Stephanie Yarnell, OD, graduated from The Ohio State University College of Optometry in 2018 and moved to San Diego, California a week later. She was excited to start her career in optometry when a classmate recommended a position at a practice affiliated with the National Vision Doctor of Optometry network to her. She was working for Regency Eye Care, Inc. at an office inside an Eyeglass World just a couple of months after her move to the coast.
It was a different world immediately, she says, and in a positive way. “While in school, we were taught about the benefits of working for a private practice, so that’s what I was focused on,” she says. “However, when I started my role with Regency Eye Care, I knew right away it was where I wanted to be.” After graduation, she knew she wanted to move to San Diego. She wanted to be closer to family and escape the cold winters, she says, and looked forward to her new start. The support from her practice, she says, made it even more possible.
MOVING ON UP
She started with Regency as a full-time float doctor traveling to various offices in the area, which she says was a great educational opportunity. She discovered the lay of the land in San Diego and gained the clinical experiences of a practicing optometrist while still having a team behind her if she needed to bounce ideas around or needed a second opinion. After two years of treating patients, she transitioned to Managing Doctor at the Point Loma location, where she was able to focus more on building her own patient base.
Earlier this year, Dr. Yarnell was promoted to Area Doctor. She now oversees 10 offices with 12 full-time ODs. In this new role, she’s focusing more on the business side of optometry, she says, which includes patient and staff retention and building relationships while ensuring that both patients and staff have everything they need and more.
“The patient demographics, ocular diseases and prescriptions vary depending on the location,” Dr. Yarnell says. “The more I see, the more I learn.” She’s also still the primary doctor at the Point Loma office, where she continues to see patients most of the week. She’ll take a day a week to visit other offices, check in with the staff and grab lunch with the doctor on schedule. “My day-to-day is busier now, but I still find I have a good work-life balance,” she says. “Plus, I get to see all of San Diego and learn about patient education and how to ensure our team has the resources they need.”
EXTENDING HER NETWORK
As Dr. Yarnell continues to dive deeper into the business side of optometry, she’s seen “how valuable a corporate network is.”
“I have a huge team for support,” she says. “I have the freedom and confidence in my skills to treat patients and provide for my team, but if I ever need help or have a question, there is always someone to call.” Dr. Yarnell says she often receives same-day support for system access, tech questions or advice on a patient or staff situation. “I work independently, but not alone.”
GIVING BACK, AND LOOKING AHEAD
Not only is she gaining experience and knowledge, but she’s proud to be able to give back to her community through the National Vision Cares voucher program, which provides free eye exams and glasses to those in need. San Diego has a large unhoused population, and Dr. Yarnell says this program is “essential” for those in need. “I love being affiliated with a corporation like National Vision who gets involved in philanthropy,” Dr. Yarnell says. “It’s so rewarding to know that we are making a difference in our own community.”
For the foreseeable future, she’s happy where she is. “At the end of the day, I know I’m making a difference and improving my patients’ quality of life. I’ve had patients tell me that they can see that I love what I do. It reassures me that I chose the right career path.”
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