Susan Truong, OD, would say that she’s a spontaneous person. She made her career plans, “but you have to keep room to be able to grab opportunities,” she says. That strategy worked very well for her, as during the past 13 years that she’s been affiliated with Walmart, she had expanded at one point to holding five leases in the Tampa Bay, Florida, area. “I joined Walmart five years out of school after my Nova Southeastern College of Optometry graduation in 2000,” she says.
One year later, Walmart built another supercenter location about seven miles away. When Walmart offered it to her, she said sure—just like she did the following year when two other locations opened 12 miles away. By 2008, she had five leases, but four years ago, she whittled that down to three. “I sold the leases to the two locations that were 45 minutes away.” The three remaining ones are within 10 minutes of each other, which makes managing the locations easier as she’s the primary OD in each of them. “I see patients six days a week; summers were a little quieter, but back-to-school season has kicked off,” she says.
ODs are coaches
Staying busy and staying balanced are not always compatible ideas. Dr. Truong says that her own experience in successfully managing multiple locations and growing the businesses has led her to life coaching. “It seems natural. As ODs, we coach our patients on a daily basis. We talk about ocular health, wellness and nutrition. I began to see that your mindset is your most valuable tool when it comes to discipline,” she says.
The need to have a broader purpose in your life took on a startlingly clear focus three years ago. Dr. Truong, whose parents fled Vietnam in 1975 with their young children, grew up in a tight-knit family. Then one of her younger brothers was diagnosed with liver cancer and passed away just nine days later, she says. “If I didn’t catch myself, I would have spiraled down. But it wasn’t an option. I had to be strong for my parents, plan a funeral and run a practice,” she recalls.
Getting past grief
The process of grieving and continuing to work and live and be part of her family has shifted the way she’s looked at everything, she says. “Patients aren’t ever just a pair of eyes in the chair. I tell them that I cannot separate their eyes from the rest of their body. How they manage stress and eat are all part of how their brain and other organs function,” she says. “I can see the wheels start turning when they think of their eyes that way.”
Dr. Truong speaks also to optometrists and optometry students. “I tell them over and over that your practice location doesn’t define you. You make your practice what it is,” she says. “After 13 years at Walmart, I’ve wised up to where I can take advantage of the incredible traffic of potential patients who come through the store. Once they sit down in my chair, it’s up to me to make the experience unique and show patients the level of care I provide.”
She’s taken her coaching concepts honed by years of talking to patients to her colleagues and others through her coaching business, The Purposeful Mind. She has mentored at least six preoptometry students who are now in optometry school, and she enjoys answering questions from them and other students about what she does, too.
Visit Dr. Susan Truong’s life coaching page at thepurposefulmind.com.