The Making of an Optometrist

By Daniel L. Mannen, OD, FAAO August 25, 2011

You know everyone has a unique story of how they ended up as a private-practice optometrist. After starting this blog, I realized that you might be wondering about my story. After reading below, you will find that I am just one of many using real-life experiences to help me connect with patients and run my business. Here is my story:


  • Born in Eastern Oregon, the third son of Daniel and Virginia.

  • Healthcare background: my father used to say “he wasn’t going to the doctor, because that was where all the sick people were at.”

  • Smallest one in the litter, started high school at 83 pounds.

  • Learned that size matters when I started and quickly stopped football.

  • Made the varsity baseball team as a freshman, super sized uniform and all. Mom pegged my pants and pleated my shirt. I looked good!

  • Wrestled at 98 pounds as a senior in high school. Singlet fit fine.

  • Learned to drive a car sitting on a Sears and Roebuck catalog so I could see over the dashboard.

  • Left for college at 110 pounds, soaking wet…determined, no excuses.

  • Graduated with degree in accounting, following brothers’ footsteps.

  • Lasted three months as an accountant before returning to school to become a physical education teacher (and chase my girlfriend).

  • Girlfriend got accepted to optometry school. (I didn’t know it was so competitive.)

  • Power of osmosis (and love)…switched from PE to pre-optometry.

  • Found out science classes are tough.

  • Accepted to optometry school, one class behind my fiancé.

  • Married my homecoming queen and my optometrist.

  • Graduated just after Mount St. Helens blew; ‘walked’ in the volcano dust.

  • Joined Uncle Sam’s Navy.

  • Found out in the Navy that some didn’t consider optometrists to be real doctors.

  • Did not want anyone to consider me second class.

  • Got accepted to medical school after four years of Navy optometry.

  • Really thought hard about attending medical school.

  • Realized that optometry provides great patient care.

  • Decided that optometrists absolutely are real doctors and that optometry was where I belonged.

  • Left the Navy and looked for a private practice.

  • An untimely death of an OD created an opening.

  • Had one week to decide.

  • Closed my eyes and signed the papers.

  • Learned practice management by the seat of my pants.

  • Loved the patients. Prayed for the business.

  • Committed to elevating my practice and the profession.

  • D___ proud to be an OD!

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