July 2017 Veteran of the Month: From Air Force Pilot to Optometrist

Lieutenant Spande with a T-38 Talon

Then Lieutenant Spande with a T-38 Talon.

Our featured veteran for July is David Spande, OD!

Originally from Richfield, Minn., Dr. Spande graduated from the Illinois College of Optometry in 2013. He joined the National Vision Doctor of Optometry network in early 2015 and currently practices in the America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses in Maplewood, Minn.

Dr. Spande is also an Air Force veteran. He spent 16 years in the Air Force prior to retiring as a Major in 2008. In that time he accumulated over 4,000 hours of total flight time in military airplanes, including over 150 combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2001-2007. He was also the recipient of numerous medals and decorations, including the Air Force Air Medal and the Aerial Achievement Medal.

Dr. Spande and his new wife, Sara, now live in Minneapolis. He has also made several medical mission trips overseas, experiences that he finds highly rewarding as an optometrist.

We recently sat down with Dr. Spande to learn more about his time in the Air Force and how it has helped him in his career as an optometrist.

Captain Spande with a C-130 Hercules

Then Captain Spande with a C-130 Hercules.

Why did you decide to serve?

“When I was in high school, I made up my mind that I wanted to serve in the military. Since I also wanted to go to college, I waited until I graduated from college to enlist. I spent three years as a military air cargo specialist, and then my application to become a U.S. Air Force pilot was approved. So off I went to pilot training and by the end of 1997, I was flying the C-130 Hercules (a military cargo plane) operationally around the world.”

What have you done since getting out of the military? 

Medical Mission Trip to Lima Peru 2014

Dr. Spande on a medical mission trip to Lima, Peru in 2014.

“I was getting ready to retire from the military in 2008 and decided to make a career change from flying, to medicine. So, I applied for, and then was accepted into, optometry school at Illinois College of Optometry as part of the graduating class of 2013. After graduation, I spent about two years working at Target Optical, and then made the switch to NVI at the America’s Best in Maplewood, Minn. in early 2015. 

Many people ask me why I made the decision to work at NVI over Target. There were two principal reasons I that made the switch. First, I saw NVI as a place I could go and legitimately help people that were struggling to afford eyewear. Second, at Target I was frequently getting mired down in administrative duties, and I had little support from the staff. America’s Best is exactly the opposite. The doctor and staff are all part of the same team, so the system is designed to succeed. My experience is that we have made the exam process streamlined for an efficient exam and optical sales sequence. I found that my job satisfaction improved greatly in the system that we have at America’s Best.”

Working at Americas Best 2017

Dr. Spande working at America’s Best in 2017.

As a veteran, how has your military experience helped you in your career as an optometrist? 

“My military experience has been invaluable to me as an optometrist. I retired as a Major with over 4,000 hours of military flight time, most of it while in command. I also spent 2 years in Iraq and Afghanistan during the mid-2000s as part of several scheduled deployments.

The experiences I gained while overseas and while stateside have helped me in many ways, and I’ll highlight just two of them. First, it gave me the ability to rapidly establish priorities, which I apply to my daily routine in providing patient care. Secondly, it gave me many years of experience with managing people and solving problems, so I am able to work with the store manager to help our employees use their strengths while encouraging them to take initiative to help solve everyday problems.”

Dr Spande and his wife on his wedding day

Dr. Spande with his wife on his wedding day.

Last year National Vision made a commitment to hire a minimum of 500 veterans and/or veteran spouses over the next five years across all of our retail brands. Within those 500 positions, we have committed to hiring a minimum of 100 military veterans and/or veteran spouses in technology-focused positions as part of the Joining Forces initiative. We are proud to announce that we now have 406 self-identified veterans as part of our NVI family.

Thank you Dr. Spande for your service to our country. It is an honor to have you as part of our National Vision and America’s Best family!

Jessica Altamirano

Jessica Altamirano

Communications Specialist at National Vision, Inc.
Jessica Altamirano is a proud Veteran spouse who has worked for NVI since 2014. She holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia and a Masters Degree in Public Administration from George Mason University. Jessica is passionate about corporate-nonprofit partnerships, philanthropic efforts in developing countries, Veteran recruitment, and creating a culture of health and wellness in the workplace.
Jessica Altamirano