They are doctors working in varied venues, but these alumni of the Southern California College of Optometry share a common belief that their residency programs paid off immeasurably in their careers.
Judy Tong, OD, SCCO Associate Professor and Assistant Dean of Residencies, says graduates who do a residency program are not just helping their careers in the long term, but are advancing the optometry profession itself.
“By taking this route – their careers, their professional advancement – are limitless,” Dr. Tong says.
In this third and final part of our series, focusing on residents, we take a look at four SCCO graduates and the career dividends they say they received from their residency year of training.
Dr. Jeff Binstock: “Hit the Ground Sprinting”
Jeff Binstock, OD, ’15, believes his residency gave him the confidence – and breadth of training – needed to seamlessly step into running his own practice. The residency also made him more marketable when he first hit the job market before opening his practice, he says.
“I had job interviews galore,” says Dr. Binstock.
His residency was classified as primary care, “but essentially it was a jack-of-all-trades,” he says.
Dr. Binstock trained in ocular disease, contact lens, specialty lens, low vision care and other specialties during his residency. He said his residency allowed him to rotate with other medical practitioners in specialties such as rheumatology, primary care, neurology and others.
“I got to advocate for optometry,” he says. “There was a big emphasis on interprofessional relationships there.”
Dr. Binstock says one doctor oversaw him each day of the week, so he was able to learn different styles of practicing optometry. He says the extensive clinical training he received at SCCO prepared him well for the rigors of a residency program.
“The clinical program at SCCO is above all of the other schools, in my opinion,” he says.
Dr. Binstock says he also appreciates the talented mentors he has known along the way such as Dr. Stuart Frank, at his residency program, and Dr. Tong, at SCCO.
“Dr. Tong was a mentor of mine at SCCO and now,” he says. “I credit her hugely for where I am today. She encouraged me to be the best doctor I can be.”
Dr. Mackenzie Black: Practicing Eye Care for the Indian Health Service
While a student at SCCO, Mackenzie Black, OD, ’14, completed a rotation with the Indian Health Service at Hu Hu Kam Memorial Hospital in Sacaton, Arizona.
“I loved it so much that I wanted to come back,” Dr. Black says.
Dr. Black returned to the IHS hospital, first as a resident, then as staff doctor and now a residency coordinator. She says her residency exposed her to a wide range of patients and eye conditions.
“I’ve worked with kids as young as a few months and elders in their 90s,” she says.
Dr. Black says she treated many cases of ocular disease, red eye, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and other conditions.
“I knew I wanted to work at a site with a high exposure to ocular disease,” she says.
Before launching their residencies, residents at the hospital complete a week of Native American cultural training.
“It helps you relate to patients better,” says Dr. Black. “It’s important to listen and really hear.”
Dr. Black believes a residency program is hugely beneficial throughout a doctor’s career.
“No one ever regrets doing a residency,” she adds. “I feel more comfortable handling complicated cases now.”
Dr. David Meyer: Giving Back to Veterans Who Sacrificed
David Meyer, OD, ‘09, says he would not be where he is today were it not for his residency. Dr. Meyer is an integral member of the faculty at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salt Lake City and heads the Moran Eye Center Cornea and Contact Lenses . He also teaches at the University of Utah.
“There is no way I would have ended up in this position without a residency,” says Dr. Meyer.
Dr. Meyer was hired by the VA after his mentor, Harald Olafsson, OD, retired. Dr. Meyer says he loves his job, especially because he serves veterans.
“I feel I am giving back to people who sacrificed so much,” he says,
Dr. Meyer’s niche is specialty contacts lenses. Patients often need such lenses because of an eye injury, hereditary condition or unsuccessful surgery.
Dr. Meyer says his education at SCCO prepared him well for the residency and beyond.
“At SCCO, we had so many contact lens classes,” he says. “And they tried to give you as many patient encounters as possible.”
Dr. Meyer has a word of advice for anyone considering a residency.
“Begin with the end in mind,” he says. “Try to figure out the doctor you want to be and if that involves specialty care, you do a residency.”
Dr. Heidi Miller: Crafting Prosthetic Contact Lenses at UC Davis Eye Center
Heidi Miller, OD, ’14, completed her residency in contact lenses at SCCO Eye Care Center where she says she received diverse clinical training, including pediatric contact lenses. She now works for the UC Davis Eye Center where she specializes in pediatric contact lenses.
“I learned how to fit infants with contact lenses,” Dr. Miller says of her residency.
Dr. Miller also learned to make prosthetic contacts from scratch and to tint contact lenses.
Dr. Miller is a huge proponent of residencies.
“They say when you do a residency it is like completing five years of practice,” she says. “By the time you get out you feel as though you can handle almost any patient. You’ve climbed that learning curve.”
Dr. Miller says she also believes her residency has given her that extra edge to work as a consultant. She lectures on the side for contact lens companies and conducts workshops.
“I don’t know if I would have had those opportunities had I not had a residency,
Dr. Tong adds that the rewards of a residency aren’t just in the career opportunities the advanced training provides. A residency also pays dividends in career satisfaction, she says.
“They are going to be so much more satisfied with their chosen profession because the things they can do are so much more broad-based and expansive,” says Dr. Tong.