By Amy Woodman
As a 2012 graduate from the Southern California College of Optometry at Marshall B. Ketchum University, Dr. Thanh Mai finished at the top of his class with summa cum laude and achieved top scores on the National Board Exams in Optometry.
However, it’s not just his grades or intellect that sets Dr. Mai apart. It’s his ongoing support and encouragement of those coming up in the ranks behind him; as well as his leadership in the emerging technology shaping the global optometry world.
Dr. Mai feels that it’s his duty to give back to the optometry community by sharing his time and knowledge with the next generation of students. With a one-year-old son at home, he is the first to recognize that time is valuable and scarce. However, he said he tries to say “yes” to each email or phone asking for mentoring; “yes’ to the student who has questions about the field; “yes” to the new graduate who wants to know about starting a private practice; “yes” to an optometry hopeful who is looking to participate in a shadow program.
“I know we’re all busy, but our job as alumni is to give back to help our future colleagues who are trying to follow in our footsteps,” Dr. Mai said.
For his part, Dr. Mai routinely takes out an optometry student to talk about his experiences from his education at SCCO to the recent opening of his private practice in Southern California. He uses these mentoring lunches as a chance to answer questions about optometry and discuss how technology is changing the field every day.
Due in large part to his education and training at SCCO, Dr. Mai understands the value and necessity on staying current with the latest in vision therapies and technologies. “During my clinical rotation at SCCO’s University Eye Center (now the University Eye Center at Ketchum Health in Anaheim Hills), I had the opportunity to utilize the latest advances in technology. My experience there helped me to understand the powerful role that technology could play in increasing patient health and outcomes,” says Mai.
“I was trained by wonderful faculty at SCCO and feel very fortunate for that. I credit my desire to continue learning and implement the latest advances in optometric technology in my practice to those who educated me. Without them I’m confident that I wouldn’t be the clinician I am today,” says Dr. Mai.
He recently implemented a new virtual reality system called the Optics Trainer to add more fun activities to encourage his vision therapy patients to learn. His vision therapy patients not only improve in their binocularity, spatial awareness, and visual analysis, but have fun doing so. In addition, he has become a student of WAVE technology – a contact lens software system, allowing him to create custom designs of the gas permeable lenses from topography measurements to create orthokeratology and scleral contact lenses.
“The field is changing so rapidly, it’s really an exciting time to be in optometry,” Dr. Mai said. “I am constantly challenging myself and my staff to keep up on the latest technology that is shaping the way we treat patients and improve the way people see.”
Even though he graduated from school years ago, he believes in always learning, growing and trying new techniques – so that you are forever a student of your field. “There are always ways to expand your knowledge with new technology and pass those learnings on to the next generation who will take the profession even further,” Dr. Mai said. “I love having the opportunity to meet with students or interns who are looking to learn more about the latest procedures we are using to help our patients.”
In addition to his work in his private practice, which he co-owns with fellow SCCO alumni, Valerie Lam OD, FAAO, FCOVD, ’12, Dr. Mai feels it’s extremely important to hold the ground that optometry has been able to secure over the last several decades – and even push further as an industry. Dr. Mai is the immediate past president of the Orange County Optometric Society (OCOS) and credits his monthly attendance on staying up-to-date on new technologies and policies affecting the field. He is also a strong proponent of supporting the profession in the legislative arena often using the OCOS platform to inform local optometrists about national measures taking place within the American Optometric Association (AOA).
“As alumni we need to work together to keep pushing the profession forward, staying organized, making our voices heard and improving patient care along the way,” he said. “Change can happen – but only when people are engaged and active. I think our most important role as alumni is to create positive change for the field of optometry and our patients.”
Dr. Mai and his partner opened their practice Insight Vision Center Optometry in May of 2015. The word INSIGHT is defined as: an understanding of relationships that sheds light on or helps solve a problem. From his leadership in technological advancements to his willingness to support the next generation of optometrists, Dr. Mai definitely has the insight to make a powerful difference in helping us all see a bit clearer.
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