Meet the 2022 Optometrist of the Year, Dr. Jeffrey Michaels
Dr. Jeffrey Michaels
The MCO Family congratulates Class of 1998 alumnus Dr. Jeffrey Michaels on his Optometrist of the Year 2022 award from the American Optometric Association! Dr. Michaels is a glowing example of service to his patients, community and profession. His leadership of the optometric profession in the utilization of Paycheck Protection Program and Employee Retention Credit during the pandemic reflects his giving nature and willingness to take a leadership role to help his colleagues.
What made you go into optometry and what year did you gradate?
I had visited an Optometrist and I thought “man, this would be great! “I knew I wanted to be a doctor of some kind, but I didn’t know at the time what that meant! I graduated in 1998.
What made you choose MCO?
MCO was the only school I applied to. I did my undergraduate studies at Ferris and when I went to pre-Optometry, I didn’t know how many students get in. My second year, I remember sitting in organic chemistry and hearing that only 32 people get in per year. And I was like “Oh my gosh my 2.1 GPA is not going to cut it!” And so, I immediately went into action to pick it up and got my GPA up to 3.8. MCO was my only choice and if I didn’t get in, I didn’t have a backup plan. I thought I would just finish my four-year degree, and then re-apply. I got waitlisted and then got in! What was interesting was that the three people in my class that got waitlisted, we all wound up near the top of our class.
Do you have any fond memories of Optometry school?
The whole four years were the best time, with the best friends, our class was so awesome! Third year was my favorite though. You’re still together with the same 30 people, you see them regularly for one last time before everyone goes off in different directions.
Did you join any clubs while in optometry school?
We went on a class trip in our third year with SVOSH to Saint Lucia. I still talk to my family about it, and I want to do that again.
What was your path into your current position?
I’m in group private practice in the suburbs of Richmond, Virginia. I am one of five doctors and we’re mainly a family practice. It’s a third-generation practice, the practice has been around for a 100 years, and the scope of practice was very different back then. I would go crazy being in solo practice. It is very helpful to feed off of other doctors. I like the variety in optometry. We treat a lot of glaucoma and urgent care, and we do a lot of dry eyes and myopia management.
I completed a residency in low vision at Johns Hopkins. When I finished that, I ran a low vision clinic in Richmond. Over the years I have been in commercial settings and ophthalmology practice, but my true passion was in private practice, and I have been in this group practice setting since 2008 and now we’re looking to expand the one office into other locations. I also enjoy the business aspect, decision making and staff management and I’m currently enrolled in an MBA course!
How did you react to covid?
In March of 2020 when we shut down, everyone had heard of PPP but nobody really knew what are the rules or how does it work. I read the law, I did it simply because I needed to know it for my own office and just so that we would be able to apply for a loan. I started having conversations with optometrists in my area and I quickly realized no one really knew anything about all of this. I got asked by a classmate to lead a webinar and teach other optometrists how to do PPP and 5000 people registered for the first one!! It was a great turnout. Based on the follow up questions and emails. I had my second webinar in a week and overall, we had 8 webinars on PPP. We needed an optometrist to develop this, not an accountant who doesn’t speak our language. My proudest feeling was being able to help people at that unknown time.
What is your involvement in your optometric community?
I served as the president of my local society; I was the president of the state association was involved in most committees within my state association. I’ve also served several roles within the American Optometric Association. For years, I was in charge of the AOA registry to evaluate data and outcomes to find improvement in care. In the last year, I’m on the State Government Relationship Committee which is the state that help each state expand their scope of practice.
What are your interests outside of optometry?
I have two kids 18 and 19 years old, so for the past several years all my energy was spent revolving around their activities and now that they are going off to college, I find myself with so much time! I love to golf and ran a couple of marathons. I teach mental conditioning for sports teams to high school, college and high-level travel teams and just love laying out on the beach
What’s one thing you’d want to tell an MCO student?
Get involved with everything you can. The more things you dabble in and expose yourself to, the more you are going to find where your true passion is. Get involved in your state association and advocate for optometry
What’s one thing you’d want to tell an MCO Alumni?
Find young optometrists and educate them on how to get involved!
What does this award mean to you?
It’s a humbling experience, I was the right person at the right time to help a lot of people. I was given the flexibility to give what I thought optometrists needed to hear. There wasn’t a lot of oversight. Looking back, I find a lot of joy in helping my colleagues, which makes this award very special to me.