Home Walmart/Sams Club Community ODs Remaining Open to Nontraditional Options Leads to Leadership Role

Remaining Open to Nontraditional Options Leads to Leadership Role

Sarah Frye Heywood, OD, grew up with Walmart. Her father has been managing the store in her home town for the past 26 years and been with the company for nearly 38 years. “So I was familiar with Walmart culture; it is just a part of who I am,” she says. Dr. Heywood is now a Health and Wellness senior manager on the talent acquisition & professional relations team
for Walmart and Sam’s Club. She’s based in Colorado and manages a team of six recruiters supporting 22 states.

It’s a career path she didn’t initially know anything about; however, she is so glad she found it. “I love leading my team,” she says. “The great thing about Walmart is that there are nontraditional health care roles for professionals.”

The path to her current position started in a more traditional direction. After graduating in 2006 from the University of Missouri-St.
Louis College of Optometry, she explored all her options and was excited to join an ophthalmology practice based in Springfield, Missouri. “I learned so much as a new practitioner,” she says.

After five years with the practice, she took her next step. “I was ready to explore new practice options with a model where I could have more autonomy,” she says. She was seeking an optometry lease in Colorado with Walmart or Sam’s Club when she learned about the Health and Wellness recruiting team. “It was a position called a regional talent specialist to recruit for optometrists and pharmacists in multiple states. It was definitely something so intriguing that I had to learn more about it,” she says.

                   Dr. Heywood and team at Heart of America contact lens conference

She joined the team and was in the role of regional talent specialist for four years. In 2015, she was promoted to senior manager where she has the privilege of leading a team of six regional talent specialists (two are optometrists and four are pharmacists) supporting 22 states in the Western U.S. “We support around 1,700 stores/clubs, and 1,000 have vision centers,” she says. The team also maintains the campus relations with nine schools or colleges of optometry and 51 pharmacy campuses.

“Our goal, whether it’s a brand new practitioner or an established practicing OD, is to find eye care professionals who are going to be the provider of choice in their town,” she says. “We are labeled as corporate-affiliated locations, but we desire for our optometrists to be community-focused.”

Being an optometrist who is also a recruiter means being a step removed from direct patient care. When she’s traveling to optometry schools, “I get this odd look from students. ‘You do this all the time? You’re not currently practicing?’” Yet she still feels a direct connection to patient care. “I make that impact on all those patients in underserved communities, when we find the right optometrist. We have a network of nearly 4,000 ODs and more than 3,000 locations across 47 states,” she says.

Dr. Heywood currently lives in Golden, Colorado, and manages to juggle work and traveling with raising two boys, ages 3 and 8 months. The family recently added a 5-month-old puppy, Luna. “So my home life is as busy as my work life,” she says. The serendipity of her career path has helped shape how she sees her future career options. “I love being in this role, and I always keep my eyes open to new projects that will enhance my skillset,” she says. “You never know when a new and interesting opportunity will come your way. There are exciting leadership positions out there for women optometrists, and I encourage all interested to pursue them.”

                                          Dr. Heywood at Vision Expo East
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