I am Dr. Safia Suliman, a recent SUNY College of Optometry graduate who has just finished a Vision Therapy and Rehabilitation Residency. My choice to enter optometry and attend SUNY was greatly influenced by a visit to a vision therapy private practice. I saw an opportunity for a personalized approach to patient care that resonated with my style and values, along with the promise of a flexible schedule that suited my lifestyle.
In the early years of my education, however, I noticed an unexpected gap. Despite the incredible autonomy and flexibility that private practice could offer, it seemed overshadowed by corporate and medically driven career paths amongst students. I knew I had to take action to share my vision of what optometry could truly be like.
My commitment to this cause led me to pursue a leadership role within the Student Optometric Association for Private Practice (SOAPP) at SUNY. I began to delve deeper into the world of private practice, uncovering a wealth of resources and an encouraging community of private practitioners ready to share their stories. I was heartened to find so many practice owners willing to impart their best advice, share their journeys, and express their satisfaction with the lifestyle they'd built through private practice. This outpouring of support was a reminder that private practice was not a solo journey, but a path walked with the support of a vast community.
As president of a private practice club, I had the opportunity to wear many hats. From coordinating private practice visits to organizing networking events, we created a platform for experienced optometrists to share their insights. These initiatives aimed to dispel misconceptions about private practice and make it an accessible path for every student. The events we orchestrated brought so many students together, each brimming with enthusiasm to realize the career of their dreams, and I couldn’t be more grateful to have played a role in the experience.
I believe more than ever that private practice offers a platform for optometrists to provide personalized patient care, to develop as professionals, and to foster the next generation of leaders in optometry. I hope my journey can inspire other optometry students to consider the rewarding world of private practice.