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Cultivate a Career That Complements Your Lifestyle

An associate OD position offers long-term opportunity

hardeep kataria
Dr. Kataria

Hardeep Kataria, OD, of Oxnard, California, and Victoria Ries, OD, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, find great joy and fulfillment in their work as associate ODs in medically focused practices with optometrists and ophthalmologists on the West and East Coast, respectively.

They both spoke with Women In Optometry about their employed positions, a goal in and of itself. Both women do not consider their positions as a stepping stone to ownership—that’s just not in the cards for them in the foreseeable future. “The main benefit for me is the work/life balance. I feel lucky as an associate that I can go home at the end of the day and I don’t have to worry about the financial aspects or personnel issues,” Dr. Ries says.

victoria ries
Dr. Ries

Dr. Kataria agrees. “As an associate, we can focus 100 percent of our time on things that we love,” she says, adding that she has a better quality of life because she can also have the time and energy for pursuing passions that fall outside of the office such as volunteering in her community, authoring clinical articles and building her professional social media presence.

Here, the class of 2012 New England College of Optometry classmates highlight how they’ve explored what optometry has to offer and shaped their careers.


Be upfront during your interview, both doctors agree. “If you have an area of interest, make that known to the employer to see if it’s a good fit for them as well,” Dr. Ries says. An employer wants to see a doctors’ enthusiasm and that they are educating themselves continually on those particular issues such as pediatrics or dry eye, Dr. Kataria says. “Show it off—I think that is very attractive to an employer.”

Exude confidence, show your interest and that you’ve done your research, too, Dr. Kataria adds. “I ask very detailed questions about expectations: hours, responsibilities, patients per day. I was very honest; I don’t want to work Saturdays, for example.” Be prepared for the tough questions such as identifying your weaknesses. For Dr. Kataria, that’s pediatrics. “I don’t see a lot of children, so I have the least experience with them.” The honesty is received very well, she says.


Both Dr. Ries and Dr. Kataria say that they had little knowledge about what would be a suitable starting salary, so they talked to others they knew in the profession, including Dr. Ries’ twin sister, Diana Ries, OD, to gauge their expectations for accepting a contract. They also turned to several groups on Facebook: ODs on Facebook and ODs on Finance.

Take into consideration the full package that you are offered: those factors beyond salary, which can include vacation, CE and benefits. “Ask for what you truly want,” Dr. Ries says. “You are going to have to meet in the middle,” so know your limits and where you are comfortable compromising. Prepare a counter offer, she adds. “You can ask for more incentives, more vacation or CE reimbursements.” For example, in one practice where she worked, if contact lens sales hit a specified target, she would receive a production bonus.

Dr. Kataria and Dr. Ries also spoke with WO about negotiating and financial transparency in the practices where they work. Read more.

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