For this Philanthropy Spotlight, we spoke to an OD in our home town of Portland, Oregon, Dr. Summy To of Myoptic Optometry and Modern Eyewear. She not only volunteers her time to provide eye care to the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO), but has found a way to incorporate charity into her practice. Much like SOLO Eyewear, Summy gives a part of the proceeds of every eye exam to a local charity and allows her patients to choose which organization their money will go to.
We had the chance to speak to Summy and ask her about her charitable work.
NVG: How have you and your practice been involved in giving to charitable organizations?
Dr. Summy To: I started my own practice in 2006 doing examinations within someone else’s optical shop. From day one I gave patients a choice among 4 different Portland-based nonprofits to which a portion of their examination proceeds would go. Each nonprofit addressed different issues—environment, international causes, local food bank and public broadcasting. That gave my patients a voice in how they could contribute to the community and started a good rapport between us.
I continued this program when I opened Myoptic Optometry in 2010. In addition to the nonprofit giving, we volunteer with local school screenings, collect books for the children’s book bank, and work with several frame lines that give back.
Working with the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) is the latest and most invested my practice has been with community giving. We commit to monthly vision screenings on the IRCO site and from there, anyone who needs a full refraction or a more in-depth health check will come to Myoptic for a full examination at no charge.
Furthermore, if they need eyewear and do not have the resources to afford it, Myoptic has formed relationships with local labs to provide glasses through their donations and our own patients provide donations as well. IRCO admits 80-100 new registrants monthly and we will see about 30 a month. It has been a wonderful experience on our end to meet so many people from so many countries—Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe, so far. Many of these people have never had their eyes examined and many have lived in refugee camps for decades.
Dr. Summy To: I have always wanted to contribute to my community through volunteering, donating, etc., and once I had my own business, I naturally felt like one of my responsibilities would be to contribute. I knew that giving would be part of my business, so asking my patients to voice their values would serve two purposes. First, to give back, and secondly, to get to know my patients while letting them know that our business cared about more than examining eyes and selling glasses.
I knew it would be a way for me to stand out among the many optometry practices in Portland, but it truly made my work more rewarding. That feeling of purpose translates into a better examination and patient experience, I have no doubt.
NVG: What sparked your interest in working with IRCO?
Dr. Summy To: I had never heard of IRCO until a colleague mentioned it just a few months ago. From a conversation I learned that their vision benefits had recently been cut and that many had never had their eyes examined. Knowing this group was arriving in Portland to build a new life, I felt compelled to offer my time. Without good eye sight, starting over can’t be easy.
I met with a representative from IRCO and there was no hesitation on their part that this endeavor with Myoptic would be serving a huge need. We scheduled our first screening the next week and have been refining it constantly since. I used to travel quite a bit before I opened my own practice, and being able to connect with people from such different and amazing places helps me expand my horizons just a little bit again.
NVG: Do you have any advice for new graduates entering the eye care field with aspirations to open their own practice like Myoptic?
Dr. Summy To: The best advice is to truly love providing to your patients. Being an optometrist is more than helping people see. It’s about giving an amazing experience from the moment they walk in the door with a welcoming smile, an educational exam with modern technology, a frame-selecting experience filled with laughter, seeing themselves in gorgeous frames, and leaving knowing they’ve made friends.
If you know of an eye doctor who has gone above and beyond to give back to his or her community, send us an email or leave a comment below to see them featured in our next Philanthropy Spotlight.