Jenn Sowers, OD, bought a practice last July, barely a year after she graduated from optometry school. Her original career plan didn’t include taking that big step so soon, or even taking it at all. It happened anyway. “I was planning to work for a group practice,” she says. “I never had an intention of owning.”
How it came about is a good lesson in what was mostly serendipity. She enrolled in the Michigan College of Optometry (MCO) in 2011, in large part because of encouragement she got from doctors at the ophthalmology practice where she worked.
Plus, she had earned her bachelor’s degree in 2008 and had already spent a few years as a manager at an optometry practice. So she knew the business side.
She was expecting to be hired at the ophthalmology practice after earning her degree. But while she was approaching her 2015 graduation, her ophthalmology boss called to tell her: change of plans; we actually can’t hire you. “I said, ‘Are you kidding me? What am I going to do?’”
As it happened, MCO was hosting an event in April 2015 where its soon-to-be graduates could meet planning-to-retire ODs. That’s
where she met Richard Choryan, OD, founder of Caledonia Vision Center in Caledonia, Michigan. “He said, ‘I’m getting ready to sell my practice,’ and it was right along the same time as I was getting ready to graduate,” she says.
They discussed a possible sale over several meetings and decided they had similar philosophies. Dr. Choryan, who has been in practice more than 35 years, had turned away offers to sell his small practice to larger groups, she says. Plus, Dr. Sowers had some roots in Caledonia. Her family moved there when she was in high school.
They struck a deal that came to fruition in July. Today, Dr. Choryan continues seeing patients at the practice, with plans to retire in
the near future. Dr. Sowers is making plans for what she wants her new practice to be. That will include expanding its medical services along with pediatric care. She also plans to expand the practice. Someday she’d like to add a third OD as well. “I’m a very social person, and I like to work as a team,” she says.
Here’s another bit of luck in her favor: her past experience as a manager with an optometry practice and her time with the ophthalmology practice helped her secure a larger bank loan than a freshly graduated OD would get. The bank looked at her previous work as management training.
She didn’t wait long after the purchase to make changes. She’s turned an exam room into a special testing room and created smaller exam rooms instead of one larger room. She’s also going to knock out some walls in the patient entrance and get rid of the sliding glass window design “to open it up and make it more welcoming,” she says.
Adding medical care is a big step. “For example, we’re treating glaucoma now instead of referring it out,” she says. Patients previously would often go to nearby Grand Rapids for that level of care, “but now we’re able to provide all those things.” She’s also hired three more people to help with the extra patient flow that the two doctors produce, and one of the new employees is experienced with medical billing.
Her expanded pediatric care comes in part from personal experience. She has two children, and her oldest, Cohen, got his first pair of glasses just past his first birthday. He’ll be 3 in December. “I saw the improvement in his confidence and motor skills,” she says. “I
could see the difference you make in a child’s life.”
Click on the doctors’ photos below to read their stories.