Spring 2014
Spring 2014

James Kirchner, OD

Current Position: President and CEO of SynergEyes
Family Life: Wife, Dee; daughter, Christina (married to Curtis) and son, Jeffrey (married to Emily); two granddaughters, Josyln and Layla
ICO Class Of: 1977

Then

How did you decide to pursue a career in optometry?
In high school, I knew I wanted to be in a health profession. My senior year, my parents gave me contact lenses for my high school graduation present. Back then, that was a big deal. The only thing that was available were hard lenses made out of PMMA material. In working with the optometrist who prescribed them to me, I thought, ‘You know, I think this is what I want to do.’

What are some of your lasting impressions from your days at ICO?
I created friendships at ICO that have persisted my whole life. Wherever I travel, I encounter classmates who feel like family, and that’s been really special to my wife and me over the years. Of course the academics were rigorous–as I know they are today–and going through that process with the same group of people was special.

My favorite teacher, no two ways about it, was Dr. Ernie Tennant. He’s an icon. Throughout my whole educational experience–not just ICO but high school and all the other years–Dr. Tennant was my favorite instructor ever. He was so passionate. He wanted to teach us so much, and in tough subject areas like ophthalmic optics. He was just great. He was so much fun, and he’s a real inspiration.

Now

Immediately following graduation, what did you do?
I actually thought about going to California, but in the end there was an opportunity back in Nebraska, where Dee and I are from. We went to Lincoln and I joined three optometrists in a group practice, and very quickly became a partner. I practiced in Lincoln for my whole career, until 2010.

What did you do in 2010?
I left practice to go into industry. I went to work for Eyefinity, a VSP company. I was chief professional officer for Eyefinity. I did all the professional relations and gave guidance to the company internally from an optometric perspective.

How did you come to work for SynergEyes? What do your responsibilities entail?
In July of 2012 I was offered the position of vice president of professional services at SynergEyes. And in July of 2013 I became president and CEO of the company. I’m responsible for all aspects of the company, from the worldwide sales and distribution of our contact lens products to oversight of the production of our lenses at our manufacturing facility in Carlsbad, Calif. Everything that it takes to run a major optical company is my responsibility. I have a great team of leaders that report to me. We’re very excited about growing the company and making it a real partner for the independent eye care practitioner.

How did your previous professional experiences prepare you for running an international company?
Over my career I’ve been involved in a lot of start-ups. I’ve always had a background and interest in business. But being a practitioner is the most critical thing. To have the experience of seeing patients day in and day out, fitting contact lenses, taking care of families–that’s what really prepared me to lead a contact lens manufacturer. I understand the products from a clinical standpoint and I understand the day-to-day operations of the independent practice.

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