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Lean Into Your Optometric Passion

Dr. Jennifer Palombi in green sweater and plaid scarf - talks about how optometric passion led her into a leadership role
Dr. Palombi

For the years that Jennifer Palombi, OD, FAAO was in clinical practice, she also established and pursued a business in medical writing. “I enjoyed it,” she says, so she leaned into it despite the additional demands it placed on her time. She also enjoyed teaching and took every opportunity to educate that came her way, from leading continuing education courses for ODs to developing an eye care technician training program at a local trade school or joining diabetes education classes to teach patients about the importance of dilated eye exams. Little did she know that this combination of activities would eventually take her onto a completely different career path. She’s now head of professional education and development for the Americas at CooperVision.

When Dr. Palombi began to think seriously about transitioning into an industry role, she went to the CooperVision website. “I knew I wanted to lean into my personal interests and strengths, and CooperVision was my favorite vendor. I believed in the products and felt the company was a good business partner. As it happened at the time, the company had recently posted a role that was a good fit with my skillset: professional and scientific communication.”

Dr. Palombi’s role expanded two years later to include professional education and development, in which she continued communicating around CooperVision initiatives and began leading education programs for eye care professionals in the U.S. About a year ago, she landed in her current position, allowing her to bring these initiatives to U.S., Canadian and Latin American markets.

MAKING THE CHANGE

Dr. Palombi recalls being a little unsure when she first made the leap. “Learning how to navigate the corporate environment takes a different approach. In the exam room, I can say, ‘This is my professional opinion’ and the patient is likely to follow my advice because that’s the nature of the relationship. In a room full of people specifically selected for their unique perspectives, backgrounds and approaches to how we want to reach a common goal, it’s a different dynamic. And it requires a different skillset.”

She quickly adapted. Her communications background combined with her clinical experience came in handy as she assimilated views and perspectives to help inform strategy. Starting out “writing about the products I loved for a professional audience, I certainly didn’t envision that I’d one day lead education plans on those products for so many providers. It’s really rewarding.”

But it isn’t entirely surprising, she says. CooperVision fosters leadership – and she advises anyone looking for an industry role to be sure to work with a company that aligns with their own core values. “I appreciated CooperVision’s values as a clinician customer, and I appreciate them in my current role. I work in a creative and collaborative environment that allows me to continue to pursue my passions,” she says.

UNIMAGINED OPPORTUNITIES

Facebook post that talks about the net plastic neutrality Cooper created with plastic bank
Facebook post from CooperVision

It has also provided opportunities she had not imagined. For instance, in her years of practice, she was not fully aware of all the steps manufacturers take to operate sustainably. “In 2019, I was able to take a group of practitioners and media partners to our Costa Rica manufacturing facility to learn firsthand about how the clariti® 1 day family of products is sustainably made. Shortly after, I was part of the early planning on our net plastic neutrality initiative. When I was in practice, I had occasional conversations with patients about plastic waste and how to properly dispose of their lenses, but now I was in a role to help determine how to communicate this issue to our profession. It was an opportunity to both learn and lead, and I find those kinds of opportunities very rewarding,” she says.

Dr. Palombi says that she recalls wondering whether her scope would narrow when she left the exam lane. “In reality, it has taken me in so many new directions that were not on my radar.” She advises ODs and optometry students to “lean into your own passions. You don’t know where they will take you. I loved writing and teaching, and that ended up being exactly the combination of experiences I needed to lead me here.”

It’s nearly impossible to predict what kinds of roles companies might look for in the future. For those interested in eventually coming into such a position, a solid pathway is to build expertise in what you are passionate about. “At CooperVision, we often identify where the needs are in our industry in order to determine where to expand – and then we look for the people who have the experiences that match those needs.”

 

CooperVision was a platinum sponsor to the 2023 Women’s Leadership Conference hosted by Women In Optometry. Read more about that event here

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