Daniel Do, OD ’02
While Canada might not be the most exotic country on this list, it is the home of many ICO alumni. No one knows the differences between the United States and Canada better than Daniel Do, OD ’02. He owns Kingsway Eye Care, a family-oriented private practice, in Toronto, Ontario.
There are only two optometry schools in all of Canada, one exclusively French-speaking. As a result, some Canadian students study in the United States, return home, and find saturated cities and steep competition. “You can’t just come back [to Canada] and say ‘Give me a job,’” says Dr. Do. “It doesn’t work that way.” Dr. Do has seen many Canadian practices hiring part-time doctors, “a day here, a day there,” hoping to offer them more hours down the road. To increase the chances of getting hired in Canada full-time and finding the right fit, Dr. Do recommends researching Canadian practices and networking while still in school.
Another factor that can prevent Canadian students from returning home after graduation is student debt. Says Dr. Do, “You can’t go back to Canada and start a practice and expect to pay off a U.S. debt with Canadian funds. You have to really plan it out.” Dr. Do practiced in Buffalo, New York, before eventually cold starting Kingsway Eye Care in Toronto. He says establishing his business was “very challenging, emotionally and financially,” and required intense financial planning. It was also “the best decision [he] ever made.”
Dr. Do feels that ICO gave him the strongest possible education in terms of disease pathology. He found that the Canadian Boards focused on other clinical areas, making his U.S. experience unique. According to Dr. Do, Canadian referral centers and specialty centers are more ophthalmology-heavy than in the United States. Even though Canadian optometrists can “prescribe and manage glaucoma in all the provinces,” Canadian ODs are often tempted to refer complex patient cases out, despite possessing the required training. Thankfully, Dr. Do also sees emerging opportunity in Canada, with a “growing niche of vision therapy” and healthcare professionals referring to his office for its management.
Another major difference between the U.S. and Canada is the Canadian health care system. “In Ontario, we have The Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP),” says Dr. Do. In his province, patients under 19 or over 65 are eligible for an eye exam once a year. For individuals between 20 and 64 years of age, OHIP will cover only certain conditions, such as “diabetes, glaucoma, or cataracts.” Patients end up confused and frustrated over what is covered by the government and what services (retinal OCT imaging, for example,) must be paid out-of-pocket or by private insurance. “It gets sensitive for everyone.”
Similar to the United States, the challenges in Canada do not end with insurance. Canada has disruptive technologies just like those found stateside. The Canadian equivalent to MyEyeDoctor is called FYIDoctors. Another disruptor is Clearly Contacts, an online distributor that established brick and mortar stores in Canada just as Warby Parker did in the U.S. Lastly, online refraction apps such as Opternative may not have as large a reach in Canada, but they still exist, and are expected to grow in popularity.
To combat change in the profession, Dr. Do has joined groups such as the Canadian Optometry Group (COG List), which discusses “a host of clinical and management issues” in the country. To keep his practice competitive, Dr. Do has “rooted himself in” his community through speaking engagements and diversified services. He plays a key role in his practice’s online marketing, and at his Grand Opening event, brought in hockey players from the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Dr. Do was fortunate enough to serve as the optometrist for the team for over 12 years!)
Dr. Do fought hard to return to Toronto for family reasons. These days, when he isn’t practicing optometry, he enjoys competitive tennis. He recently welcomed a daughter into the world, and tries to spend as much time with his wife and family as possible. Though international students face many hurdles in establishing themselves, Dr. Do feels success can be achieved. “Wherever you settle, they’re going to need a doctor… It is just important to map out how you will achieve your success, rather than expect the road to be paved for you.”