Dr. Jeanette Lee: The Extraordinary Leader Spearheading Change in Optometry
Dr. Jeanette Lee, Founder & CEO, 20/20 Optometry of Silicon Valley
You may live in the world as it is, but you can still WORK to CREATE the world as it SHOULD be” – Michelle Obama.
These wise words from Michelle Obama resonate well with the life journey of Dr. Jeanette Lee – an expert optometrist with over 25 years of experience in evolving dry eye treatments with now newer advancements such as Miboflo, Lipiflow, and IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) offered at her clinic. Dr. Lee has also worked with renowned surgeons in Atlanta and the Bay Area to co-manage ocular disease, refractive and cataract surgeries. Dr. Lee aimed to empower and transform people’s lives by helping them see better, look better and feel better when she founded 20/20 Optometry of Silicon Valley in San Jose in 2000.
Unconventional Yet Exceptional Journey
As a middle child of a Chinese-American family growing up in Inglewood, CA, Dr. Lee had imbibed the traditional cultural values of hard work and education very early in her life. Dr. Lee overcame bullying and the awful experience of anti-Asian sentiment during her early school days with a great deal of courage. She joined the tennis team at Inglewood High School and joined various clubs where she developed life-long friendships with a diverse group of classmates. She also went through a serious car accident in her senior year resulting in months of rehabilitation that put her through both physical and emotional trauma. Although her high school did not have the academic reputation and lacked the resources compared to other schools in the surrounding nicer areas, Dr. Lee worked hard and became the salutatorian of her senior class. The inspiring leader broke down all barriers in order to succeed and achieved professional excellence in her life. “I learned how to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Additionally, I learned how to get along with other kids from different backgrounds and cultures,” says Dr. Lee. “Looking back, it was the combination of these diverse experiences – the good and the bad – which provided the motivation I needed to get into my dream school of UCLA and later UC Berkeley for Optometry School,” she adds.
Whether it’s opting to switch from medicine to optometry school against her family’s will to breaking her business partnership on ethical grounds, Dr. Lee has lived her life on her own terms. “Overcoming challenges and misfortunes in your personal and professional life is inevitable. I firmly believe a professional woman can have a balanced life – a dream career, be a mother of 2 young adult boys, and have a fun, active lifestyle!” asserts Dr. Lee.
Dr. Lee has overcome multiple challenges and turned the tide as a woman breaking the glass ceiling in a male-dominated profession such as optometry. “My unique journey helped develop the resilience and confidence I would later need as a professional to compete as a woman in a male-dominated profession. Today, we are one of the most successful optometry businesses in the Bay Area. I still do the hiring, provide marketing direction, train my team members, oversee the P&L and enjoy seeing patients twice a week. For me, that is the definition of true entrepreneurship,” explains Dr. Lee.
20/20 Optometry offers a variety of optometry services in a boutique environment and is a leader in eye care services. The 20/20 team listens to the patients and offers solutions to treat the cause of the problems and not just the symptoms. For instance, Dry Eye Syndrome is a common disorder that affects so many people in the Bay Area that few people know about it. Dr. Lee shares, “I suffered from Dry Eye Syndrome, so I understood the issues with all the devices and screen use. I am passionate about developing various ways to treat the root cause of dry eye disease.” To address this issue, the company launched the 20/20 Dry Eye Spa several years ago. These services are in such high demand that the practice aspires to expand to keep up with the growth.
Headquartered at the heart of Silicon Valley, the business stays technologically advanced in its products and diagnostic equipment to offer a premium product for an enhanced quality of life. 2020 Optometry’s holistic approach to eye care differentiates itself from its competition. “We look at lifestyle variables such ones hydration, sleep, stress factors, ergonomics, job, and diet which can cause various vision problems. Our eyes are just an extension of our body so proper care of the body is vital in the maintenance of the eyes,” says Dr. Lee. She adds, “My number one passion as an optometrist is to improve my patients’ eye health. But more than that, I’m helping them use that vision to create a healthy lifestyle. That’s what we call our Holistic 360 Approach.”
The doctors recommend as much as drug-free options as possible before offering pharmaceuticals. They don’t just look at eye charts, but also a lifestyle and occupation to help people get the best outcomes for their situation. Education is the key to the prevention of many disease processes so quality communication with the patients to create accountability allows the patients to maintain a better lifestyle.
Setting the Example
What truly sets Dr. Lee apart from her contemporaries is that she knows how to “talk the talk and walk the walk”. As someone who loves challenges, Dr. Lee thrives on competition and is a triathlete, pentathlete, Alcatraz swimmer, and a Trifecta Spartan Race finisher. “I keep all the medals earned on a wall. My patients ask me why I run. My answer is always the same: I am motivated by each new challenge and competition. The medals are the reward and reminder of the effort it took to compete and do my best,” says Dr. Lee. She adds, “Challenging myself personally helps create the confidence for me to push through the fear of the unknown as I am constantly training to be successful in life.”
The remarkable work ethic of Dr. Lee inspires the whole team to make patient care the number one priority. As a leader, she believes that the most important values are honesty, integrity, and hard work which she learned from her parents growing up. “Additionally, I also value treating everyone with the respect and dignity they deserve, no matter if they are patients, staff, or vendors,” states Dr. Lee.
Dr. Lee highlights that the company’s loyal patients are a result of its policy of treating everyone the same without any discrimination of background, money, and more. “We sometimes see people when they first come to us in their young adulthood, after they get married and in some cases, we treat their kids. To have things come full circle like that is very gratifying. We are also very active in the community. Annually we have a Sight For Kids initiative, which helps provide frames and exams to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds from across the Bay Area,” she informs`.
Navigating through the Pandemic
In 2019, Dr. Lee started the year with a strategic plan for its 20th anniversary planned for October of 2020 but was disappointed when the global coronavirus pandemic hit. Immediately, she met her staff, a few key vendors, and marketing consultants to make a plan to work within the local Covid-19 restrictions across the Bay Area. She pivoted to a ‘let’s keep the doors open marketing strategy and supported her community, especially the essential workers.
She asserts, “We let our patients know that we were open, testing, clean and safe. We also reminded workers and families about the importance of maintaining eye health during the pandemic and remote work on screens.”
20/20 Optometry was one of the five optometry offices that were open in the entire Bay Area in a 30+ mile radius providing care remotely or in person for emergency care for almost 2 months. The practice not only survived the pandemic but also continues to thrive in the market.
“After a slow start, we kicked things into gear and found our groove. The result is we had some of our strongest years financially during the pandemic. And yes, once the pandemic restrictions lifted, we had an amazing 20th-anniversary celebration,” expresses, Dr. Lee.
Inspiring Young Women
Dr. Lee constantly looks at different trends in the industry and how to better serve patients’ eye care needs. She continues to evaluate what works best for the customers as the company navigates the new normal. Dr. Lee is interested in learning more about Mental Health First Aid and how to incorporate the tools into my practice to help patients with isolation and stressors, as part of a holistic approach to eye health.
In her advice for young female entrepreneurs, Dr. Lee says, “Use being a small business owner to your advantage. Bruce Lee has a famous quote: “Be like water.” Be nimble and flexible like water so that you can adjust to changing conditions in the marketplace. Being in Silicon Valley, always keep an eye on technology and how it can drive innovation. Last but not least, be solutions-oriented. Challenges and failures will come. It takes an entrepreneurial spirit, grit, and determination to overcome the tough days.”
“Being named one of Healthcare Insights Most Inspiring Women Entrepreneurs from the Healthcare Industry in 2022 is such an honor. I am proof that with the right solutions, you can have it all in business and life!” concludes Dr. Lee. Today, successful women entrepreneurs such as Dr. Lee are continuing to make great strides in the world of business indicating a positive shift in women entrepreneurship.