Denise M. Capretta, COMT, LDO, ABOC

Technical Marketing
and Education Manager

VSP Optics Group
Rancho Cordova, California

CHOSEN BECAUSE…“She is greatly respected for developing and training the VSP Optics Group sales, marketing and customer service personnel on optics and the art of dispensing.”

After working in the field of ophthalmology for 10 years, Denise Capretta’s desire to open her own practice led her to pursue a degree in ophthalmic dispensing.

Since then she has been a certified ophthalmic medical technologist for 35 years, an Ohio licensed spectacle and contact lens optician for 25 years, and the owner of an Eye Express optical for 25 years, among many other positions and achievements. She was named the Bud Thoma Ohio Optician of the Year by the Opticians Association of Ohio in 2012 and the Ophthalmic Professional of the Year by the Cleveland Ophthalmic Personnel Society in 1993.

She said, “We are educating and graduating more female opticians and optometrists now more than ever.” She advises women working toward building a career in optical to find whatever niche they are passionate about in the industry and pursue that goal.

SHE SAYS…“Tell me and I forget; show me and I remember; involve me and I understand. My personal philosophy is in line with the VSP Optics Group mission statement, ‘To help millions of people see better.’”

Jill Gerrick

Human Resources Manager
The Walman Optical Company
Minneapolis, Minnesota

CHOSEN BECAUSE…“Her processes and guidance improve the leadership and compliance skills of all Walman managers, and she is the most valued resource in the company when it comes to developing the people on the team.”

Jill Gerrick is responsible for the HR training and development, and payroll/HRIS functions at Walman Optical. She acts as a trainer and mentor for supervisory and management people.

Although Gerrick has worked at Walman Optical for 13 years, she has had a 25-year career in human resources and payroll/accounting. Prior to her job at Walman, she worked for an electronic contract manufacturing company and a major retail home improvement company. She has achieved SPHR (Senior Professional in Human Resources) designation and maintains memberships in the Optical Women’s Association, Society for Human Resource Management and Twin City Human Resource Association.

Gerrick believes employees find special motivation to come to work each day if they are performing important, meaningful work, adding, “I cannot think of many jobs that are more important or meaningful than improving the vision of the world. I feel fortunate that I get to support employees that perform this work.”

SHE SAYS…“In our efforts to accomplish more with less time and effort, women will find a way to get both their fashion and health needs met in the most efficient and practical way possible.”

Vinita Allee Henry, OD

Director of Clinical Operations and Residencies
University of Missouri
St. Louis College of Optometry
St. Louis, Missouri

CHOSEN BECAUSE…“As director of clinical operations and director of residency programs as well as a clinical professor, she has been on the faculty of the University of Missouri-St. Louis since completing her residency 26 years ago

The accomplishments of Vinita Henry, OD, are numerous. She just completed her term as the chair of the Association of Optometric Contact Lens Educators. In 2005, she won the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence for Academic Non-Regular. She is a member of the American Optometric Association, the Association of Optometric Contact Lens Educators, the Fellowship of Christian Optometrists, the Missouri Optometric Association, the St. Louis Optometric Society and is a member and a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry.

A clinical investigator in over 60 contact lens research studies, she authored or co-authored over 40 publications and book chapters, and is currently in the process of completing the fourth edition to the Clinical Manual of Contact Lenses textbook with co-author Edward Bennett, OD, MSEd.

Just as her role in optometry has advanced in the last two and a half decades so has that of women in general. “I benefited from having a well-respected male mentor who provided opportunities for me in lecturing, research and publications.”

SHE SAYS…“I have been blessed in life by those who have supported, encouraged and motivated me to help others—my parents, my husband, my three daughters and my mentor, Dr. Edward Bennett.”

Deb Klug

National Sales Manager
New York Eye
Amityville, New York

CHOSEN BECAUSE…“Deb doesn’t see herself as a leader but as a teacher/supporter. She remains steady and supportive, always with a can-do attitude. She recognizes people’s achievements and constantly motivates with positive reinforcement.”

“‘If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.’ I love this Katharine Hepburn quote,” said Deb Klug. “That is the essence of what I am. I don’t follow all the rules, period. But I do have lots of fun, which for me is success. If you do everything like somebody else, they don’t need you. If you want to find success, you need to forge your own road.”

Clearly, it’s a philosophy that makes a good mentor. “Mentoring is a passion for me; I want other people to be as amazing as they can be. I’ve mentored both men and women inside and outside of the industry. Helping others, and especially women, feel successful is such a great feeling. I also like to help people see how to work outside the box to achieve success.”

Klug got her start in the industry in 1975 in The Illinois College of Optometry Student Auxiliary and then co-owned an optometric practice in Michigan. She went on to work in sales for Wisconsin Optical Supply, L’Amy America and Aspex. She spent 12 years at Aspex and recently joined New York Eye as national sales manager, where she works with two other women, Jan Phillips and Lucy Korn, to oversee all of New York Eye’s sales reps.

“Today, there are more women leaders in the industry. It’s been exciting to see women slowly moving into leadership positions. I like to see the business mind behind a female optometrist. I see them as smart buyers and smart business decision makers. This will continue to shape and positively affect our industry in the years to come.”

SHE SAYS…“Work smart, work often. I work until I get it done and I work hard. Look for successful women within the industry and pattern yourself after them. Ask anybody that you admire for help. Don’t be afraid to ask; most people are happy to help.”

Millicent L. Knight, OD

President and CEO
North Shore Eye Center, Inc.
Evanston, Illinois

CHOSEN BECAUSE…“She was awarded Optometrist of the Year 2011-2012 by the Illinois Optometric Association, appointed to the National Advisory Council of the National Eye Institute, and was featured in Today’s Chicago Woman magazine as one of the 100 Women in Chicago Making a Difference.”

An optometrist, administrator and business woman, Millicent Knight, OD has it all. Following loosely in the footsteps of her mother, a retired CEO of a large mental health agency in Chicago, and showing an interest in the field since age 8, according to her father, Knight has been in practice for 25 years and owned her own practice for 20. “I needed glasses at a young age, and was in vision therapy,” Knight said. “My dad said he picked me up one day and I said very matter-of-factly, ‘Dad, I’m going to be an eye doctor.’”

So she did. After receiving her OD, BSVS from Illinois College of Optometry, Knight began her medical career as an associate optometrist at South Chicago Hospital. She eventually started a private practice within an existing practice by buying out the smaller portion that was retiring. “I took a big leap as a then single woman, and relatively young…it was a scary decision, but a good business decision.”

Later, she established Knight Vision of Illinois Health Care Consulting, Inc., a corporation holding consulting contracts for speaking, coaching, research and consulting in the areas of contact lenses, contact lens solutions, pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals. She also has teaching experience from the University of Alabama College of Optometry as a clinical instructor, and the Illinois College of Optometry as clinical instructor, business and practice management, and is completing a fellowship in the Academy of Anti-Aging Health Practitioners.

SHE SAYS…“I am a builder. My strengths lie in being a bridge across many different backgrounds that reach beyond different races, cultures, and ideologies for a common good. When I am excited about something, I’m tenacious!”

Patricia Kuhl, LDO, HFOAA

Opticians Association of Ohio
Cincinnati, Ohio

CHOSEN BECAUSE…“Pat has actively been involved in promoting and mentoring opticians for her entire life. Her passion, vision and dedication to opticians has inspired many.

After becoming fascinated with opticianry during a college job as a receptionist, Pat Kuhl became an apprentice for an independent optician 30 years ago at SupeRx Optical Centers. She has since spent 17 years as marketing/operations manager of SupeRx, and is now a self-employed licensed optician.

Kuhl saw a need for part-time people in the field. “I realized there is a niche for this,” she said. Thus, she became a “substitute” optician for several independently owned and operated businesses throughout the Cincinnati area.

In addition to being a self-employed optician, Kuhl is president of the Opticians Association of Ohio for which she has been a member for 30 years, and is on the board of directors of the Opticians Association of America (OAA), which she has been a part of for 20 years. She currently holds a leadership chair for the OAA and was recipient of the OAA State Leader of the Year in 2010. Inspired by the pride and passion of those in her field, she is motivated by the constant desire to have the field of opticianry recognized “as a true profession with equal status as other professional fields such as pharmacy, nursing, and optometry.”

SHE SAYS…“I am a team player. I believe in unity and strive to embrace and respect all aspects of opticianry. I lead by example and am not afraid to take on a challenge, or assist others with their challenges.”

Mary Anne O’Toole

Sales Coordinator and Manager
of Customer Service

Classic Optical Laboratories
Youngstown, Ohio

CHOSEN BECAUSE…“Mary Anne is a role model, mentor and friend. Her customer service team appreciates her open management style saying, ‘She has truly made a difference in our lives—professionally and personally.’”

Years ago, Mary Anne O’Toole was promoted from an office manager to a sales position because her manager thought she could do the job. Years later, it happened again. She was promoted to a position for which she had no previous experience and like before, O’Toole rose to the challenge. Today, she is the sales coordinator and manager of customer service for Classic Optical Laboratories. Prior to her position at Classic Optical, she had no experience in the optical field “besides having to wear glasses.”

Today, O’Toole plays an active role in the management of Classic Optical with her fellow senior managers. One of her favorite aspects of the job is staff training and development. As a team, the customer service group works together to stay up-to-date on products, processes and communication tools. Because customer service requires more than just phone skills today, O’Toole makes sure her team is proficient in writing skills for crafting e-mails, text messaging and social media.

SHE SAYS…“It is very gratifying to me to ‘manage’ a group of 11 women that get along. Sometimes my best instinct is to just let them go their way and trust that they will do what is right. Watching them grow as a group and as individuals has been very rewarding.”

Kara Pasner, OD, MS

Assistant Professor,
Vision Care Technology
CUNY New York College of Technology
New York, New York

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Dr. Pasner has served as a role model for aspiring opticians to either further their education and become optometrists, or to become more well-versed opticians by their understanding of the material she teaches them.”

A full-time professor and doctor, Kara Pasner, OD, MS teaches and practices in the New York City area in an effort to give back to the industry. Descended from a father and grandfather who were eye doctors as well, Pasner believes the profession is in her blood and does everything she can to continue its legacy.

As a professor, which she has been for the past five of a 20-year career in optical, Pasner said she tries to guide students through the industry. “They’re always curious, it’s very different than practicing. You’re spilling out what you know, taking in their questions, and re-evaluating what you know.”

In addition to her dual career (she has a solo private practice with locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn, N.Y. and Ocean and Whiting, N.J.), she gives community service lectures and is involved in the glaucoma caucus. She is also a member of several organizations, including (but not limited to) the AOA, the New York State Optometric Association, the New Jersey Society of Optometric Physicians, both the New York and New Jersey Boards of Optometrists, and the National Federation of Opticianry Schools. “You make a name for yourself in this industry,” she said. “It is a small industry and your reputation means a lot.”

SHE SAYS… “If you think you are disadvantaged being a woman, you will be creating your own obstacles. I think if you set clear goals and work to achieve them, your chance to succeed is the same as anyone else’s. Remember what Eleanor Roosevelt said: ‘No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.’”

Carol L. Schartner

Education and Training Consultant
Transitions Optical
Pinellas Park, Florida

CHOSEN BECAUSE…“Carol is like a great stage mom; there when you need her and stepping aside in the wings when you don’t. She has a keen ability to read her trainees and sense when they need additional help, even before they know it.”

In the optical business for 53 years, Carol Schartner spent her first 23 years as an optometric assistant in a private practice. “As a child, I was taken to an optometrist and I remember thinking I’d like to be that person who helped out the doctor,” said Schartner.

Early in her career, she was the founder and first president of the AOA Paraoptometric Section and the Pennsylvania Paraoptometric Association in 1978. She received the Pennsylvania Paraoptometric of the Year award in 1980 and the AOA Paraoptometric Special Service Award in 1993. From her job in a private practice, Schartner moved to a job as a lens consultant, trainer and lecturer, joining Transitions Optical in 1994 where she was the customer training coordinator, senior lens consultant, Solution Team member, and education and training manager. She received the Transitions Optical Achieving Customer Excellence award four times and the Transitions Award of Distinction in 2008.

“I have been blessed with many mentors including Dr. Alvin Levin who encouraged me to develop my leadership skills; Phil Eichelberger who showed me the ins and outs of the wholesale laboratory business; Calvin Howell who mentored me on the manufacturing side of lenses; and Tim Fortner who encouraged me to become a member of the Transitions Team,” said Schartner.

SHE SAYS…“When I began my career I never had a woman call on my office in a sales capacity and most of the lab folks were men. Women didn’t own labs or weren’t in upper management back then. How all that has changed!”

Cindy Swain

Director of Product Development and Design
Zyloware Corporation
Port Chester, New York

CHOSEN BECAUSE…“Cindy is a true leader. She leads by example and is one of the hardest and smartest working people within the organization. Her team works at a fantastic pace due to her efforts.”

Cindy Swain started her career in optical dispensing back in high school and has worked over the last 26 years in everything from buying, sales and manufacturing to her current role in product development and design for Zyloware. “In the six years that I have been with Zyloware, we have successfully launched Randy Jackson, Daisy Fuentes and had continued success with Sophia Loren and Stetson along with others, all with the help of a great team,” said Swain.

That team includes not only product development, but the quality assurance department as well. “I have a great team supporting me. Nurturing and growing them is important to me. Sharing my knowledge and helping them grow to be the best at their job. There is nothing more exciting than seeing potential in someone and helping them make it to the next level, to believe in them and watch them believe in themselves.”

One of the ways Swain leads is by example. “I strive to be the best I can be every day. I always push the limit and try to think outside the box. I look at everything from a different angle and I push my team to think the same way.”

“In the last decade, there have been amazing women that paved the way to show all of us that the optical industry is a great place for woman to excel at their careers. It has encouraged and supported woman to grow,” she concluded.

SHE SAYS…“Be passionate about what you do. I always speak my mind with passion and compassion. The optical business is ever changing and you must be willing to change with it. More importantly, try to be the innovator.”

Christie Walker

LabTalk Magazine
New York, New York

CHOSEN BECAUSE…“As the Editor for LabTalk Magazine and a roving reporter and photographer for Jobson at trade shows, everyone knows and loves Christie. She always takes time to interact with people, welcoming newbies to optical and working with industry veterans.”

Christie Walker’s entry into the optical field was somewhat accidental when she applied for an editor’s position at Frames Data back in 1997. Although her degree and experience as a journalist and photographer were strong, she admitted she didn’t know a PAL from an ECP. “Three weeks after I was hired, it was baptism by fire when I attended my first Vision Expo.”

Today, as Editor of LabTalk Magazine, Walker is a seasoned veteran specializing in everything optical lab-related as well as contributing to Vision Monday’s Show Dailies and working as lead photographer in 20/20 Magazine’s Street Seen features. Anyone who’s attended Vision Expo or read Jobson’s on-site pubs is more than familiar with her easy manner and eye catching photos.

Her shining moment came in 2011 when she was honored by the Optical Women’s Association (OWA) with the Pleiades Award, which spotlights an individual who has shown commitment to the mission of the OWA by fostering the growth of women in the industry. It was a touching and fitting tribute since the organization is near and dear to Walker’s heart.

“Joining the OWA was the single best thing I did to meet new people who were inspirational, influential and just plain great. All my best friends in the industry are OWA members.”

A “founding mother” of the Optical Women’s Association, Walker was a member of the organization’s original board and part of the team that created and named the Pleiades Award. Today, she oversees the organization’s annual Professional Optical Women’s Workshop event in Las Vegas.

“I bring quality speakers, information and inspiration to the women of the optical industry. It’s my small contribution.”

SHE SAYS…“Back when I was a newbie to the optical industry, I looked to women like VM’s Marge Axelrad, Corrine Hood at Katz and Klein, and Mimi Friedfeld for inspiration. These women were true leaders and inspired me to become more than just a reporter but to be actively involved.”