One of the major appeals of optometry for Rasika Whitesell, OD, is the ability to help people. From a young age, she knew she wanted to go into the medical field, but she suspected she would be a pediatrician. Her yearly visit to her optometrist changed her mind, though. “He said, ‘Why don’t you pursue optometry?’ I reached out and shadowed him for three or four months and knew instantly I loved the field and so much about it,” she says. There was so much I could do to help people, and I saw the instant gratification to help people see right away.”
Immediately after her undergraduate degree, she applied to multiple optometry schools and set off for her top choice—the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry, from which she graduated from in 2013. The newly minted Dr. Whitesell knew she was interested in a private practice setting and her first job out of school was just that, in a residency in rural Williamson, North Carolina. “I saw so much medical optometry; I had to figure out on my own there weren’t any others around,” she says. In fact, during her residency, within a month of graduating, she diagnosed her first brain tumor suspect.
A CORPORATE ROTATION
Following that residency, she took a job in her home town of Wilmington, North Carolina, with MyEyeDr. “MyEyeDr in North Carolina is very medically oriented,” she says. “The company let me practice medically the way I wanted to for six years. I had tons of glaucoma patients every day, lots of ocular issues and, of course, routine exams.” She parted ways in 2020, on good terms, to continue her career path in two private optometry offices.
She learned a great deal that she will take with her. MyEyeDr runs a company well and takes good care of its employees, she says. The time she spent there “was a blessing to figure out what I want to do,” which is to be her own boss one day.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
In the future, Dr. Whitesell wants to become more knowledgeable with myopia management. She is currently in the process of being trained with CooperVision MiSight, and she also looks forward to pursuing orthokeratology. These options build up her goal of differentiating herself with specialty contact lenses, including scleral lens fits. “It’s not a niche that everyone chooses to do, but in opening a private practice, it’s important to have those special niches that people look for. I’m motivated by that.”
Read our story with Dr. Whitesell on advocacy for the profession.