Member Spotlight: Dr. Sue Lowe – Snowy Range Vision Center
A Chance to Learn & Grow – A Review of Previous PECAA Annual Meetings
For someone who wears as many hats as Dr. Sue Lowe, stepping away from the practice to attend an industry meeting is something that has to be worthwhile. And yet, Dr. Lowe has attended PECAA’s Annual Meeting three years in a row, with plans to attend this year in Tucson, Arizona.
Dr. Lowe is a fellow at the College of Optometrists in Vision Development and the American Academy of Optometry. She is currently in a private optometric practice, at Snowy Range Vision Center in Laramie, Wyoming, with an emphasis in vision enhancement and rehabilitation. Dr. Lowe works extensively with children and adults who have difficulties with athletics, academics, physical/mental special needs, low vision, and/or brain injury.
As an adjunct faculty member at the University of Wyoming, she has lectured across the United States on pediatric vision and sport vision performance enhancement. Dr. Lowe was honored as one of a hundred distinguished practitioners in the National Academies of Practice in 1998, and is a Diplomate in the American Board of Optometry.
Yet despite her many achievements, Dr. Lowe feels she’s always ready to learn more.
“I’ve been in my practice now for 36 years, and I feel like I’m just hitting my stride,” she says. “The changes have been significant in this industry, especially in the last 10 to 15 years.”
These industry developments are a part of what keeps her returning to PECAA’s Annual Meeting each year. “It’s the best meeting I’ve ever attended,” Lowe says. “And I’ve been on numerous organizations, national and local. I feel like it’s like the Cadillac, top-of the-line model. Not only the meeting facilities, but also the staff and the networking events.”
We had a chance to chat with Dr. Lowe about her favorite aspects from past annual meetings, what initially drew her to PECAA, and how she’s experienced benefits from being a member.
What is your favorite part about the PECAA Annual Meeting?
I like the fact that the event is about a bigger optometric world than just our office. I like the social hours, and the free meals and drinks couldn’t be better—they treat not only me like ‘royalty’ but my staff, too. But it’s the optometric education, practice management and marketing strategies that keeps us knowing what’s the latest and greatest. When they present the education, it’s all about cutting edge, knowing what’s coming out there in the optical industry, social media, marketing and treatments for eye disease. Whether it’s frames, lenses or optometry equipment, we’re going to be offered the best vendor discounts.
Which sessions did you enjoy at past meetings?
Dr. Paul Karpecki presented the latest treatments for primary eye care. All of the speakers have been top notch. And I like being able to stand one-on-one with the presenters, be able to pick the vendors and exhibitors brains about what their products are and how they can benefit us. They tell us all about the real cutting-edge stuff.
I really enjoy meeting with the other optometrists and my staff enjoy meeting with the other staff members from across the country.
What cutting-edge topics did the sessions cover?
The latest in dry eye treatments, new frame materials, practice management and Progressive addition lenses. But the sessions also share nut and bolt business-related matters, such as how to schedule patients, new testing you can do, coding that can be used. On every level of the optometric practice it was helpful, from intake to health records, your website, emails, letters, or scripts for staff making phone calls to patients. On every level, there was an instrument and/or technique that was new.
Did any of your staff attend the meeting with you?
I had five staff members attend over the past three years, out of the 20 staff in my practice. These five are our core group, and have been with the practice for 20 years. Two of them have gone twice.
I would tell anybody who’s a PECAA member, my staff loved it. They came back super-charged. They got help with their practice management, they were able to talk with colleagues. They felt it was a bonus to be able to go, and it helped them narrow in on their personal and professional goals.
How does PECAA’s Annual Meeting compare with other conferences you’ve attended?
I usually take six trips a year, and I have to say that PECAA’s is better, in the sense that it’s a smaller group, all meals and COPE education are paid for, and it’s relevant. Other meetings are attended by a lot of folks, two to three thousand. And at PECAA’s meeting, we’re all there for the same reasons, it’s a more cohesive family, totally optometric.
I don’t like some other meetings I’ve been to in the past because there weren’t a lot of MDs and opticians, they were totally about selling me stuff. Whereas PECAA’s Annual Meeting is about wanting to make your practice better, and how, as an industry, we want to grow optometry in general. It’s more relationship-oriented.
It’s also affordable. It’s all-inclusive, so you just have to pay for your airfare and hotel. You’re not paying for the great education. And as a first-time member attending, you get a $600 rebate.
How long have you been a PECAA Member, and how have you benefitted besides the Annual Meeting?
I joined about 10 years ago. My colleagues always told me about PECAA, but I had just never made that leap until fairly recently. We were involved in other buying groups, but I’ve found the leaders in PECAA are fabulous, as well as all of the ODs I know in the group who are very ethical and moral, very into the quality of care and quality of materials. I’m all about providing the highest quality of care in optometry.
One thing about the chance to network through groups like PECAA is it allows specialists like those in my practice to consult and do intra-professional referrals and consultations. If you’re a primary care, get them to a low-vision specialist. If you see a child who is having vision problems, learning problems, eyes healthy, send them to your colleagues for vision therapy enhancement for learning related vision problems.
Wyoming is an interesting place, it’s the least populated place in the nation. But we are considered frontier, not rural, and so sometimes it’s tough to get good sales reps and help. Since we’ve been in PECAA, I feel the sales reps and vendors we use have treated us better on service and response to concerns.
And, of course, when I finally got into PECAA, I wish I had done it before. The wheels of business go very slow, so finally when we did get into it, it was primarily through word of mouth, and I’m so glad we joined.