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SCO celebrates three alumni with Practice Excellence Award


Christina Schiller, OD, Blake Jarrard, OD, and Christopher Herring, OD, were this year’s recipients.

This year's Practice Excellence Award winners from SCO Image credit: Southern College of Optometry

Top row from left: Nathan Hayes, Blake Jarrard and Christopher Herring; bottom row from left: Natalie Hayes Schmook and Christina Schiller. Image Credit: Southern College of Optometry

The Southern College of Optometry (SCO) recently recognized 3 of its alumni with the bestowing of the Hayes Center for Practice Excellence Award. Christina Schiller, OD, received the New Practice Award, Blake Jarrard, OD, received the Practice Acquisition Award, and Christopher Herring, OD, received the Partnership Award, according to a news release. The award, which recognizes SCO graduates of the past 10 years who own and operate a private optometry practice, rings in 10 years of recognition.1

“Owning and operating a private optometry practice requires more than what students learn in their lectures, labs, and clinicals,” said Jerry Hayes, OD, founder of the Hayes Center for Practice Excellence, in the release. “In addition to providing excellence in vision care, these 3 young optometrists demonstrate exemplary leadership and business skills to build thriving practices.”

Those who qualified for the 2024 award had graduated from SCO between 2014 to 2021 and could have taken 3 separate avenues to securing an ownership or equity position in a private practice. For the New Practice Award, the recipient who have secured this position via a cold start, where the individual holds a majority or equal ownership interest in a practice for which they participated in writing the business plan, securing financing, and in operational development for a newly formed private practice. For the Partnership Award, a buy-in was required, or the purchasing or earning of an equity interest in an existing private practice and actively participating in its operation and/or management. Finally, the Practice Acquisition Award is given for those participating in a buy-out, or the completion of the buy-sell process of acquiring a previously existing private practice and currently holds a majority of equal ownership of the practice.2

Schiller, who graduated in 2014, started her new practice, Summit Vision Center in Issaquah, Washington, in February 2022. For Jarrard, class of 2017, he joined Progressive Eye Center and Boutique in North Little Rock, Arkansas in 2018 and purchased the practice in 2022. Herring from the class of 2017 joined Mississippi Eye Care, formerly Crigler Family Vision Center, in Meridian, Mississippi.1

Award recipients receive $5,000 and are honored at the center’s Annual Practice of Excellence Awards Program every April, located on SCO’s campus in Memphis, Tennessee.2 The award ceremony is held in part of the annual Bon BoyEyes program, which focuses on preparing third-year SCO students for externships in their final year of optometry school.1

  1. Southern College of Optometry recognizes three young alumni with private practice awards. News release. Southern College of Optometry. May 15, 2024. Accessed May 22, 2024.
  2. Practice of Excellence Award. Hayes Center for Practice Excellence. Accessed May 22, 2024. https://www.sco.edu/practice-of-excellence-award
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