Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD ’04, came into optometry school unsure where the profession would take him. He had shadowed doctors and knew that optometry offered work-life balance and many ways to practice. It wasn’t until his third year at ICO that he realized exactly what he wanted: a fun, comfortable practice for kids.
Within one year of graduating from ICO, he was able to dedicate 100% of his time to Bright Eyes Family Vision Care. Now, he has opened his “dream practice,” Bright Eyes Kids. “I’m proud of what we’ve developed. Not only is it the place that I like working, but it is extremely rewarding,” says Dr. Nate.
“I get to spend every day doing the things I love.” His colorful office is filled with LEGO bricks, a hobby he shares with patients and his own children. The playful environment means that Dr. Nate’s days are low-stress. “I have time to communicate both to parents and the children themselves.” This relationship building results in calmer patients, more accurate eye care, and of course, some LEGO building and trading at the end of each visit.
It’s no surprise that Dr. Nate loves children. His large family is the main reason he moved from Chicago to Florida. “My life is like My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” he jokes. His location keeps Dr. Nate close to family, with his number one priority being his children. “They are six and eight years old. This is the time when I want to be with them.” Dr. Nate is able to have two successful practices AND eat breakfast and dinner every day with his family, and that’s not all. “We get to go to the beach. We get to go to theme parks. There are a lot of opportunities to be outside and do things as a family all year round, and it’s wonderful.”
ICO prepared me not only to see the patients confidently in the exam room, but how to interact with other medical professionals so you can be part of a medical team.
Dr. Nate credits ICO with helping him get to this place in his life. “ICO prepared me not only to see the patients confidently in the exam room, but how to interact with other medical professionals so you can be part of a medical team.” He admires ICO’s esteemed faculty for their ability to “understand academia, but be in the trenches in the real world.”
As for ICO students, Dr. Nate loved his colleagues’ “independent and entrepreneurial spirit.” He enjoyed taking field trips with the private practice club and hearing doctors come on-campus to talk business. “When you’re a student, it’s so easy to be focused on the very next test or the very next practical or all of the patients you will see,” says Dr. Nate. “I think ICO did a great job reminding us that there are lots of opportunities… We knew that we were going to be able to do what we wanted to do in the end.”
This appreciation for the bigger picture has allowed Dr. Nate to keep Bright Eyes Kids on the cutting edge. Most recently, he obtained an “incredibly engaging and exciting” Oculus Rift virtual reality headset to aid in therapy.
When it was time to hire a second doctor for Bright Eyes Vision Care, Dr. Nate chose an ICO grad- almost by accident. “It wasn’t like I was looking for a doctor specifically from ICO,” he explains. When he discovered Beth Knighton, OD ’11, though, he knew there would be “a lot of shared experiences and a common language.” Their bond, created by ICO, has resulted in smooth and efficient patient care.
Dr. Knighton isn’t the only ICO optometrist Dr. Nate is connected to. A group of his classmates and colleagues communicates via text message almost every day. They discuss everything from the profession to their kids. Dr. Nate knows this network can’t be found just anywhere. “No matter where you go, no matter where you practice, you know there is going to be a group of ICO graduates that you can get together with.”
To prospective students, Dr. Nate recommends visiting ICO and talking to students and faculty. “Think about where you’re going to develop the best and most rich long lasting relationships.” He believes in making a well-informed decision, but already knows what his would be. “The diversity of experiences that I had at ICO prepared me well for practice in the real world. If I was going back to school, I would definitely go back to ICO.”
…and he wouldn’t change that decision for all the LEGO bricks in the world.