Emilie Seitz, OD, is seeing the future… of optometry, that is. Dr. Seitz runs a popular Instagram account @EyeSeitz where she posts about her life as a primary care and ocular disease resident in a hospital setting in Charlotte, North Carolina. A class of 2020 graduate from Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University, Dr. Seitz originally started the page to show friends and family “a day in the life” while she was at school, she says. Since then, though, the page has attracted a following of future and young optometry students who are curious to hear what happens next. “There’s so much stress; you want to know everything is going to be worth it. You want to see someone enjoying their career,” she says. “I love being that person. I love being able to show the next generation of optometrists what they can do with their career.”
On top of running her Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube pages, Dr. Seitz is interviewing at different North Carolina practices, writing a case report for the American Academy of Optometry and picking up local shifts on weekends. “It’s been a little crazy, but it’s fun,” she laughs.
In fact, Dr. Seitz herself has some slightly unconventional things to say about her own career path. “I was not the best student in optometry school, but I took every opportunity I could to go to conferences and explore the industry and network with people outside our profession,” she says. She encourages optometrists of the future to ask questions and explore every possibility. “I also wanted to explore what it means to be a residency-trained doctor versus not residency trained… all these questions are points worthy to explore.” And she’s working on other collaborations in the eye care industry.
ENHANCING VIRTUAL COMMUNICATION
She notes that the COVID-19 pandemic has eased people worldwide into the world of virtual communication. “People want to connect face-to-face,” she says. “We’ve had to adapt to seeing people on camera. Patients are looking for that easy interaction.” As well as noting the practical benefits to video blogging, Dr. Seitz sees it as an opportunity to further solidify an online presence. “There’s a benefit to putting a face to your name or your brand,” she says.
With her platform, Dr. Seitz takes her responsibility for collaboration seriously. “Supporting the industry is at the base of what we do,” she says. While she enjoys recommending products to patients, she also does her research to make sure the brand is of a certain caliber. “I want to partner with brands that have the right idea,” she says, and avoid any appearance of compromising her integrity.
SHARING IS CARING
While many ODs are cautious with what they post as to protect the boundaries between personal and professional life, Dr. Seitz says that concern may be overblown to an extent. “I have a firm belief that the general public is more accepting that doctors and people have multiple interests in their lives,” she says. She notes that as an optometrist, she gets to connect with her patients, asking about kids and family plans. “We get to know them on such a personal level, so it’s really natural for patients to accept that there are different versions [of us] beyond the exam room.” In fact, Dr. Seitz believes there are benefits in connecting to personal interests in a way that’s accessible to patients. “I think aspects like vacations I go on and different interests can become commonalities that can draw patients closer.”
A more personal connection can also become a conduit to better patient understanding and care. “I tell patients what we’re doing, why we’re here and why we’re caring for them.” She notes a transformative experience that changed her view of what the profession could offer. When seeing a patient with a difficult diagnosis, she places herself in that patient’s shoes and wonders, “If I were the patient, what would I want to know?’”
Dr. Seitz is focused on the relatively short term of the next two years after she completes her residency. “I’m listening to my gut. I have a general idea of what I’d like those years to look like. I’d like to find a practice that supports medical optometry and educating people through social media platforms,” she says. As time goes on, she plans to consider buying into a practice and making more career moves, but for now, the future is simply looking bright. “There’s so much time, and I feel so excited to get to work.”