International Women’s Day, a day of celebrating women’s achievements, is an opportunity to highlight what is possible for women when they maximize the opportunities they find before them or seek out new ones. It is also a day to celebrate the role that mentoring plays in all our lives. Throughout my career, I’ve had the privilege to help so many people, grow and discover their dreams, both personally and professionally. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to draw from my own life and work as an optometrist to guide future leaders and continue the cycle of empowerment and inspiration.
Inspiration can come from many different places. For me, it started early on. I became who I am from the people in my life – most notably, my grandparents. My grandmother helped shape my values by instilling a sense of pride, work ethic and love of those around her, and also solidifying my foundation of family and traditions. While my grandfather, a volunteer firefighter for more than 60 years, and the town pharmacist in Livingston, NJ, inspired me daily by watching the level of impact he had on influencing the lives of all of those around him, helping to keep them safe, happy and healthy. What my grandparents specifically taught me was how to envision your own path, and if that path isn’t available, create one, and always make a difference for others.
Another important lesson I’ve learned throughout my life is that with support of the right mentor, and having the right opportunity, even if just one single moment, can make all the difference. Early in my career, I served as a Lieutenant at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, where I provided eye care to wounded soldiers who returned home from overseas. Each patient was a gift, changing my life by sharing their stories and experiences with me. These extraordinary people taught me more than they will ever know and inspired me to do more than I ever dreamed I could.
I took the role I had as a clinical extern program director at the hospital very seriously, and soon realized it would also provide me with the opportunity to cultivate talent and recognize students I worked with who were ripe for the knowledge and leadership they could gain during our time together. I am grateful for having played a role, no matter how large or small, in helping them navigate the field of optometry.
I truly believe that having the ability and desire to give back is so important – in fact, it’s the most important part of what I do. And it’s ultimately why I decided to leave private practice for a position at Bausch + Lomb more than five years ago. It was the most difficult decision, but my hesitation quickly gave way when I realized that I’d have a much larger impact at a global eye health company than I could at an individual level seeing patients in private practice. I realized I could help thousands of providers around the world address their patients’ needs and, in the process, better optometry as a whole. For example, in the few years I’ve been in my current role, I’ve been able to be part of a team that launched a number of new innovations for practitioners, including a new multifocal toric lens that the industry had been wanting for decades. In this role, through JWI, an organization I’m honored to be a supporter of, as well as in many other facets of my life, I’m humbled and honored to mentor many young women across a variety of backgrounds.
While it takes confidence to leave your comfort zone and take on a new position that you’ve never had before, you also need the humility to say, “I can grow and learn so much from the people I will be surrounded by every day” – and I do. Never would I have imagined that taking on this new role would have opened the door to the amazing experiences and people I get to work with and mentor each and every day. I take this part of my job at Bausch + Lomb very seriously and believe it’s a crucial part of being a good leader and giving back as I learned so early on.
While leadership is not the same for everyone, if my story can influence and inspire women to find where they can make a difference in the world, then I’ll feel like I’ve come full circle. Whether you aspire to a career in optometry or to be the first female president of the United States, never do anything halfway and always look for new ways you can challenge yourself. When you find that purpose, that moment of clarity, when you can focus your abilities to make a true impact on others, that’s when you receive the ultimate gift of vision.