Fall 2014
Fall 2014

Danny Nguyen, OD

Current position: Staff optometrist at ABBA Eyecare in Colorado Springs; owner Marcus J. Meyer, OD ’78, maintains 15 offices in Colorado

Family life: Has a girlfriend, Annie

ICO class of: 2013

Then

How did you decide to pursue a career in optometry?
I had just graduated high school. With no desire for college immediately, I decided to get a job. My cousin, who was an optometry office manager, asked, ‘Hey, Danny I’m moving, do you want to take this job?’ I simply replied, ‘Okay,’ so I started working in the field as an office manager. And I did that for the next nine years. At first it was just a job. However, I fell in love with the industry and with the patients that make it all happen. It dawned on me that I could absolutely do what the doctor was doing, and possibly do it better because of my unique background as optician and office manager. So while continuing to work full-time, I started taking night classes at the local community college. It took nine years to finish undergrad–seven years at a community college and two at the University of California, San Diego. Looking back, I don’t regret taking the scenic tour of college, because it stirred a passion inside and gave me the experience and confidence of the optometrist I am today.

What brought you to ICO as you were considering different programs?
ICO was the one that my best friend [Michael Tran, OD ’12] was at. We are both from San Diego, born and raised, and grew up together. When he got accepted to ICO, I was still trying to finish up my bachelor’s degree. We shared many milestones together including elementary school through high school, our first girlfriends and driver licenses, even our first jobs. It was only fitting that we shared an unforgettable experience as optometry school in Chicago. ICO became my number-one choice. Even better than having your best friend of 20 years attending the school is ICO’s amazing clinical program–and you only fully realize it when you leave, when you see how prepared you are for the real world. The first time I ever got that feeling was during fourth year externships, when I finally had the opportunity to meet students from other programs. My fellow classmates and I recognized that our clinical knowledge and skills were unparalleled, because of the IEI and because of the wonderful professors.

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Did you have any favorite classes or professors?
Dr. John Baker for first year Optometry. He taught us refraction. Come to think of it, I almost failed the class, and yet he’s still my favorite. The class was so difficult–the tests were built for mental acrobats who fully grasped refraction. I did not. The only reason I passed was because I passed the final exam, barely. I remember the retinoscopy and refraction practical that Dr. Baker himself proctored. I also remember bombing it so bad that my colleagues in the next room could hear my groans of misery as Dr. Baker shook his head in disappointment. The 20-minute timer couldn’t end soon enough. But this speaks volumes on how much of an impact Dr. Baker had on his students. His passion for optometry and love for his students is almost tangible. And now thanks to him, I can perform refractions in the deepest of food comas.

Now

Given that you spent so much time working in an optometry office before entering the profession, you must have had a pretty good idea of what practicing as an optometrist would look like. How do those expectations and your professional reality today align?
It’s almost identical. I’m still in a private practice setting, so I get to spend time with patients and practice full-scope optometry. I moved to Colorado for the promise of outdoor adventure, but also to get a little more professional happiness–the saturation of optometrists and the scope of practice in California has its limitations. Working alongside an optometrist as an office manager, I received a great deal of respect from the community. Now, to actually be the person on the other side of that exam room, there is a lot of undeserved respect. You’re working in private practice now.

While you were in school, was this what you hoped to do upon graduation?
Yes. That has always been the ideal situation, but it’s not the reality. Upon graduation, the surge of optometrists looking for jobs heavily outweighs what the private practice industry can deliver. Initially, I was going to open up my own practice right out the gate with my best friend Mike Tran, but then I received this opportunity with ABBA Eye Care. Dr. Meyer has 15 locations and he macromanages all of them. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to learn and see what it takes to build an empire, while still working in a private practice setting. So I said, ‘Hey Mike, open up your practice. I’m going to go to Colorado and try to learn what I can, and when I come back to San Diego we can put all our knowledge together and run with it.’

What are some of the things you know now that you’re out in practice that you didn’t learn in school?
It’s all about location. Dr. Meyer puts so much thought, effort and research into opening up a specific location. Also, structure. Everything is protocol, protocol, protocol. From the second a patient comes in to the second they leave, all of them have the same experience. He has taught me that as a business owner, staffing will always be an issue. In order to be successful, you need the right staff, which can only be found through diligence of training and the understanding of mutual respect. Putting the patient first will always create a successful practice.

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