Q&A: Nutritional science, residency benefits, marketing yourself, and living on Estrogen Island

December 6, 2019

Meet Ryan Corte, OD, Founder of IntroWellness, Charlotte, NC.

Meet Ryan Corte, OD, Founder of IntroWellness, Charlotte, NC.

Where did you grow up?
I am born and raised in metro Detroit. My mom just retired; she was a librarian at an all-girls Catholic high school. She was a stay-at-home mom until my sisters and I were in our teenage years. My dad was a computer consultant for Hewlett-Packard for about 35 years. I have three older sisters. One lives here in Charlotte, one in Chicago, one in Michigan.

How did you get from nutritional science to optometry?
I was originally a business major with premed tracking, but I found out that I would have to do an additional year to complete my business degree and premed. I have always been interested in the science behind what you consume on a daily basis and how it impacts your body. Originally, I wanted to be a dermatologist. I’m a man of faith, and the dermatologist I was shadowing was down about his profession-he was lackluster to recommend it but also depressed about the number of years he put in to get where he was. So, I started looking at all the healthcare professions. There was a pre-optometry group meeting that Mark Colip was the featured speaker; he’s now the dean of Illinois College of Optometry (ICO). He inspired me beyond measure.

How did you benefit from a residency?
I enjoyed residency. I went into it because I wanted to maximize my clinical knowledge and experience coming out of school and keep the door open to go to a VA. If you don’t do a residency, it’s hard to get into a VA or academic or research setting. So, it keeps that network open, and I’m a better practicing optometrist because of it. I came out with much more comfort with taking care of people, managing challenging circumstance not only in the exam room but also helping people from check-in to check-out.

What's something your colleagues don't know about you?
I like to joke around that I live on Estrogen Island. I have three older sisters, two sisters-in-law, my wife, my daughter, nine female employees, and a female business partner. It’s a unique role that I live in. As my wife and I continue to build our family, we joke that we will probably have all girls. [Laughs]

What's your guilty pleasure food?
I love chips and salsa. I’m a salt guy. I’m not as much a sweets guy. I could eat any kind of chips and any kind of dip.

What attracted you to entrepreneurship?
Just getting involved. I was elected president of the American Optometric Student Association (AOSA) during my third year. Getting a little taste of leadership over time and knowing there’s more to just being a primary eyecare doctor or even specialized  optometrist. I like to diversify my life. Entrepreneurial endeavors keep things interesting for me. I try not to bite off more than I can chew.

Related: Q&A: Contact lenses, academia and leadership, and a good sandwich

Read more

What the three best ways for graduating OD students to market themselves?
Social media is the number one. It’s something they’re already doing on a day-to-day basis, they’re comfortable with it. Being forward facing, sharing professionally and sometimes personally with your followers is a way to grow an audience and get involved. I recommend also showing up to public events, whether it’s a national meeting, a local society meeting, an industry dinner, or just getting together with colleagues. If they want to market themselves to patients, invite local business leaders. Get involved with different groups-business development groups are in every city. And number three is internal marketing within the practice. As soon as they start practicing, hand a business card to every patient. Follow up with patients when they need to be followed up. Send a personalized thank-you letter for coming to see them. Maximizing your opportunity with every person you provide care to is the easiest way to market yourself.

How did you land your first job?
I was in residency and decided that I wanted to move south. I had been going to the North Carolina Optometric Society meetings when I was a student. I took notes, met people, handed out business cards. I started reaching out to those people during my residency and networking…kind of a grassroots effort. None of those people had opportunities at the time, so I started reaching out to people who had job opportunities posted and asking within those networks who was hiring. The first job that I took out of optometry residency was shared between two practices: Part time in an office in north Charlotte and part time at one in south Charlotte, both in the suburbs. I was interviewing during my residency ,so I couldn’t start until after the residency was up. Finding the opportunity didn’t take too long… a couple of months.

What is your biggest frustration with optometry?
People undermining the services they provide. It’s not the optometrists who are doing it but bigger corporations. At times it’s a race to the bottom. Everyone is trying to give away service for free so they can capture a sale of a product, whether it’s contact lenses or glasses. Seeing that in the marketplace frustrates me. I don’t think we should provide anything advertised for free. I understand that telemedicine is going to be a thing of the future and there is opportunity there; we just have to make sure that we are doing it the right way. With some of the disruptive technology, people trying to cut the line of actually coming in and getting fit with contact lenses is frustrating to me as well because their contact lenses are not being fit and prescribed by an eyecare professional.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Continuing to diversify what I do on a daily basis; providing care to patients, managing an optometry practice with my partner, taking on more consulting and speaking opportunities. I’m a family man, so I hope that my wife and I continue to build our family. We have one child now.

Do you have any regrets?
I like to think of things as glass half full. Everything happens for a reason. You have to play the cards you’re dealt and maximize your opportunities without getting down on mistakes or missed opportunities. I don’t live a life of regret.

What's the craziest thing you've ever done?
I’m a pretty boring guy! [Laughs] I asked my wife to marry me about seven months into our relationship. As somebody who takes time to make decisions and think about things, I went with my heart on that one. That’s crazy for me. I don’t make impromptu decisions. It’s 100 percent crazy that she said “yes.” [Laughs] She said yes, and we’re happily married. We have our fourth year anniversary coming up in April, and our daughter is turning two.

More from Vernon: Q&A: Ocular aesthetics injections, Irish whisky, optometric legislation, becoming a master gardener