Debra Bulken

Luxottica Group USA
Glen Allen, Virginia

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “With more than 25 years in the business and knowledge of the customer base all over the country, Debra has built strong relationships with industry influencers and all the major alliances. Over the past year, she has taken Luxottica’s message on the road, training customers on everything from retailing to premium sun selling, all while being a coach inside Luxottica and the mother of two.”

With sales in her blood after working alongside her father in his Upstate New York boutique, Debra Bulken entered the optical field after being contacted in 1986 to fill a sales position for a new company, Ciba Vision. After 29 years in the industry, she now leads six district sales managers and 75 consultants that she helps inspire to support the independent three Os. Prior to Luxottica, she spent 23 years in sales with Ciba, two years at Hydrogel Vision, and two years with Marcolin USA.

Bulken attributes her success to: Steve Schuster, former president of Ciba, Bausch + Lomb and Hydrogel Vision, who hired her into the business along with regional manager, Ron Weiss; Angel Alvarez, founder/CEO, ABB Concise; Nicola Perini, VP sales, Luxottica; and Holly Rush, president, Luxottica North America.

“The role of women has evolved over the past decade, and we are fortunate to be a part of an industry that has embraced women at all levels,” she said. “Opportunities abound for savvy women who want to make a difference in the quality of life for our mutual consumer/patient.

SHE SAYS… “Do what you love, surround yourself with mentors, embrace change, lead with your heart, be your unique self, work passionately and success will come!”

Lori Carter

Minneapolis, Minnesota

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Lori takes charge and does not take no for an answer. She is always looking for ways to motivate and lead her team.”

“Leave everybody better than you found them” is the mantra with which Lori Carter begins her day, and it’s something she truly works toward in her life and career. Inspired by the idea of possibility, Carter strives toward taking the industry into the future.

Carter, who got started in the industry in 1986 as a key account representative for a small Connecticut company, has been a regional sales manager with Safilo since 2003, but thinks that right now is a great time for women to get started in optical.

“I believe that women are multi-dimensional. This will naturally expand the optical experience. It will deepen the experience in all facets of the industry. Thinking about what’s next and what’s possible is part of our DNA,” she said.

It is this idea of endless possibility and the potential that people possess that inspires Carter, along with this, she attributes her mother who “is a completely independent thinker who fearlessly looks life squarely in the eye” with being her greatest inspiration. Helping others live that way is what Carter seeks to do in her career.

“If I can help lead anyone to tap into their potential and creativity, success will just unfold from there. Humans have boundless potential and just being a part of people’s journeys is awe-inspiring to me,” she said.

SHE SAYS… “Leave everybody better than you found them.”

Rachel “Stacey” Coulter, OD

Nova Southeastern University
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Rachel “Stacey” Coulter publishes scientific research, teaches full time at NOVA and participates fully in the Academy and COVD. She is a leader among her peers.”

The biggest challenge that Rachel “Stacey” Coulter, OD faces is that a day only has 24 hours. Coulter, who has been an optometric educator, clinician and clinical investigator for over 20 years makes a difference by focusing on children’s vision which is a critical component of their developmental success.

Currently, Coulter teaches pediatric optometry in the clinic and classroom as a faculty member at Nova Southeastern University. She also serves as a principal investigator for the CITT-Attention and Reading Trial, which is a five-year study funded by the National Eye Institute.

She has been an integral part of the post-education residency program, mentoring many students and residents in pediatric vision. She has also initiated research about the impacts of vision on children with autism and co-founded a school in Broward County dedicated to educating autistic children.

One of her favorite quotes by Ernest Hemingway, “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places” inspires Coulter as it speaks to overcoming setbacks. For women entering the field, she advises them to not only know yourself and be confident, but be open to taking risks.

SHE SAYS… “Developing resilience and learning how to overcome setbacks is critical to long-term success. Not only will you eventually succeed, but others will look at you and not give up.”

Jennifer DaQuano

NuVue Optical in Vision Source Studio 20/20’s (Two Locations)
Charlotte, North Carolina

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Jennifer is the cultural leader and visionary behind NuVue Optical’s rise to become Charlotte’s destination for unique and exclusive eyewear.”

Jennifer DaQuano’s co-workers share similar glowing accolades when describing her talents as a team builder and professional development leader. She is called the Optical Guru, who inspires them all to provide every client with the best possible eyewear selection experience. As manager of NuVue Optical located within Vision Source Studio 20/20’s two Charlotte locations, her primary focus is on building the expertise and confidence of her staff. “My greatest accomplishments are the successes of my team when they move a client from viewing eyewear as an insurance-coverage-only purchase to an investment in seeing, looking and feeling great,” said DaQuano.

Her 20+ years of experience in a variety of optical settings, including lab and retail sales, having honed her skills as an eyewear consultant and manager. Before joining NuVue Optical in 2006, she worked in optometry and ophthalmology practices, as well as corporate and private businesses. Her diverse background helped build the communication techniques and knowledge of eyewear design and technologies that she shares today in staff training sessions.

Her passion for the eyewear business is reflected in her philosophy: “Stop trying to sell eyewear and instead, engage clients like friends you are helping to select eyeglasses that make them smile and feel confident about their appearance.”

SHE SAYS… “I truly feel the only time I’m not working is when I’m helping someone select eyewear. It’s amazingly fun!”

Patti Gertzen

ClearVision Optical
Hauppauge, New York

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Patti is well-respected by her team, which spans across a broad geography. She is always in recruiting mode and has an eye for identifying strong sales talent. Through her leadership, she has cultivated a winning team including four of our top sales consultants and the highest company performer.”

After 25 years in the apparel industry, Patti Gertzen made the move to optical with stints at Luxottica in the late 80s, Fratelli Lozza in the mid-90s and ClearVision (CVO) since 2002. She currently manages 14 sales reps in 11 states. “I hire, train, coach, cajole and push,” she explained. “I have been successful in retaining a long-term veteran sales force in the Midwest. I want people on my team to shine at all times. I am not intimidated by other’s successes, I celebrate them.

“The business has changed so much since I started. Even from last year,” she said. “I am not afraid of change. Some people have a tendency to shy away from ‘new’ things. I embrace them. I change with the times but also look for new ways to lead, accomplish and make things better.

“I advocate my positions with a sense of shared purpose. I create a buy in. I believe building these relationships have strengthened my career.”

SHE SAYS… “Women must have the confidence and ability to make a sale and not settle for a ‘No.’ Women make the decisions in most of the important purchases a family makes. Carry that ‘influence’ into the workplace.”

Jenney Rivard, FCLA

Middlesex Community College
Middletown, Connecticut

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Jenney is a lively and energetic teacher who brings real world problems into the classroom to allow students the opportunity to use her experiences for first-hand learning. She encourages her students to do and be their best and is a shining example of women in her profession.”

What inspires Jenney Rivard the most are the students who come into her class with no optical knowledge and end up with careers they could only dream of. “Many of my students overcome obstacles I can only imagine and become successful professionals,” Rivard said.

After entering the optical industry accidentally 38 years ago, Rivard has worked in high end optical shops and within ophthalmology, but began her teaching career in 1992. Among her accomplishments, Rivard was the first female president of the Connecticut Opticians Association, and after serving for four years, became their first executive director for the next 10 years. She has been honored with the optician of the year award, a lifetime achievement award and an outstanding achievement in education award from Middlesex Community College where she is an instructor.

“When I first started my career, most women were receptionists, rarely opticians. Now, my classrooms are primarily female, a big difference from even 10 years ago. It’s a wonderful opportunity for women as there are many different avenues that can be taken,” she said.

SHE SAYS… “Women are an integral part of the optical industry. We are smart, loyal and dedicated to our careers and our profession.”

Jill M. Saxon, OD


Bausch + Lomb
Bridgewater, New Jersey

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Jill is recognized as one of the pre-eminent leaders in vision care. She is a dynamic public speaker who can successfully navigate between technical and commercial topics.”

You could say that optometry runs through Jill Saxon’s blood. She considers it a privilege being part of a family providing medical care. Her grandfather was the owner of the “locally famous” Stan Beck’s Pharmacy, her father is a practicing optometrist, both of her uncles are optometrists and her younger brother is now a licensed optometrist.

Before embarking on her six-year stint as a private practice optometrist, Saxon began her career as a Lieutenant in the US Navy serving as a staff optometrist at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. While in the military, Saxon was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal, the Meritorious Unit Citation and the National Defense Service Medal.

Today, at Bausch + Lomb, she is responsible for proactive engagement with optometric professionals specifically related to contact lenses and lens care, and provides education around “B+L’s novel advancements in material technology. I provide guidance to the marketing team from the voice of the OD, and ensure that what we provide to the community fits the needs of our patients.”

SHE SAYS… “I have four recommendations for women in optical: Listen. Be passionate and authentic in everything you do. Embrace change, always be ready to learn and adapt to the world around you. Be courageous, make a goal, reach even higher, and then go for it.”

Michele Self, ABOC, FNAO

University of Alabama Birmingham School of Optometry
Birmingham, Alabama

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She has taught optometry students at UAB for 16 years, is an outstanding example of excellence in patient care and a great role model.”

Michele Self has served on the Board of the National Academy of Opticianry since 2005, and in 2015, became the first female chair of the American Board of Opticianry, a testament to her dedication to the profession. She helped the Board get the ABO competency test available in Spanish, and introduced a practical exam to the ABO test. She has been in “this wonderful business” for 23 years, and continues to find joy in her career everyday. This includes teaching 3rd and 4th year optometry students at UAB’s School of Optometry, where she designed the only university-based hands-on dispensary management program for 4th year students.

Along with teaching, Self manages the University’s retail optical dispensary where some 1,200 patients are seen monthly. The key to her success in these multiple professional roles is simple: “I show students and customers my love of what I do. If you show joy, you get joy in return.” Despite her hectic schedule, she has found time to accompany optometric students and faculty on 15 international mission trips to do eye exams and dispense eyeglasses in Central and South America.

“Women have brought a new edge to optical dispensaries. We are more fashion-oriented and take buying eyewear to a whole new level.”

SHE SAYS… “My husband is my inspiration. He has encouraged me every step of the way throughout my career. He is my rock.”