The following is part of an ongoing series of interviews with New England College of Optometry alumni presented by the Office of Alumni Relations. This month’s installation features Mary Boname, OD ‘94.
Have a concrete notion of where you want to practice, whether or not you want to have your own practice, and write a business plan for your prospective practice. Do it early, in the first year at NECO, and revise it each year. Make it happen. Never stay too long in a setting where there is no opportunity for advancement or where you are not ABSOLUTELY LOVING PRACTICING OPTOMETRY!
Where are you currently living and practicing? Dr. Boname: I live in Pennington, NJ. My private optometric practice and full-service optical dispensary, located in Skillman, NJ (4 miles north of Princeton, NJ), is nearly 19 years old.
In your daily practice, how are you seeing optometry evolve? Dr. Boname: I made the decision after three years in private practice to eliminate managed care plans so I could build my patient base with patients who were choosing me because of the care I provided, and not solely because I was “on the list of participating providers.”
The combination of internet eyeglass purchasing, the rise of managed care plans, and the health care climate in the United States have created some unique challenges in remaining viable as a single doctor private optometric practice. In a sense, my practice has become very “concierge-like,” thus allowing me to focus on preventive optometric and general health care, nutrition, dry eye, and creating an exceptional patient care experience unique to me and to my practice.
Can you share some of your professional achievements, awards, and publications?
In December of 1997, I became a Fellow in the American Academy of Optometry.
In 2007, I became a peer educator for Alcon, and soon after did the same for Bausch & Lomb, Inspire Pharmaceuticals, AMO, and MacuHealth.
In June 2013, I was selected as one of Vision Monday’s Optometric Business Innovators for the Patient Care Experience.
Currently, I write for Review of Optometric Business and Optometric Management.
Just last month, I was a guest on Dr. Rob Abel’s syndicated radio show: “The Wizard of Eyes.”
Why were you drawn to a career in optometry? Dr. Boname: During my senior at Cornell University, I was having difficulty reading the board in an economics class. Unfortunately, I was traversing the campus to get to the class, and I was never able to find a seat near the front of the room. Of course, when I had my eyes examined, I found I needed prescription glasses. Thus began my interest in vision and ocular health.
What was your first position immediately after graduating? Dr. Boname: I began sending out curriculum vitae and interviewing in during the winter of 1993-1994 (about 7 months prior to graduation). I was hired by a corneal and cataract surgeon who had two offices in Northern New Jersey.
Do you keep in contact with fellow NECO alumni? Dr. Boname: Yes, I do!!! I encourage everyone to do so. The years I spent at NECO were invaluable, and the experience bonded all of us as future doctors, and helped me forge lifelong friendships. I was fortunate to be a member of the class of 1994! What a terrific group of colleagues. We spent so much time together, it’s like we were all family by the time graduation arrived.
Why is staying connected and staying involved with NECO important to you? Dr. Boname: My years at NECO were very personally and professionally rewarding for me. I have had some of the best moments in my life during my NECO years.
What NECO experience, academic or otherwise had the most impact on you? Dr. Boname: My clinical rotation at Dimock Community Health Center gave me “the big picture” of all of the aspects of clinical practice: taking a proper, thorough case history, reviewing the medical and ocular history, trial-framing my prescription, fitting, adjusting & dispensing prescription eyewear….The importance of reviewing each other’s records and presenting cases…it was a real world experience in providing comprehensive eye care to the patient, factoring in their medical and social histories, in order to increase compliance with my ocular therapeutic regimens.
Do you have some words of wisdom for new graduates? Dr. Boname: Have a concrete notion of where you want to practice, whether or not you want to have your own practice, and write a business plan for your prospective practice. Do it early, in the first year at NECO, and revise it each year. Make it happen. Never stay too long in a setting where there is no opportunity for advancement or where you are not ABSOLUTELY LOVING PRACTICING OPTOMETRY!
What would you say to a prospective student who is considering attending NECO? Dr. Boname: Please visit….it is a beautiful facility in one of the FINEST cities in the world! I am confident that I chose the ideal place to be trained as an Optometric Physician.
Fast forward 5 years or 10 years…what are your professional goals? Dr. Boname: In 5 years, I would like to have an associate in my practice, giving me the time to pursue several consultant positions. I want a written strategy for the remainder of my career, which I will have begun implementing.
What has been your most interesting patient encounter? Dr. Boname: I have had so many interesting patient encounters in the past 22 years, it is difficult to narrow it down to one…but I pride myself on developing a strong rapport with each patient, and being able to read their expression before they say one word. I knew when I called one particular patient back to begin her examination that she was going to cry. I closed the exam room door, handed her a Kleenex, took one myself, held her hand and cried with her. She had not been feeling well, and had been undergoing a lot of medical testing, and had no definitive diagnosis. She was also an ocular surface disease/MGD patient, and had tremendous relief with the therapeutic regimen I prescribed for her. She always asks me about my parents…how are they doing, etc. The next day she emailed me to thank me for the exceptional care, and to say that she only hoped that my Dad’s doctors took as good care of him, as I did of her. She and her husband have retired and moved near Penn State’s main campus, but they return faithfully every 6 months for their eye care.
What are your interests/hobbies? Dr. Boname: Spending as much time on/in or near the ocean as I can (albeit in SPF 70 or higher), Film Noir, Latin Dancing, traveling as much as I can….living in the moment & creating memories.
Do you have any fun personal/professional trivia to share? Dr. Boname: I have a Master’s Degree in Biology from Bucknell University. Initially, my research involved culturing spermatogenic cells which necessitated the use of a miniature guillotine in order to harvest the cells without exposing them to any chemicals.
In Their Own Words, is a series of interviews with NECO alumni presented by the Office of Alumni Relations. If you are interested in being featured, please contact Margery Warren at firstname.lastname@example.org.