UW Mentorship: Dr. Colleen Sullivan

Written by: Yvonne Au and Regan Huynh


Through the CAOS mentorship program, we had the pleasure of meeting with Dr. Sullivan who is currently practicing in Pembroke, Ontario. Her clinic has a primary care focus and she manages patients with various ocular conditions such as DME and AMD. She also works closely with a local ophthalmologist in Ottawa, sending detailed referral letters for patients in need of urgent care.


After talking with Dr. Sullivan, we gained some important insight regarding the many benefits of practicing in more rural areas. First, patient loyalty is higher in smaller towns. This is extremely helpful for patient care since you would have access the patient’s history to assess for progression. In addition to benefitting patient care, it also entices patients to purchase their glasses at their dispensary rather than online whereby quality of products can be guaranteed. Second, the cost of practicing and living is extremely affordable. Dr. Sullivan had bought into a practice as soon as she graduated and mentioned that this was more manageable because it was in a small town. She was even able to purchase a home a few years later! Lastly, even for associates, they are guaranteed full time hours. In Toronto, many new graduates tend to work at multiple practices throughout the week. By working in a small-town practice with full time hours, this would significantly reduce the commute time. Having heard such amazing things about rural practices, we are both considering practicing in smaller towns when we graduate!


It was inspiring to hear Dr. Sullivan’s story of buying into a practice right after graduation. She shared her experience and stated how it was important for her to seize the opportunity! This encourages us to take opportunities in our careers even if they may seem daunting at first, because they can be rewarding afterwards.


Dr. Sullivan also shared advice on how to maintain her dispensary as online optical sales are rising. She said that often times patients are more comfortable buying glasses right after completing their eye exams at her practice. As well, patients are very loyal at her clinic, which is characteristic of her practice in a small town. This was interesting to hear about and definitely something we will keep in mind as we consider how we will practice in the future. We want to protect our patients’ eye health by dispensing high quality products, as well as keeping in mind ways to drive business.


Dr. Sullivan is bilingual in French and English. This is extremely helpful in her area of practice since Pembroke is very close to Quebec so some of her patients are only French speaking. When asking her how she manages to counsel patients in French having learned everything in English, she said it wasn’t that difficult since she only needs to use simple terms to describe their diagnosis and treatment. She also mentioned that it would be valuable to know another language as many older individuals may not speak fluent English. This was reassuring to hear as we both speak a second/third language and this will be an asset in the future to help us communicate with our patients! We truly thank Dr. Sullivan for her sincere and thoughtful advice.


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