Of course, connecting with the community can—and should—happen inside the exam room as well as out. Involvement in the community, whether through optometric associations or local neighborhood groups, is both a personal choice and a networking tool that many young ODs are proponents of. Here are some ways they’re getting involved.

Connecting with the community is a business choice that has been central to Sunny Eye Shop, which supports local artists and business owners both inside and outside of the practice.

In addition to taking part in local community markets and holiday fairs, Sunny Shoaib, OD, keeps the local artists top of mind by putting their work on display in Brooklyn, N.Y. Collections have included jewelry, candles, pottery and ceramics. “A lot of these artists don’t have their own storefronts,” said Shoaib. “Because I’m a local business owner, I definitely like having the community feel.”

At Visual Eyes, in Lima, Ohio, Ann Rea Miller, OD, maintains an active membership in the AOA and Ohio Optometric Association, even serving as the OAA’s Zone 11 president in 2011. The role required setting up meetings with her peers. “That was a neat experience because [I got] to meet the other optometrists in [my] area,” said Miller.

Outside of optical, she is also a member of the Lion’s Club, her local Chamber of Commerce and is on the advisory board for a local hospital. “I definitely recommend being a part of [the Chamber of Commerce],” she said. “It’s very good for networking because of the business events they put on.”

Making good connections can also happen online, like for Maria Sampalis, OD, at Sampalis Eye Care in Warwick, R.I. Faced with optical social networking groups that tended to lean toward end-of-day venting, Sampalis started her own Facebook group, Corporate Optometry, open to industry professionals who have questions about practice management and patient cases. The group now has nearly 2,500 members, and is useful “for debunking myths, business quotations and as a supplement to other [optometric] forums, with a more positive slant.”

Kristin O’Brien, OD, Vision Source of GVR in Denver, though not a mom herself, finds a local mothers’ group on Facebook to be her best connection to her community. “My best [social media networking tool] has been the Green Valley Ranch Moms Facebook group,” she said.

“Even though I’m not a mom, I get two to five referrals a week [from being in the group.] Because the community is growing so rapidly there are always new people moving in, and the housing communities recommend joining the group.”

According to O’Brien, patients who are members of the group will tag her in discussions about where to find an eye doctor, at which point she is able to respond. “It’s free and it’s been our best referral source,” she said.

As former president of the Student Texas Optometric Association, Bimal Patel, OD of Focus Refined Eye Care in Houston, Texas now serves on the TOA’s New Grad Task Force, a group that holds events and panels to help students transition into practice. “We have different social events here in Houston [where] I help by answering their questions,” Patel said. “I’m also in young professional organizations within the community, mainly for networking purposes.”

—Catherine Wolinski