ORLANDO, Fla.—Last week, Vision Source, North America's largest network of private practice optometrists, gathered here to celebrate their members' success at the group's annual national meeting, held from April 10 to 13, here at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center. Vision Source reaffirmed their commitment to supporting private practice at The Exchange 2024 and kicked off the meeting by celebrating a major milestone for the Vision Source NEXT program and the future of private optometry.

Introduced in 2021, Vision Source NEXT supports optometrists at all phases of their private practice journey. The program provides resources to current and future optometrists seeking to start, acquire and sell private practices. The Vision Source NEXT Fund provides supplemental capital funding to practice owners, bridging the financial gap between practice valuations and financing. Since its inception, Vision Source NEXT has supported the start or transition of more than 200 private optometry practices.

More than 3,000 Vision Source members, staff and industry partners were on-site in Orlando as Vision Source leaders shared how the Vision Source NEXT Fund preserved a more than 100-year-old private practice from private equity, ensuring its legacy of independent ownership and patient care as it transitioned to a group of private optometrists earlier this month.

 Dr. Amir Khoshnevis.
Dr. Amir Khoshnevis, chief medical officer for Vision Source told VMAIL, “I couldn’t be prouder of the role Vision Source NEXT played in preserving this practice and its patients. From its humble beginnings inside a jewelry store to now providing full medical eyecare to its community, Lifetime Eyecare has managed to thrive despite the tremendous evolution our industry has seen during the last 100 years. The leadership along the way, including two past presidents of the Maryland Optometric Association, has created an incredible legacy that we look forward to supporting for generations to come.”

Located in Cumberland, Md., Lifetime Eyecare was originally started by Dr. Walter Jeffries, an optometrist, and his brother, a jeweler. The Jeffries successfully operated the practice until 1960, at which time they transitioned the practice to Dr. James Poland. Nearly 40 years later, Dr. James Poland’s son, Dr. Jeff Poland, followed in his father’s footsteps earning his optometry degree, serving alongside his father in the practice and eventually assuming ownership.

Dr. Jeff Poland made the decision to forgo private equity offers and secure Lifetime Eyecare’s legacy of independent optometry by transitioning his practice via the Vision Source NEXT program. He told VMAIL, “While I have been in private practice for nearly 40 years, I have never sold a practice before. I knew I needed partners who had been in the trenches. Vision Source NEXT allowed me to partner with experts, like Dr. Mick Kling, who understood my goals of preserving the independence of my family’s practice and the future of my patients and staff, while providing valuable expertise and solutions to support the transition.”

On April 1, 2024, independent optometrists John Manard, Whitney Territo, KateLynn Bauer and Scott Bauer purchased Lifetime Eyewear from Dr. Jeff Poland, who continues to practice at Lifetime Eyecare.

Dr. Whitney Territo said, “If it weren’t for the NEXT Fund, we wouldn’t have been able to bridge the gap between the practice’s valuation and available financing. Vision Source’s team of doctor advisors were an invaluable resource as we navigated financial and legal decisions. They understood our goals as providers and business owners.

“Vision Source NEXT not only allowed us to take ownership of this highly sought after practice, but it also enabled us to preserve its heritage, maintaining the practice’s identity, employees, some of whom have served the practice for more than 30 years, and allowed Dr. Poland to continue to care for his patients alongside us,” Dr. Territo told VMAIL.

The Vision Source Next Fund, made possible by the support of EssilorLuxottica, helps bridge financial gaps for Vision Source members wanting to build or expand their private practice network. Designed first and foremost to ensure the future of private practices, the Vision Source Next Fund is a unique vehicle to help make private practice transitions a reality by closing potential gaps between the needs of the buyer, seller and long-term financial stability of the practice, the company said.

In order to access funding from the Vision Source NEXT program, a practice must be a member in good standing, signed or renewed their Vision Source membership agreement and participated in Vision Source programs, Vision Source told VMAIL.