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Doctor Spotlight: Melantha Nephew, O.D.

Melantha Nephew

Almost four years ago (Feb. 15, 2005 to be exact), I glanced at the clock, looked at my appointment book, and realized the day was half over and I had only seen one patient for a routine exam, I was worried!  Were my parents right about the risk of no guaranteed income?  Would I be able to afford to live?  And what about paying my student loans?  Panic began to set in, as I realized the enormous decision I had made to leave a salaried job, to begin my own practice.  Today, it is more than okay, it is one of the best decisions I have ever made!  And yes, I consider it “my own practice”; I just lease my space from Sam’s Club.

I went to school at University of Missouri, College of Optometry, but I grew up in Texas and knew I wanted to return to my home state to practice.  I knew I didn’t want to work for anybody, but was not sure I wanted the headache and financial burden of my own “private practice”, although the appeal of my own office to decorate as I want, schedule how I want, and practice how I want, was very attractive.  I sent a resume out to a doctor that owned several clinics in the Dallas area, and was hired.  I started with that company in October, and things didn’t go so well.  As I started to dread waking up in the morning to go to work, just four months into my new job, I saw that there was an optometrist’s office available at a Sam’s Club location, ONLY ten minutes from where I lived!  I submitted my resume and was called for an interview.  I met the district manager and the optical manager, and we hit it off quite well.  I saw the office, which was small, but scheduled for remodel that spring.  The equipment was excellent.  The office had been empty for a few months, so it would take some work building up a patient base, but hey, all the customers at Sam’s, opens the door up for a lot of potential patients!  I discussed it with my parents, and of course they were worried about the financial aspect of the deal.  No patients equal no income.  I was aware of that, but had faith it would all work out, besides I already had a decorating scheme in my head!

So, I took the job and went to work making this office what I wanted it to be.  A few months after I started, our store was remodeled.  I was given the option to continue to work in my office while the construction was underway, and while I thought that was a good choice, after the dust on all the equipment, a power outage that blew up my credit machine, and a sewer flood that damaged some files, I would opt for the lane set up in a trailer in the parking lot next time! 

Fast forward to now, we have painted the office twice, we have an aquarium, and we recently bought a new desk system for the front desk, which gives the office a more contemporary look.  I have also invested in an EMR program (although I don’t yet use it much), and we currently have the Optos, so we can keep up the current technology.  I get along great with the whole optical team, and that makes a huge difference in the success of a practice.

Melantha Nephew

I love coming to work at “my office”, the fact that it is attached to a Sam’s doesn’t very often enter my mind, I just consider it as “space leased from Sam’s”, I make the practice what it is, and being in close proximity to a major retailer is an added bonus that helps to provide me with an instant patient base.  I have done fill-in work at three different Wal-Marts for several years, and the patient flow at a Sam’s Club is a little slower than at a Wal-Mart, but I like it that way, I don’t feel as rushed with each patient. I also have extra time for hobbies like gardening, shopping, doing crafts, and playing with our three dogs.  I know now I made the right choice by going out on a limb.  I am happy with what I have established, my patients compliment me on my exams by returning each year and they also bring their family and friends along.  There has been consistent growth each year, and that is positive.  There have been some discouraging moments, as with any business, especially in today’s economy, but  I can see myself retiring from Sam’s, when the time comes.  Until then, I look forward to growing my practice year by year with an increase in equipment and medical billing.

And by the way, that first day, two more patients came in, both for contact lens exams, so the day didn’t end as bad as I imagined it would!