Everyday People, Make the World Go Round Spotlight – Dr. Melody Bolanos

Latin Business Today is featuring individuals at all levels in business.

I am a traveling Optometrist. I work with different clinics throughout South Florida. I am specialized to work with pediatric and elderly patients. I have the capability to do home visits for special cases and handicap patients.

Name: Dr. Melody Bolanos
OptometryTitle: Medical Director and Optometrist at Care Optical
Company: Bolanos Eye Group/Care Optical
Major City Where You Work: Miami, FL
City Where You Live: Pembroke Pines

What’s your cultural background; where did you grow up?

Both my parents are from Cuba, and I was born in the United States along with my siblings. We were raised in Hialeah, where there is a large population of Cuban Americans and a strong sense of pride for heir culture.

Please, share your personal and cultural background with our readers.

I am one of four daughters of two Cuban immigrants. My parents arrived in the U.S. at the age of 9 and met at the very young age of 14. Along with the limitations of opportunities as an immigrant at that time, and starting a family at such a young age, they were faced with quite a few challenges along the way. While looking back now, I see I wore hand me down clothes, shared a room with my sister, had homemade haircuts and quite frankly didn’t have the collection of toys my children have, but I was the happiest little girl you could ever meet. Growing up, college was not an option or a “if” in a conversation, it was a “when you go to college.” I was a huge “Momma’s girl” growing up but always sought my dad’s attention. I played sports, loved sports, wanted to watch the games with him and then one day just got this idea in my head I wanted to become a doctor to make him proud. I wanted to be the first in family to get a doctorate, and that’s what I did.

Please share with us a current typical day or week in your everyday personal life.

This is going to scream “Mom life” all the way. I wake up, get three kids up, fed and dressed, and run out the door to drop off kids at school while hoping to make it through Miami traffic and work on time. After work, I always make it a point to get at least 30 minutes of fitness in, whether it be on my Peloton bike, running outside with the kids in the stroller or a quick gym session. Then after that, it’s what I call “prime time.” Cook dinner, baths, pack lunches and get everyone in bed in a two hour time span.

Please share with us a current typical day or week in your everyday professional life.

I am a traveling Optometrist. I am basically in a different clinic everyday. In each clinic, I have a room set up and ready to go with my larger equipment and bring my smaller equipment with me from clinic to clinic. Because most of my patients are elderly, they are dropped off in groups by a transportation service. This means, by the time I come in, I generally already have ten or more patients waiting and ready to go, in which I see around 15-20 patients a day. People always ask me how I have the patience to see only geriatric patients, all day, every day. I always say, I truly enjoy it. Ironically, I always wanted to work with children, and ended up servicing geriatric patients instead, but they can be so patient, kind, loving and grateful. While the exams might take a little longer due to a higher rate of ocular diseases and health complications with the elderly, I truly feel as if this is what was meant for me.

Optometry

Tell us why you do, what you do, for a living.

I met my husband when I was only fourteen years old, we have been together almost twenty years now. We went through all of high school together, then undergrad and graduate school. The entire time we were dating, we would dream about these careers we would have with these children running around in this home we created for ourselves while paying for our parents dinners and going on vacations. While I helped my husband get through school with the research papers and homework, he helped me with the motivation. We basically carried each other through eight years of vigorous schooling. While my parents were my inspiration, my husband was my motivation, and now my kids are my driving factors. I do what I do to have the life I always dreamed of with my husband.

Tell us about the factors that shaped your career and business aspirations.

I knew I wanted to be in the health field, I didn’t know what exactly. After working in a local optical for years, I decided to pursue my degree as an Optometric Doctor. I then became an associate in the very private practice I worked in since I was 16 years old. It was at the time what I had always wanted. Shortly after beginning my first year in practice, I announced I was pregnant with my first child. I just felt the walls of private practice crumbling, my hours were cut, and becoming a partner was no longer an option. They helped me realized that something I had wanted for so many years, was truly not what I wanted after all. I wanted to give my children the time they deserved, and so the long hours of a private practice along with the stress of making ends meet for so much staff was not in my future. I did “fill in” work for some time after having my son. I went to different practices and covered for different doctors, which helped me figure out what I wanted and didn’t want in my career. After seeing an ad for a multidisciplinary medical clinic with shorter hours, I thought this is what I needed. I wanted to work with other health professionals under the same roof to provide the complete care my patient needs. I somehow found that niche in Optometry, and am still doing that today.

How did you end up in your line of work? Was it accidental or were you strategic about it?

Strategic. I put so much thought into absolutely everything I do, from my career to planning out my family. After working in an optical for so many years, I was not content being just an employee. I wanted to be THE doctor. So I decided to take my academic career in that direction. At first, I was turned off by the idea of so many years of school and accumulation of college debt, but at the end of the day, time is going to pass, you might as well put in the work in the beginning to enjoy your time later.

Share how you balance the work-life challenges. What have been the rewards?

My children have always been and will always be a priority. As a working mother, this is something I knew I would always struggle with. However, it was something I am never willing to compromise. With three kids of the ages six and under, I know they need me most. I gave up a lot of opportunities in my career. I don’t make many professional dinners, optometric meetings, important industry conferences, and I know there are lost opportunities because of it. However, I know more opportunities will be available in the future. So while I am at work, I squeeze every bit of downtime away from patients to do what I need to do…even if it means eating homemade lunch in my car while on my way to pick up my kids from school. The rewards are that my children get to see me pick them up from school, and make them a snack in the afternoon while asking how their day was, something that my working mother was unable to do. While I don’t have less of a childhood because of it, I do know it’s something she has always struggled with, wishing she had more time with us. Luckily, this won’t be something I will look back on and regret and that in itself is rewarding.

What advice would you have for other Latinos in the business sector trying to make it day after day?

Value yourself. I have increased my pay rate by almost 80 percent from starting off. I remember when I started in my field, I had this misconception in my head…of how much money I would be making…and be stuck making the rest of my life. I didn’t think there was growth financially. Fortunately, after realizing my worth, I put a price tag on it. I enjoy what I do for a living. I know I am good at it, I am bilingual and I am worth it.

Do you think you have ever truly “made it” in life?

Absolutely. I think this every day. I have a beautiful family, three healthy kids and a home we can grow in. That’s the only dreams I’ve ever had. Everything else just trails behind. While I am grateful and in love with my career, it was never my dream but became a beautiful reality. If I could strive to do anything more, it wouldn’t be to have a bigger business or a bigger home, when I am able to, I would love to volunteer my time to medical mission trips and provide service to those who are not as fortunate as we are.

What is your favorite quote/saying? Give us your own personal quote to commemorate at LBT.

“If it was easy, everyone would do it.”

Did your ethnicity create any obstacles for you? Any advantages? How so?

I believe because I work in the melting pot that is Miami, I have not exactly experienced obstacles but instead a definite advantage. There is always a demand for bilingual doctors in our area, and I am prouder than ever for my culture because of it.

What inspires you in your work life? What turns you off?

A good team. I am able to get so much more done when I enjoy the team of people around me. A funny little fact is that my assistant 8 years ago didn’t speak a word of English.  He had so little knowledge of optometry then and is now the owner of the company I work for. He credits everything he has done in his career to me.  In return, I am able to do as much as I can in my practice because of him. It’s this sense of teamwork that really inspires me to do so well.

A big turn off for me is when anyone, a doctor or owner speaks down to any employee. There is a fine line between being a friend and a boss. Knowing how to walk that line, without offending or hurting anyone along the way, can sometimes be challenging. For me it’s important that everyone working along side me is happy.

Optometry

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Everything is going to be okay. I am such a disciplined person when it comes to time management. People always ask me how I am able to get so many things done in one day.  I am strictly managed on time and plan the every day details of my life. I wish I would have let go a little more while I was younger and studying.  I would have told myself, “it’s okay, you will make it. Just enjoy. Some things in life are not meant to be planned.”

If you could have dinner with any Latinx person—living or dead–who would it be?  Why?

J-Lo.  Who doesn’t want to be like Jennifer Lopez! She’s a mom, a Latina, a hard worker and a great role model.