Doctor Comes Full Circle
During a September 2017 OD Mentorship meeting held by National Vision for optometrists who have been with the company for less than 60 days, Chuatong Thao, OD, had the opportunity to share a personal story with National Vision CEO, Reade Fahs and the other optometrists attending.
He talked about his first encounter with America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses. It was an encounter that would change his life. As a middle school student, he realized that he could not see well. He said his vision was becoming blurrier in school, making it more difficult to see the board in class. Continuous squinting made him uncomfortable, and he was relying on his classmates’ notes to study, he said. He convinced his parents to take him to get an eye exam, a significant expense for his parents, Laotian immigrants with factory jobs and five children.
As conscientious shoppers, the family looked around for the best price possible. Dr. Thao’s father knew that his son’s vision was probably going to change a lot over the next few years and they’d be visiting the eye doctor every year. They went to the America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses store in Blaine, Minnesota, as it had the most affordable eyeglasses and eye exams.
His life changed after he received his eyeglasses. He says, “It was such a surreal experience. We often take our senses for granted, but when trees and leaves start having definition at 100 feet vs two feet, it is life-changing.”
He went to that location for a few more years before the Maple Grove office opened closer to his home.
As Dr. Thao’s final year at the Illinois College of Optometry was coming to a close in 2017, he decided to attend a dinner hosted by National Vision, Inc. The offer of free food was certainly a draw, but after listening to the presentation and what the company stands for, he says he was impressed. Soon-to-be Dr. Thao exchanged contact information with the optometrists and recruiters who held the dinner, especially Bill Werner, OD. The two were in contact throughout Dr. Thao’s final months of optometry school. As a graduate, Dr. Thao and Dr. Werner discussed more opportunities and National Vision Recruiter, Denise Nelson, offered him the opportunity to come full circle.
In July 2017, Dr. Thao returned to the Maple Grove location, as the doctor this time.
He has a special connection to his patient base there. Having been raised in that area and experiencing a life-changing event allows him a personal perspective when he performs exams. “Not even the America’s Best owl can put a price on the joy in their faces and big smiles when they realize how much clearer their vision can be.”
Today, Dr. Thao and store manager Susie Schutte work together to make quality eye care and eyewear more affordable and accessible. Just as the company vision states, they believe that everyone deserves to see their best to live their best…and may just inspire that young child coming in for his or her first eye exam to pursue that same career path.