Dr. Athena Brasfield is known in the industry for her glamorous social media feed @drbrasfield, but do you know the hard-working optometrist behind the account? On this podcast, Dr. Darryl Glover sits down with Dr. Brasfield as she shares her passion for optometry and her journey to owning two practices where she employs 6 optometrists and 50 staff members.
Dr. Brasfield grew up in the optical industry. Her Puerto Rican father and Turkish mother were both opticians, and she spent many Saturday mornings as a child sitting in the optical lab hearing her mother explain the benefits of anti-reflective coatings to patients and being mesmerized by the tinting process for lenses. When she decided to pursue optometry as her career, her parents gave her their full support to make her dreams come true, selling their home to help her tackle undergraduate and then optometry school costs.
Their support paved the way to a very successful career for Dr. Brasfield, who owns and manages Coachella Valley Optometry with two locations that serve a primarily low income, Hispanic community that has limited access to healthcare. As such Dr. Brasfield and the optometrists that she employs have a busy patient care load. She shares that almost 80% of the patients she serves are below the poverty line and insured with Medicaid, and they are battling significant systemic and ocular health issues. Her patient care days are fast paced and full of ocular disease and unusual case presentations. She thrives on the challenge of this patient care environment, knowing that she is serving an unmet need in her community.
The majority of Dr. Brasfield’s patients are Spanish-speaking, and she has great advice for doctors wanting to better serve this community:
- Make sure all of your forms, documents, and exam literature are available in both Spanish and English.
- Hire staff that can speak Spanish. Even if the doctor can’t speak Spanish fluently, having a bilingual staff member that can translate can help make a patient more at ease during their visit.
- As an optometrist, have a few working Spanish phrases that can help you through a typical exam. “Hello, my name is Dr. XXX” and “Which is better one or two?” are essential.
Dr. Brasfield has leaned in to social media and a digital presence through both her Instagram and her own YouTube channel, inspired to continually embrace new ways to reach patients in the rapidly changing healthcare landscape. She started her Instagram account as a way to mentor young women and presenting an example that as a Hispanic woman, you can be a business owner, a doctor, and also wear glasses and still be fashionable. Her eyewear is a part of her personal style that she embraces like any other accessory, and showcasing eyewear on her feed is a way that she can combat stigmas against wearing glasses in her community. Personally, she owns over 100 pairs of glasses and for 2020 she’s loving Gucci, Chloe, Anna Karin Karlsson eyewear styles of the moment. The biggest trends in eyewear she’s loving are the updated circular aviator styles with Transitions lenses so they can serve as both sunglasses and ophthalmic glasses. She also loves oversized 70’s inspired butterfly shapes and forked metal temples. Translucent frames are also trending big for 2020. Where clear eyewear has been popular in the past, she feels that soft pinks, browns, or pastels are an updated take on this subtle eyewear look.
“YouTube is a whole new world, and I’m definitely still navigating that,” Dr. Brasfield shares. She was inspired to start a YouTube channel because she noticed that her staff was easily losing attention with written training manuals. Training them on insertion and removal of scleral contact lenses was a lot easier when she used a video to teach her staff versus having them read written instructions. If her staff was that easily bored and disengaged, she knew that her patients likely wouldn’t want to read paper manuals either. Creating instructional YouTube videos is the perfect solution, and optometry definitely needs a stronger presence on that platform.
Her best tips for optometrists? “Change doesn’t start with somebody else; it starts with you.” Define success on your own terms – it doesn’t have to mean money or popularity. Success for Dr. Brasfield is all about being able to make her own schedule and maximize spending time with her family. Being a practice owner has given her this freedom, and she’s never looked back! “Life is too short to stress about the day to day.” She encourages doctors to make time for themselves to unwind and spend time doing things they enjoy. A happier you will lead to happier people around you, both at home and at work.