For much of her youth, Veronica Fowler, OD, FAAO, was homeless. “We lived in shelters, cars and missions, on and off, from the time that I was in first grade,” she recalls. And then, when she turned 15, her mother sent her to live on her own, she says. She stayed at different friends’ homes when she could. One constant and stable foundation throughout this time was her job at Kentucky Fried Chicken. “Sometimes I’d live near the school and could go to work immediately after school. Other times, I had to travel about an hour by bus. But, no matter where I was living, the restaurant managers would transfer me to the closest location, and I kept working there all throughout high school,” she says.
After graduating, she joined the U.S. Navy and enlisted as an operations specialist. When her enlistment ended, she used her G.I. bill to cover her undergrad expenses and then applied for a military scholarship to earn her optometry degree from New England College of Optometry. Optometry school drew her during her first enlistment. “I knew I wanted to go into health care, so I volunteered at a physical therapy practice and a veterinary practice. Someone mentioned optometry to me, and it made sense. I’d been wearing eyeglasses since I was in kindergarten, and all of my experiences at the eye doctor’s office were comfortable.” An OD in the office where she worked instilled the confidence needed and gave her the push. “He said, ‘If I can do it, you can do it.’”
Dr. Fowler served four years as a Navy OD, stationed in Norfolk, Virginia, but she volunteered “to go wherever the Navy wanted me to go—Spain, Florida, Maine,” she says. She also started an externship program at the medical clinic and she served as the program’s director. “I enjoyed teaching a lot,” she says. After resigning her commission as a lieutenant, she signed up for two years as an Army Reserve OD, but also worked in a variety of practice settings, including an ophthalmology practice, a vision therapy practice and a pediatric office. “I worked in one location where my job was to travel to nursing homes two days a week to see patients on site,” she says.
One of the practices where she was working was acquired by MyEyeDr. in August of 2016. She attended a meeting where the acquisition was announced, and the MyEyeDr. leadership team explained what that would mean. “I was impressed by the model and excited about the opportunities this would present both in terms of patient care and for my career,” she says.
She heard that a clinical skills field manager position would become available, “and I started lobbying for it,” she says. “I have always been interested in administrative and management roles, starting in my military career and afterward. I like the idea of doctors helping doctors so that they can make sure their focus is on helping patients.”
On Jan. 1, 2018, Dr. Fowler became MyEyeDr. clinical field manager. Four days a week, she works in the Newport News practice and one day each week, she travels to other MyEyeDr. locations. “It’s a perfect fit, and I like to inspire people,” she says, simply. “I was not a kid who was encouraged to achieve. I wasn’t encouraged to go to college or ever told that I could achieve anything I wanted.”
Now she’s adamant that people she works with understand their value and their potential. “Once I became a part of MyEyeDr., I felt that the company was really focused on its people. So when I visit an office, I’m there for the doctor, the associates and the patients. I want people to be excited to see me and know that I’m going to look out for them. They trust that I’m going to find a way to work through any issues or concerns that they have,” she says.
“I think I’m meant to inspire people. We can always succeed as long as we stay vigilant, stay focused on our goals and accept help when we need it,” she says. It’s a formula that brought her a long, long way from where she grew up.