Disruptors. They are the few and the fierce. In our series, Leading between the Lines, we have the opportunity, and the pleasure, of meeting with some of South Florida’s most dynamic female business leaders, ones who are disrupting their industry, approaching things in a new way, solving new problems, and effectively pushing the status quo into a new frontier. We want to learn about their journey, what it really takes, what they’re actually up against, and how it feels each step along the way. Meet Dr. Glenda Aleman-Moheeputh, CEO of iSmart Vision Care and Founder of OK Love Myopia Control Experts.
With a Doctor of Optometry degree from Nova Southeastern University, Dr. Glenda Aleman-Moheeputh has set out to provide her patients with a new standard in vision care. She has made it her personal and professional mission to fight the epidemic of myopia (commonly known as nearsightedness)- an epidemic fueled by excessive screen time. According to the American Optometric Association, more than 40% of Americans are myopic, a number that is rapidly rising, especially among school-aged children.
While most optometrists are correcting myopia with glasses and conventional contacts for vision correction, treatment standards do not address the issue of progressing myopia. But through innovative solutions for myopia management, Dr. Glenda Aleman-Moheeputh has successfully slowed the condition’s progression for countless patients.
Dr. Aleman’s passion ultimately propelled her toward her next venture-- OK Love Myopia Control Experts. Beyond myopia management and educating patients and parents, at OK Love she also offers consulting designed to educate fellow optometrists on these innovative treatment solutions.
She has lectured extensively nationally and internationally to educate on orthokeratology and myopia management. Dr. Aleman is a myopia management professional affairs consultant for several companies, including Johnson and Johnson and Topcon. Additionally, she has held the role of clinical liaison for Walmart Health Optometry in Florida (2019 to present), and she serves in the advisory committee of the American Academy of Orthokeratology and Myopia Control (AAOMC).
Dr. Aleman understands the importance of patient education and compassionate care, fighting limiting industry standards and misinformation to establish a new standard of care by daring to do things differently. Through advanced medical techniques and bold vision, she has become a leader in her industry while improving the quality of life for myopia patients around the world.
Read our full interview to learn more about Dr. Aleman’s cutting-edge approach to vision care, why professional support is the lifeblood of business, and the fight to balance family with a fulfilling career.
Romi: What motivated you to get into optometry? What led to the decision?
Dr. Aleman: I got into this industry by pure coincidence. Back in Honduras, I went to pick up my sister from an interview at an optical office. They asked me if I was also there for the interview when I came inside. We were both new in town and looking for work, so I said yes and got the job! Later on, after years of being in the industry, I fell in love with the field. I wanted to keep growing, so I went to school to become an Optician. The more I learned, the more that love grew, so I continued on to become an Optometrist.
Romi: What has been your proudest achievement, and why?
Dr. Aleman: My proudest achievement has been starting my private practice entirely on my own. It is my most significant achievement because it has been a dream of mine since before I started optometry school. My goal was to do this within 5-10 years after graduating, but I was able to achieve this goal within 2 years, and without any financing from the bank!
Romi: That’s truly incredible! This journey isn’t always smooth sailing, though. What have been some of your failures and challenges along the way? What have you learned from them?
Dr. Aleman: The biggest challenge I have faced so far was probably when COVID-19 started. Not only did I have to deal with finalizing my divorce, but I had to close down my office for a couple of months. I went from working six days a week to working two days a week, slowly recovering to three days as time went on. Initially, I was like, “OMG, what will I do? I’m not going to have money to pay my bills. I’m not going to survive.” But in the end, we did survive.
The pandemic made me realize just how caught up we can get in our day-to-day routine and how important it is to take a step back occasionally. The skill I have most improved is being more intentional with my time. Now, I set aside a specific time during the week to refocus on the business aspect of my clinic.
Romi: What has surprised you most on this journey?
Dr. Aleman: What has surprised me the most is the support of my colleagues. My business is purely referral-based, so I wouldn’t have a business without those referrals. Fortunately, local Optometrists are constantly sending their patients to me for myopia management. Without their support, none of this would be possible.
Romi: It really is key to be surrounded by those who support you and lift you up. To that point, who or what influences and inspires you?
Dr. Aleman: My biggest influences are my grandmother, my children, my patients, and my desire to persevere and get ahead. Because I was so poor when I was little, I always said that I would work hard to make something of myself.
Even though I have accomplished a lot, I continue to work hard for my kids. I want to be a role model and inspiration for them. That’s my intrinsic motivation.
Additionally, going to work and seeing the impact I have on all these patients, being able to help them, it keeps me motivated day-to-day.
Romi: Is there anything that scares you or challenges you? How do you manage it?
Dr. Aleman: What scares me most is me. Sometimes, I can take on too much work. Although I love the challenge, I worry that if I continue like this, I will suffer from burnout and take too much time away from my family.
My biggest challenge is ensuring that I meet all my deadlines and deliver what is expected of me on all my commitments. It’s been difficult, but I have worked on it daily. This challenge affects me both in and out of the office because sometimes, I have to take my work home, which takes time away from my family. I have very little time for them as it is. I try my best to balance being both an Optometrist and a mother by planning something special for us to do as a family on my off time. Work-life balance is a work in progress for me.
Romi: What is a common challenge that your patients face, and what’s unique about your practice and your approach?
Dr. Aleman: A common challenge for my patients is their lack of awareness about our treatment options. Their vision keeps declining, their myopia keeps progressing, and nobody gives them options. Most offices and optometrists are correcting myopia as a regular refractive error with just glasses and conventional contacts. Although those are appropriate treatment options that prove vision correction, they do not address the issue of their myopia progressing. My office, OK Love, specializes in providing different treatment modalities for patients that are effective and can help slow down the progression of myopia.
The primary thing that makes my office unique is me- I am truly passionate about what I do, and I am compassionate with my patients. I aim to ensure that the patients and their parents feel well cared for. I am also very conscientious of the work that my staff has to do. I maintain a good working relationship among my staff members to keep a pleasant environment.
Romi: What is the biggest mistake that patients make when they’re seeking optical care? What misconceptions do they often have?
Dr. Aleman: The biggest mistake patients make is they go from one office to another, trying to find the least expensive service option. Since the treatments we offer are very specialized and are best with continuity, I always advise that before the patient starts a treatment with one office, they should explore different offices before committing. Once they start the treatment, they must stay with that office to complete their journey to ensure the best results. The biggest and most common misconception is that Ortho-K is bad for the cornea or will damage the cornea due to an infection. In reality, the risk of a patient contracting a bacterial infection from wearing Ortho-K lenses is 1 in 10,000.
Romi: What do you wish more patients knew? What advice can you give to parents of children with myopia?
Dr. Aleman: I wish patients knew that the purpose of our treatments is to slow down myopia progression and that different treatment options are available. The advice I would tell parents is that it is essential to have their kids' eyes examined at one year old, then at two years, and before they start school, around 5-6 years old, to identify any visual issues they may have. Furthermore, I would tell them that myopia control treatments absolutely work. Every child I have seen is successful and responds well to the treatment. I would also tell them it’s never too late to start, but the sooner we start the intervention, the better.
Romi: What does the future of Optometry look like?
Dr. Aleman: [Myopia control treatments] will soon become the standard of care in Optometry.
Romi: It’s clear that you’re already on the forefront of this trend- so what are your current goals? What is next on the horizon for you and your business?
Dr. Aleman: I’m just working on having more time for myself and spending more time with my kids. Professionally, my goal is to hire a full-time associate so that I can focus more on my speaking engagements. It will be beneficial because we are currently in the process of expanding! We are opening a new clinic and expanding our education and consulting business.
Romi: It sounds like the start of an exciting new chapter! What advice would you give to other professionals who want to be successful in this industry, or who may be embarking on a similar professional journey?
Dr. Aleman: I would tell them that this is a beautiful field and career, but to be successful, they need to be very specific about their goals and think deeply about what they want to do. I advise them to envision their practice. Once they develop their vision and know what type of practice and modality they want to focus on, I would find other already successful doctors in that field and ask them to be their mentors.