice topics and business, as well as serving as an advisor for many ophthalmic companies. Awards include Minnesota’s Young Optometrist of the Year in 2011 and the Early Professional Achievement Award in 2013 from Ohio State.

“I’ve been interested in optometry since I got my first pair of glasses at age 8,” Wesley said. “It just seemed like such a great thing, being able to help people see clearly and protect their eye health. I truly care to take the time with each patient and figure out what it is that would help him or her visually. I then allow each patient to make educated decisions based on my recommendations, as each patient needs to know and understand in order to be fully engaged with their optical purchases.”

SHE SAYS…“Women will recognize what the major purchasers and health decision makers in families want and seek value in the delivery of eyecare products and services. We will listen, and we will execute what our patients desire in eyecare.”