(Top row, l to r) Nathan Hayes, Blake Jarrard, OD, and Christopher Herring, OD, along with Nataile Hayes Schmook and Christina Schiller, OD (bottom row). Jarrard, Herring and Schiller were named as Hayes Center for Practice Excellence Award winners.
MEMPHIS, Tenn.—Southern College of Optometry (SCO) has honored three alumni with the Hayes Center for Practice Excellence Award. The award recognizes a graduate of the past 10 years who owns and operates a private optometry practice. This is the Hayes Center for Practice Excellence’s 10th year recognizing young SCO alumni with these prestigious awards, according to the school. This year’s recipients and their respective awards are: Dr. Christina Schiller, OD, New Practice Award; Dr. Blake Jarrard, OD, Practice Acquisition Award; and Dr. Christopher Herring, OD, Partnership Award.

“Owning and operating a private optometry practice requires more than what students learn in their lectures, labs and clinicals,” said Dr. Jerry Hayes, OD, who founded the Hayes Center for Practice Excellence. “In addition to providing excellence in vision care, these three young optometrists demonstrate exemplary leadership and business skills to build thriving practices.”

Dr. Schiller, class of 2014, started her new practice, Summit Vision Center in Issaquah, Wash., in February 2022. The New Practice Award recognizes an optometrist who holds a majority or equal ownership interest in a newly formed private practice.

Dr. Jarrard, class of 2014, joined Progressive Eye Center and Boutique in North Little Rock, Ark., in 2018. He purchased the practice in 2022. The Practice Acquisition Award recognizes an optometrist who has completed the buy-sell process of acquiring a previously existing private practice.

Dr. Herring, class of 2017, joined Mississippi Eye Care, formerly Crigler Family Vision Center, in Meridian, Miss., following his graduation from SCO. The Partnership Award recognizes an optometrist who has purchased or earned an equity interest in an existing private practice and actively participates as a partner in its operations or management.

Dr. Hayes, a 1973 SCO graduate, established the Hayes Center for Practice Excellence upon the mission to teach independent optometrists the fundamentals of managing the business side of a private practice, including strategic planning, budgeting, overhead control and profitability. It provides SCO students and alumni the resources and networking connections to build successful and sustainable practices.

The award ceremony was presented as part of the annual Bon VoyEyes program, which prepares third-year SCO students preparing for externships in their final year of optometry school. Each recipient shared their experiences and provided professional advice in a panel discussion with the students.

CooperVision, EssilorLuxottica, VSP Vision and Johnson & Johnson Vision sponsored the award program.