Doctor and the dragon: Entrepreneurs provide advice and inspiration for building vision care careers

Friday, November 30, 2018

Arlene Dickinson speaks to an audience.

On November 26th more than 200 students, staff and faculty at the School of Optometry and Vision Science gathered for an evening full of practical career advice mixed with inspiration, offered by two of the industry’s key influencers.

Dr. Alan Ulsifer speaks with Dr. Stan Woo, Director of the School of Optometry & Vision ScienceWaterloo alumnus Dr. Alan Ulsifer (pictured left) kicked the evening off with a discussion of the challenges and opportunities facing independent optometrists in Canada. Ulsifer shared the perspectives he’s gained both as an optometrist and as the founder of FYidoctors, Canada’s largest eye care provider.

Ulsifer then introduced venture capitalist Arlene Dickinson, who serves on FYidoctor’s Board of Directors but is best known for her appearances on Dragon’s Den. She was warm and engaging, joking with students who responded with laughter and applause.

While Dickinson is now a successful entrepreneur who owns one of Canada’s largest independent marketing firms, it wasn't always that way. She came from humble beginnings and faced challenges as a single mother of four kids. But, inspired by her father’s insistence that “life is a series of lessons”, she built a thriving business and a future for herself and her children.

Her message to students? Live a life of purpose.

You are lucky. You woke up this morning in the best city, in the best country in the world,” she said. "Take that luck and turn it into something meaningful. If there’s something in your way, go look in the mirror, and then tell yourself that you can do it.

The event was organized by the Waterloo chapter of the Canadian Association of Optometry Students (CAOS) with support from FYidoctors, which recently made an $800,000 gift to create the FYidoctors Simulation Lab.

“We were excited to bring these two high-calibre speakers to the School. They provided us with valuable business insights gleaned from their years of experience with the profession,” said optometry student Tristyn Lautner.

Tristyn organized the lecture with Madilyne Kevany, who added that, “Arlene Dickinson and Al Ulsifer's passion and optimism is contagious. This event was the pep-talk we need before we all go into final exams."

Arlene Dickinson with CAOS Professional Development Officers Trysten Lautner and Madilyne KevanyArlene Dickinson (centre) with CAOS Professional Development Officers Trysten Lautner (left) and Madilyne Kevany (right).