When a new door is before us, a moment of observation, hesitation or appreciation might occur before we move forward. For Dr. Jessica Trichel, O.D., however, embracing life's new doors – and even building one where none previously existed -- has brought about adventure and fulfillment.
As Jessica moves toward her 12th year practicing optometry in the Ark-La-Tex, she will soon open a new and very special door to her own clinic, Nash Eye Care.
Jessica grew up and went to school in the small town of Queen City, Texas, just one county down U.S. Highway 59 from her current home in Texarkana. While attending Louisiana State University at Shreveport for a bachelor's degree in molecular biology, Jessica spent some time working at the Vitreo-Retinal Associates clinic. At the time, she didn't realize that a door to finding her passion and future career was beginning to open as she witnessed Dr. Charles Lyons' dynamic with patients.
In her final semester of undergrad and after working at the retinal clinic, Jessica was still unsure of what path to take next.
"I thought, you know, maybe I will apply to optometry school and just see what happens," Jessica remembers. And on that whim, she submitted applications to the University of Houston and a school in Puerto Rico.
The University of Houston was at capacity for the upcoming class, but Jessica was encouraged to be a part of the following year's optometry class. In the meantime, she was offered a job teaching science at her grade school alma mater. Teaching did appeal to Jessica because of her love for children, serving others and science, but she soon received a response from her other application and was invited to tour the campus of the Inter American University of Puerto Rico.
A new door had opened, and behind this one was a beach!
In 2012, Jessica graduated from the Inter American University of Puerto Rico – School of Optometry and began working in Texarkana. In 2014, she was invited back to the clinic that first introduced her to the world she had now come to love. And she was once again working with Dr. Lyons in Shreveport.
While Jessica dreamed of owning her own clinic one day, she is grateful for her time spent with Dr. Lyons at the retinal clinic.
"I gained a lot of experience working with him in that environment for three years, especially surrounding certain eye conditions that may affect elderly patients. I grew to really enjoy working with that demographic."
By 2017, Jessica was back in Texarkana and working at Wiggins Eye Center, and thanks to a new husband, Mike Smith, and welcoming two daughters, Jessica found herself in a season where other priorities felt more important than opening her own business.
Jessica and Mike's daughters are now ages 6 and 2. Their first born, Caroline, one day asked Jessica if she was a "boss" the same way Mike -- who owns his own business -- is the boss at his job. This innocent question resulted in Jessica ruminating on the future of her career and the goals she had placed on hold.
Recently, Jessica, Mike and their oldest daughter were spending time in Bentonville, Arkansas, before a college football game. While walking around the downtown district, something caught Jessica's attention. The business was called "Eyes on the Square," and she was drawn to take a closer look.
"I told Mike we have to go inside this eye clinic! We walked through the door, and I explained to the man at the front desk my name and that I was an optometrist from Texarkana and asked if there was a chance I could look around."
The guy at the front desk turned out to be Matt Howell, O.D., who also happened to be from Texarkana, and he was thrilled to show Jessica and her family around his clinic. Matt's open door inspired Jessica to think again about the dream she had placed on the back-burner for years.
"Seeing Matt's success, a young guy from Texarkana, just made me realize that opening a clinic is something I could really do. I just felt like if I'm going to actually do this, now is the time. This is a season of change."
Jessica and Mike got serious about making plans to launch a new business.
"I wanted to go somewhere I could serve needs," Jessica said. Using a consulting agency to identify underserved market areas, Jessica landed on Nash, Texas, a community just on the edge of Texarkana. After growing up in a small town similar to Nash, Jessica felt right about the location. Soon, she would be able to open a brand new door to her own clinic, not only bringing her dream into reality, but also creating a local option for the residents of Nash to receive high quality eye care.
Jessica is looking forward to getting integrated into the Nash community and has already visited a local daycare to do some education for young children on basic eye care and what it means to go see the eye doctor.
Although branching out on her own felt like a delicate path to navigate, Jessica has found herself surrounded by encouragement and support by her industry peers who share in her passion for working together for the greater good of the people they serve. The support has been yet another affirmation that the season is right for her to walk through this new door.
"I get to meet some very interesting people! Not a day goes by at work where I don't get to laugh or cut up a little bit with a patient. I get so much fulfillment from connecting with people, hearing them out and providing the care they deserve."
As Jessica nears opening day at Nash Eye Care, she plans to keep her faith and family at the center of her life.
"I love what I do, but I feel like my "real job" is being there for Mike, Caroline and Kate. I have been blessed by industry mentors who encouraged me to set personal priorities and boundaries so that I don't miss the moments that can't be recreated with my kids and husband."
Dr. Jessica Trichel, O.D., is eager to officially open wide the door to her own clinic and the next chapter of service to others.