When you started optometry school, did you dream of a career with maximum work/life flexibility? Freedom to travel, to schedule more family time, to follow more of your hobbies or interests?
How many of us are living this dream right now?
Meet Dr. Maria Higgins. A 1997 graduate of what was then the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (now Salus University), Dr. Higgins started her career following a very traditional path. She bought a practice from a retiring doctor, but soon found that the practice of her dreams – unique and funky eyewear, a more eclectic vibe – wasn’t the right fit for the patient base there. Opening cold became her new mission, and she spent a lot of time finding the perfect small town location before opening Unique Optique. The practice was everything she had imagined: independent frame lines and a focus on personal touches and eclectic fashion. But several years into ownership she realized her life wasn’t. Owning a practice just wasn’t conducive to her real passion, traveling and new experiences.
After selling her practice, she began exploring nontraditional paths in optometry. How could she continue the career she loved, but also free up her personal time to follow her passion for travel and adventure? Nursing home care became the perfect solution! Now Dr. Higgins works anywhere from 2 to 4 days per week, traveling as far away as 5 hours from her home to deliver care in nursing homes across the state of Maryland. For her it is the perfect balance – each day in patient care is a true adventure as she often has to get creative to find ways to perform exams on patients with limited movement or that are unresponsive. The human relationships she forms in caring for the elderly are often stories she shares on her blog, drmariahiggins.com.
Last year she went on her biggest optometric adventure to date, providing care for the Alaskan bush people in some of the most remote locations of the United States. Battling -60 degree temperatures and the risk of frostbite, she shares the experience and the preparation needed for Alaskan optometric care.
When she’s not traveling with her dog, Abby (they plan to make it to Glacier National Park and the 5 states she’s yet to visit this year!), Dr. Higgins also offers social media management services for optometrists with her company The Unique Technique. She shares her non-traditional optometric career path and inspires us on how many endless possibilities optometry can take on this podcast!