After a nine-year career in the U.S. Navy, Mary Spencer, OD, FAAO, wanted a different pace—but she also
wanted a similar dedication to patient care. The military veteran, who spent time on the Navy’s hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, between the first and second Gulf Wars, eventually found what she wanted with Luxottica Retail.
Dr. Spencer joined the Navy immediately after her graduation from Pennsylvania College of Optometry in 1993. She was the recipient of a military health scholarship during her final two years of optometry school; her commitment to the Navy was for three years, and she had earned the rank of Lieutenant Commander.
She sought a career situation that would allow her to raise her two sons—now 14 and 12—that reflected some of the values that the military instilled: dedication to duties, discipline, integrity, teamwork, leadership, working for the benefit of others and putting other’s needs above your own, she says.
She had worked in some Luxottica locations and she taught at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences University School of Optometry in Worcester, Massachusetts, during her years working part time and balancing family and work. In December 2018, she signed on with a LensCrafters at Macy’s in North Attleboro, Massachusetts, not far from the Rhode Island state line. “As an independent business owner, I am able to spend the amount of time that each of my patients needs to provide exam testing for their routine eyeglasses as well as for medical eye health. Patients can continue to enjoy the vision needed to have a full, active life without me feeling the pressure to rush exams to make more money, something I had experienced in other offices,” she says.
The location is less than two years old, so she is building a patient base. But she has the diagnostic instruments and the support to do that well, she says. That’s another aspect of her time in the military that she enjoyed. “In the military, the patient came first. Luxottica gives its doctors that same opportunity to focus on the patient,” she says.
Be aware of the unexpected
Plus, Dr. Spencer can encourage patients to have comprehensive eye exams that include dilation. On a very personal level, she
understands the importance of preventive screening and thorough exams. Two years ago, her son, then 10, was diagnosed with a relatively rare ameloblastoma, a tumor in his jaw. “I tell my patients that because of my military background and my personal experiences, I want to ensure that there’s not any ocular health issues,” she says.
She tells them that the military protocol was to dilate all personnel before deployment as a precaution. She provides patients with a document explaining dilation and what to expect. If patients choose to opt out, they need to sign the form, noting that they’re refusing.
However, she also emphasizes that these patients are welcome to return for a dilation at no additional cost. “I don’t expect to find a tumor, but I wouldn’t be providing you with the best care if I didn’t offer this,” she tells patients.
She doesn’t want them to think that following her recommendation is going to cost them another office visit. About 50 percent of her younger patients agree to the dilation at the time of the exam while almost all of her older patients understand the value of the dilation and welcome her exam explanations. Some patients who were not expecting to be dilated do check the box saying they’ll return for a dilation at a later date that works better for their work or family schedules.
She adds that patients enjoy new instrumentation, especially the Optos imaging system, to help her show patients their diagnoses and increase their education of the condition. She says that the level of care and education that she provides will be a factor in having
patients return for their annual exams, which is important to word-of-mouth referrals and keeping her patients as healthy as possible.