Jane Mell Balek

Executive Director
Think About Your Eyes
Alexandria, Virginia

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Jane leads the Think About Your Eyes campaign, evolving the initiative to drive more eye exams, attract additional partners and create impact.”

As executive director of Think About Your Eyes (TAYE), Jane Balek works with the program’s Advisory Board to develop and execute an integrated marketing strategy designed to increase awareness of the importance of annual comprehensive eye exams. Since the campaign was launched in 2014, the initiative has helped more than 8 million people get eye exams, said Balek. “In the past six months, our campaign awareness and intent to get an eye exam are at the highest levels in five years,” she said.

According to Balek, one of the program’s top priorities is to get TAYE’s message to new audiences in nontraditional ways. She has spearheaded two new partnerships, one with the NFL and National Dairy Council to convey eye health information within their summer youth wellness program, and another with Airstream using a social media celebrity road trip to disseminate information about eye exams. “These partnerships will help amplify our message and create new TAYE message champions,” explained Balek.

Balek has spent most of her career working in the nonprofit sector, first as a public policy analyst and then with individual membership associations.

“I found that I really had a passion for developing creative partnerships that would support the mission of the organization, but also serve the business goals of the partners.”

SHE SAYS… “Find ways that you can contribute your talents and if you can’t find opportunities, create them.”

Barbara Barclay 

RightEye LLC
Bethesda, Maryland

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “As president, Barbara is focused on the expansion of RightEye’s eye-tracking technology offerings into new markets and industries. She was one of RightEye’s first employees and has played a pivotal role over the past four years in the company’s rapid growth.”

As a partner at RightEye, an eye tracking technology company, Barbara Barclay runs operations for RightEye including marketing, sales, purchasing, training and support, inventory management, and partnerships. Together with the CEO and CMO, she was instrumental in helping to build the business to over 300 providers. Today, she serves on the executive management team where they make most company decisions as a group, and Barclay drives enterprise sales including sports teams, hospitals, schools, optometric chains, and global distribution agreements.

After a brief stint in banking, Barclay got an MBA in marketing and spent the first part of her career in marketing information with AC Nielsen, IRI, comScore and LexisNexis. She helped build and launch businesses for both Nielsen and IRI in multiple countries. Ten years ago, Barclay joined the eye tracking tech firm Tobii and “this opened my eyes to all of the incredible research being done using eye tracking, including concussion, reading, autism, glaucoma and Parkinson’s—yet nothing was being commercialized.”

In 2014, she started her own business and “met Adam Gross, the CEO of RightEye, who persuaded me that if I teamed up with him and Dr. Melissa Hunfalvay, we could do more as a team—and he was right.”

SHE SAYS… “Be genuine, honest and direct and people will want to do business with you. Learn about your business, your customer’s business, and your products, ask questions, and you will quickly piece things together faster than most people.

Chrystel Barranger

President of Essilor Photochromics and Transitions Optical
Transitions Optical
Charenton-le-Pont, France

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Since joining Transitions Optical in 2017 as president of Essilor Photochromics and Transitions Optical, Barranger has led the Transitions brand rejuvenation. Under her direction, the company unveiled a new advertising campaign in February 2018 which created desire for Transitions lens products in a simple, modern and innovative way. She also oversaw the introduction of Transitions style colors and mirrors.”

“I want to help the industry push eyecare and protection to more consumers that don’t get the care they need,” said Barranger, who is also a member of the Transitions Optical board of directors. “I believe this is a brand that the whole industry can push and benefit from.”

Barranger also led the Transitions team as their years of collaboration with Johnson & Johnson Vision (JJV) came to fruition with JJV’s launch of Acuvue Oasys with Transitions Light Intelligent Technology. “I’m a strong believer in combining the unique capabilities of different companies to be able to meet more consumer needs,” she said. Currently, Barranger is directing the launch of Transitions Signature GEN 8, which is set to be released this month.

Barranger started her career at Kraft Food (Mondelez) in 1993 as a product manager and worked for Mondelez for most of her career. As her career progressed, she gained experience and her responsibility increased as she held positions such as president of cheese & grocery Europe, where she was instrumental in a turnaround of that category, with full P&L responsibility. She was senior advisor at Boston Consulting Group (BCG) from 2015 to 2017.

SHE SAYS… “Find a way to bring value, and bring all the value you can. But if you have to disrupt, and surprise, just go for it. You will have an impact.”

Marjolijn Bijlefeld

Managing Editor
Women In Optometry

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “As co-founder of Women In Optometry 15 years ago, Marjolijn has provided a platform for women ODs to voice their perceptions of the profession of optometry. Younger female ODs have grown up under the influence of Women In Optometry’s inclusive, optimistic and thoughtful view of the profession. And Marjolijn, herself, embodies that view.”

The power of the written word is not always apparent, but as the managing editor of Women In Optometry Marjolijn Bijlefeld has made quite an impact on established women ODs, newly minted graduates, students, new practice owners, and rank-and-file employed ODs. “I’m not an OD, but I’ve been supremely lucky to spend so much time talking to smart and inspiring ODs. They’ve been generous with their time and advice, much of which is applicable to every person.”

Women In Optometry magazine launched in March 2006 with a goal of providing a platform for women optometrists. “Then—and even now to a lesser degree—women ODs were under-represented in leadership, lecture circuits and publications. We set out to create a community where women ODs could share their experiences, inspire each other and gain greater exposure in the industry,” she said.

The publication has expanded to include an online presence, an active social media following and several annual networking events, including the annual Theia Achievement Awards, which Bijlefeld instituted to recognize the contributions women ODs have made and are making to the profession.

SHE SAYS… “I’ve been a reporter since high school. There’s nothing I’d rather do than listen to people’s stories and find a way to present them. I’m so grateful that people let me tell their stories.”

Victoria Hallberg

Chief Marketing Officer
Safilo North America
Secaucus, New Jersey

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She’s a dynamic, highly motivated leader who has successfully launched many brands and delivered impactful, strategic business development programs to national retail chains, key accounts and independent sales teams.”

Hallberg started her 30-year career in optical very early, while finishing high school and college, working first at San Diego Contact Lens, a small finishing lab, then for opticians in Los Gatos Calif. and Charleston, S.C., then two different optometry practices in Fresno, Calif. While at one time she considered a pre-med path, she joined a young company called Marchon as a sales representative in 1986, working up to district sales manager, Coach brand specialist, then director of special projects, director of brand sales and more recently VP/key account sales. She became VP of retail relations and chief merchant of VSP’s omnichannel division.

This year, she was tapped by Safilo North America to fulfill the new role of CMO and is now leading the company’s brand, trade marketing and PR teams, working to maximize how Safilo markets, sells, services and communicates to its customers.

Throughout the journey, Hallberg recalls, “I was fortunate to learn from several mentors. Barry Lerner taught me to believe in what you’re doing and help others achieve their goals; Al Berg encouraged me to be creative and take risks; Larry Roth taught me to pay attention to the numbers; Jeff White emphasized every person in the organization matters, and Steve Wright encourages building strong teams across the organization.” She is an OWA member and an Accessories Council board member.

SHE SAYS… “Find mentors. Love learning. Have confidence that you belong in the room and your ideas are worth sharing. Value your team and your external partners/customers.”

Elizabeth Hoppe, OD, MOH, DrPH, MPH

Founding Dean
College of Optometry, Western University of Health Sciences
Pomona, California

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Dr. Hoppe is an innovator, mentor and expert in education. She has influenced faculty, other administrators and several hundred students. She created the optometry program, implemented the curriculum, hired and mentored faculty, and oversees all didactic and clinical programs related to optometry.”

Dr. Hoppe has been working in optometric education since 1990, starting off as a faculty member at the Southern California College of Optometry, then associate dean at the New England College of Optometry, before returning to California to take on the role of founding dean at the College of Optometry at Western University of Health Sciences in 2007. Since then, she has worked to create the college from the ground up: creating curriculum, hiring faculty and more.

In addition, Dr. Hoppe has served in leadership within the board of directors of the National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO) and the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO). She completed her term as president of NBEO in December and will be taking on the role of president of ASCO this June.

“I have received so much support and advice over the years from so many people whom I greatly admire,” Dr. Hoppe said. “Leaders in optometric education, in public health optometry, in the American Academy of Optometry, and the American Public Health Association have all had a tremendous impact on my thinking and so many people have helped me grow over the years. My greatest supporter for the past 23 years has been my husband, Jack Barton.”

SHE SAYS… “Always be sure to say ‘yes’ to yourself because there are plenty of people out there who are going to say ‘no’ to you. Be your own best supporter and your own number one fan. When you believe in yourself, anything is possible.

Millicent Knight, OD, FAAO, FAARM

Senior Vice President, Customer Development Group
Essilor of America
Dallas, Texas

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Her extensive background in the industry affords Dr. Knight a unique, customer centered perspective. She feels very passionate about Essilor’s mission of ‘improving lives by improving sight.’”

Millicent Knight, OD, represents the voice of the doctor within Essilor’s North American leadership team. As senior vice president of customer development, she and her team are responsible for professional relations with eyecare professionals and academic institutions, and help align ECP interests with sales force education and training.

One of Dr. Knight’s key roles is to identify and encourage eye health programs implemented by employee volunteers and eyecare professionals in their communities and globally that reflect the spirit of Essilor’s mission of improving lives by improving sight. She serves as leadership sponsor of Essilor’s Difference Makers Program and Mission Trip, which recently provided eye exams to school children in Thailand. ”Eyecare professionals working together with industry on a common interest can accomplish so much more in advancing patient care,” she noted.

Dr. Knight also leads the Essilor Myopia Task Force of Key Opinion Leaders dedicated to bringing modern approaches to managing myopia and progressive myopia around the globe and developing consumer awareness and educational support. “Early in my career, I realized that my passion was providing the best in innovative patient care, and helping to shape my profession and our industry through change.”

SHE SAYS… “Keep the patient at the center of decision-making whether in clinic or business; build relationships; learn to manage up and down. Bring your best and authentic self to your work.”

Joyce Pokoy- Kurtulus

Executive Vice President, Product Development and Management
Randolph Engineering
Randolph, Massachusetts

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Everywhere Joyce has worked, she elevated the company to new heights in product, sales and internal structure. At Randolph, Joyce transformed the company into a superior player in premium sunglasses and ophthalmic eyewear while streamlining in house Made in America manufacturing, reducing costs, improving productivity and elevating morale through mentoring and hands on involvement.”

“Managing a manufacturing facility has been my biggest challenge as well as accomplishment in the short time I have been at Randolph,” said Pokoy-Kurtulus, who has been at Randolph Engineering since early 2018. Before joining this team, she worked at Swan Optical Inc., Fiorucci Occhialli and B. Robinson Optical Inc. As part of her role at Randolph, Pokoy-Kurtulus directly manages at least seven other team members, and many more indirectly, who benefit from her compassionate and empowering management style.

Her secret to managing such an expansive team? “Communicate and show integrity,” she said. “Share your vision to inspire your team. Empower them and allow them to make decisions. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Have an open door policy. Show your appreciation for their work and ideas. Check in on a regular basis. Encourage creativity and innovation.”

For Pokoy-Kurtulus, work is all about building and maintaining these fulfilling, valuable relationships. No matter who she’s working with, from interns to presidents, Pokoy-Kurtulus said, “there is always something to learn. Keep an open mind.”

SHE SAYS… “All relationships should be held in the deepest respect. Everyone is busy. Anyone who makes time for you is giving up valuable time of their own. Be thankful of this and don’t forget to say thank you.”

Tiffany Lione, OD

Founding Partner and President
Associates in Eyecare Optometrists
Stone Ridge, Virginia

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Dr. Lione has been instrumental in developing and growing Associates in Eyecare to the 36th largest U.S. optical retailer according to VM’s 2019 report. Dr. Lione has continually demonstrated expert-level leadership, strategic thinking, business acumen, problem solving/analytics, decision-making, performance & financial management, and communication skills.”

At its inception in 2005, Associates in Eyecare was a single, cold start office with three partners: Dr. Lione, Rob Allen, OD, and Hieu Vu-Gia, OD. Some 14 years later, the practice has grown to contain 10 locations in the D.C. Metro area, becoming one of the largest optical retailers in the country—and Dr. Lione, who earned her doctor of optometry from Pennsylvania College of Optometry in 1997, was instrumental in this success.

For Dr. Lione, success is about leading by example. She said, “Be a good role model for your staff. Be firm, but fair and the respect will follow. My staff is a family; I’ve had some staff members with me for 10+ years. They are greatly respected by me and me by them.”

Cultivating a cohesive, trustworthy team comes down to management, something Dr. Lione excels at. Her best advice? “I make a point to tell people when they are doing a good job and reward them for behavior above and beyond. We also make sure to have three to four staff outings per year to keep up morale.” This level of respect means Dr. Lione can trust her team, no matter what. “I have no doubt my patients are well cared for even when I’m not in the office because my staff enjoys what they do and that is reflected in our patient care.”

SHE SAYS… “Whether you have partners in business or in life, it’s really hard to do it on your own. Find those great partners and fulfill your dreams.”

Theresa Lundahl

Senior Vice President, Global Supply Chain
CooperVision Inc.
Victor, New York

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “After beginning her career in computer programming and industrial engineering, Theresa jumped into the supply chain world in the late 1990s. After 26 years with Eastman Kodak Company, she joined CooperVision in 2011 and rapidly began driving cultural change that accompanied a more formal planning process. Two years later, she assumed her current role, developing a global function consistently charged with balancing ever-increasing customer demands for customization of product, packaging and business model innovation.”

At CooperVision, Theresa Lundahl’s organization is responsible for global sourcing, global packaging and end-to-end supply chain planning. The driving metric for the group is customer service worldwide or, in other words, how does it deliver the right product in the right place at the time a customer needs it? “In my tenure, the global supply chain organization has doubled in size to support the significant growth of the business and to deliver consistent supply and service,” she said.

She added, “We have worked as an organization [to develop] our supply chain processes in order to shield customers from any unanticipated issues.” The most poignant demonstration of this was the lack of impact on customers in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico where a major manufacturing facility is located. Lundahl said her management philosophy is based, in part, upon driving ownership and independence for people who work for her. “I am very data-driven and strive to continuously learn and improve, and work to propagate that across the organization.”

SHE SAYS… “Always remember that business relationships, like all relationships, need to be developed and maintained. At the end of the day, it’s always about people. In addition, take the time to understand the processes that drive the business—even the ones that you do not drive yourself.”

Megan Molony

Senior Vice President of Merchandising
National Vision, Inc.
Duluth, Georgia

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She is a critical senior leader on the executive team and drives decisions for over 1,100 stores at NVI.”

A Purdue University graduate, Molony started out as a buyer at May Company, and then became a planning and distribution manager for Lazarus, a division of Federated Stores. She first joined the optical industry as a senior manager for lens product strategy and sourcing at LensCrafters. As her knowledge of spectacle lenses and technology expanded, she moved into several director, associate and ultimately VP roles leading operational strategies, building teams, and brand strategies, spending some 20 years at the company. She became VP innovation/commercialization at LensCrafters.

After a stint as SVP helping on strategy at U.K.-based Adlens, for its variable power optics business, she then moved to a key role of VP of integrated services at Essilor of America, partnering with ECPs and their affiliated groups to develop new supply chain, inventory and frame merchandising solutions.

Molony joined National Vision, Inc. (NVI), one of the U.S.’s largest optical retailers, in March 2017 where she now brings her expertise and merchandising strategy for the group to all of its retail businesses.

SHE SAYS… “Stretch yourself. Take on tasks and projects that are outside your comfort zone. Set up a network you can count on for support and idea sharing. Find an organization like the Optical Women’s Association.”

Denise Mogil

Director of Professional Services
Costco Wholesale
Issaquah, Washington

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She is responsible for all things optometric at Costco Wholesale, including doctor relationships, education, recruiting, support, equipment, vision insurance business relationships, accounting, systems and optician training.”

To call Denise Brown Mogil optically well-rounded is an understatement. Since starting as a cashier at LensCrafters 36 years ago, she has performed a broad array of jobs, rising to the top ranks of management and acquiring a deep knowledge of optical along the way. She has edged lenses, worked as a frame stylist and dispensing optician, and has managed stores.

At Costco, her employer since 1994, she has served as a corporate manager, an optical buyer and head of professional services. She developed an online training site for optical employees as well as Costco’s Optical Vision Insurance Program. Currently, she negotiates all the contracts for 520 Costco locations, recruits the optometrists and develops education, including a CE website for opticians. Mogil holds a bachelor’s degree in business management and is ABO- and NCLE-certified with a California Spectacle Registration.

“I’m a people person. That the key to my success,” said Mogil, adding, “I really like to give back to the community and do a lot of charity work.” She is proud of having started a program in Seattle in which military veterans package and sell dog biscuits, with the proceeds going to a guide dog charity. “This program helps people, especially those who have mental health issues and have a hard time interacting with people.”

Mogil is also on the board of New Eyes for the Needy and spearheads the organization’s fundraising efforts, which have raised over $1 million dollars to date.

SHE SAYS… “You must listen to the people you serve, as they are your key to success.”

Sarah Wells

Senior Vice President of Optometry Operations & Integrations
EyeCare Partners
St. Louis, Missouri

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Sarah is a cornerstone of our business operations. She is a true leader and her influence is felt at all levels of EyeCare Partners. The decisions Sarah makes today will be felt for years to come by each of our providers, their optical teams and our growing centralized service organization.”

Sarah Wells manages field operations for more than 220 EyeCare Partners’ optometry offices across 11 states. In addition, she oversees numerous national support center teams, including marketing, frame buying, office merchandising, call center operations, project management and new office integration.

“Through a concerted and disciplined process over the past two years, my team has initiated new programs to enhance patient care and accelerate business growth,” she said. “Our patient satisfaction, measured by Net Promoter Scores (NPS), is extraordinary, reaching a market-leading rating of 92.”

The way she ended up in this role, though, surprises even her. Nineteen years ago, Wells was a college student looking for summer work and happened upon an entry-level position at Clarkson Eyecare. “Almost immediately, I found myself on a career path I never imagined,” she said. In 2015, Wells was promoted to director of operations. FFL Partners subsequently acquired Clarkson and EyeCare Partners (ECP) was formed.

Programs introduced recently include new approaches to lifestyle dispensing, investments in medical technology, expanded product offerings and enhanced marketing efforts to encourage patient compliance with annual eye health exams, Wells said.

SHE SAYS… “Build relationships founded upon honesty and transparency, and whenever possible, make data-driven decisions that remove emotions. You can still be sincere and make tough decisions, but when those decisions are informed by facts, you will pursue the right path and your team will follow.”