A Career in Industry Allows OD to Bring Perspective to Major Programs


When Janelle Routhier, OD, was in optometry school, she assumed she would go into private practice after graduation. After a visit to The Vision Care Institute™ and during a residency in cornea and contact lenses, though, she was exposed to optometry careers beyond private practice, and that changed everything for her. “I hadn’t even realized it was a possibility to use my optometric education in a way that could impact the industry and patients at a macro level,” she says. This realization led to a career path that ultimately brought her to her current role as senior director of customer development at Essilor.

After graduation, Dr. Routhier did get experience in private practice and teaching at Michigan College of Optometry. But she never forgot what she had learned about a career in the industry and decided to pursue it. “I tried to connect with as many people as possible,” she says. The more doors she knocked on, the more that opened for her. She soon landed a position with Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Inc., where she was able to explore a number of areas including sales training, marketing, product launches and even some R&D, first in the U.S. and eventually globally.

Dr. Routhier found an area where she believed she could really bring a lot of value when an opportunity opened at Essilor. “I started as the director of ECP education, a role that had not been held by an OD. It allowed me to tailor our educational programs to better meet the needs of eye care professionals.” The role ended up being a good fit, and after a year, she was promoted to her current role. Her team’s main focus is supporting independent ECPs by educating practice owners about how to optimize their businesses so they can better serve their patients.

“I lead a team that focuses on engaging, developing and advancing optical industry professionals. We do this through partnerships with industry organizations and education, as well as through training programs designed to bring optometrists and their staff value that helps strengthen their businesses,” Dr. Routhier explains.

Dr. Routhier has a wide range of responsibilities within Essilor, but she concentrates primarily on two main areas: professional relations, which includes schools and colleges of optometry and opticianry, as well as industry organizations including the American Optometric Association, American Academy of Optometry and other regional, state and local groups; and customer education, such as what is provided through Essilor’s ECP University™. “This is one of the many areas where it’s beneficial to have an optometrist involved. I know how optometrists are taught to think, so I can bring that perspective to the planning. I become a bridge between the ideas and practice of marketing, finance and execution within an office, assisting in making them practical, relevant and feasible for an optometric office.”

ECP University was developed with the purpose of elevating the level of training and education within the industry and to meet the needs across an optometric practice. Dr. Routhier’s favorite ECP University program is the Management Development Program (MDP). This six-month course is geared towards someone in a managerial position within the practice and is a combination of live and distance learning. It’s structured that way so attendees can immediately implement what they are learning in the program in their practice. The core topics are on the operations of a practice, covering subjects that are not typically taught in depth in optometry school, like merchandising, HR and creating a culture for your business. Although the program predates her arrival at Essilor, she’s been highly involved in its evolution, including a new program that ECP University will launch in 2017 focused on helping educate the doctor/ owner of the practice. The program is based on the principles of Essilor’s current Management and Business Academy, commonly known as the MBA program.

Dr. Routhier says being in the industry has provided such a fulfilling career that she wants to help develop more ODs and students to enter industry roles. “Three years ago, we started an internship program at Essilor for optometry students, and in 2016, we expanded it to include recently graduated ODs. Interns spend 10 weeks with us in the summer. Through this program, we’re helping to develop a candidate pool of ODs who are energized to participate in industry careers.”

She knows that the curiosity is out there because of the interest in the internship program and the questions she hears from other ODs, especially students. “To me, working within industry creates a bigger impact. I bring the perspective of independent optometry—and what it’s like to practice—to our programs and leadership. I believe this perspective truly makes a difference in the quality of education we’re able to offer to ECPs.”