Home National Vision: Corporate OD Careers Practicing Independently But Not Alone

Practicing Independently But Not Alone

Dr. Mallory Whalen

When Mallory Whalen, OD, graduated from the Rosenberg School of Optometry at the University of Incarnate Word in 2016, she was a newlywed looking forward to spending time with her family. She knew exactly what practice setting she wanted: somewhere she could begin treating patients immediately, without the stress of overhead or taking work home. She decided to look into the National Vision Doctor of Optometry network, after talking to a representative on campus. Eight years later, she says it was and still is “the perfect fit” – even as her role has evolved.

JUMPING IN

Dr. Whalen says her time with the network has been full of new learning experiences. Her first position was as the full-time OD at EyeCare-Pro, P.C., working at a new office in New Braunfels, Texas. She had everything she needed to see patients on day one. The practice has an autorefractor with autokeratometry and non-contact tonometry, plus retinal cameras and Oculus visual field testing equipment. With the array of diagnostic instruments and testing, she could provide comprehensive refractive and medical care, going far beyond routine refractions. But even as she was building her reputation and patient base, the position at EyeCare-Pro allowed her the flexibility she wanted. “I could show up, see patients and go home,” she says. “I didn’t have to bring any work home.”

NEW OPPORTUNITIES

After five years with EyeCare-Pro, Dr. Whalen says a recommendation from Matthew Selby, OD, opened up a new career path. In 2021, she applied and was appointed to an open Area Doctor position with EyeCare Centers of Texas, another independent practice affiliated with the National Vision Doctor of Optometry network. She made the move and now oversees 21 full-time doctors at 16 Dallas area offices, which she visits twice a month. Her home office has nine full- and part-time staff members, and she also has both full- and part-time float doctors to help cover where they’re needed.

The Area Doctor position allows her to provide new ODs with the same kind of support and guidance she gained when she started. This structure of support helps shorten the learning curve and allows her to share best practice strategies from one location to the next.

In addition, she relies on the support of the National Vision team at her location to make her workday go smoothly. “My main partner is the America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses District Manager, David Goodwin,” she says. “We are partners 100%; I handle the clinical side and he handles the operations. We are always in touch to make sure our respective teams are successful.”

CARVING YOUR OWN PATH

Dr. Whalen says that her career choice has been a good one. “I have the freedom to be an independent practitioner in my own location, but the support is there,” she says. Fresh out of optometry school, she had the clinical knowledge but it was helpful not to feel isolated. “I could go to my Area Doctor, the local District Manager or Regional Clinical Directors with questions.”

In fact, she’s seen optometrists at various stages of their careers join practices with the National Vision network– from new grads to those who sold or retired from practice or those who want a different pace. “My first priority was to pay off debt and find a job where I had benefits and paid time off. All those boxes were checked at my practice. But there are also other ways to advance outside of the exam lane, and there are also administrative opportunities for ODs to move up within the network or to work with National Vision directly.”

Dr. Whalen recommends that graduating optometry students not feel like they have to open a practice before they’re ready. “The National Vision Doctor of Optometry network is a great choice for ODs,” she says. “If you want to get immediate experience and provide care to those who need it most, it’s a great place to look.”

 

Read more stories from National Vision and WO here.

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