James Kirchner, OD, president and CEO of SynergEyes Inc., joined the company in 2012 as VP of professional relations. He was the founder of EyeCare Specialties, a multi-doctor, multi-office optometric practice in Lincoln and Beatrice, NE. He is a past president of the Nebraska Optometric Association and the North Central States Optometric Council. Kirchner also served as chair of the American Optometric Association’s Communications Group Executive Committee.
Richard Clompus, OD, FAAO: How did you transition from being a clinician in practice to becoming the CEO of an innovative contact lens company?
James Kirchner, OD: My career path took a dramatic shift in 2010, when after 33 years in private practice, I sold my interests in the practice and began a path on the industry side. I had a strong history in electronic medical records (EMR) and practice management systems. Our practice converted into a paperless entity in 1999, a pretty aggressive move in that era. I started my post-practice life at VSP in the Eyefinity/OfficeMate division as chief professional officer, a role that was charged with the responsibility to provide practitioner guidance to the software development as well as being the professional link to the optometric community. In late 2012, there was an opportunity to move back into the contact lens world, so I joined SynergEyes as VP of professional relations. About a year later, I was offered the position of president and CEO of SynergEyes, which I accepted.
RC: SynergEyes has a history of producing hybrid lens designs that combine rigid and flexible materials that are unique in the industry. What are the indications for prescribing Duette and UltraHealth lenses?
JK: Duette lenses are a family of products in both single vision and multifocal that are designed for the correction of astigmatism (especially corneal) and for astigmatic presbyopes. The UltraHealth family of lenses were created with a design that incorporates reverse geometry in the back surface of the RGP center, allowing the lenses to vault over many corneal irregularities, especially those that are not in the far periphery. Keratoconus and post-surgical patients are prime candidates for this lens design. The post-surgical patients that have oblate-shaped corneas are especially well treated with the UltraHealth FC (flat curve) that engages a very flat base curve, but yet with a vault, to provide exceptional vision and comfort to those patients.
RC: How does SynergEyes provide support to optometrists and their technicians with complex fitting issues?
JK: We’ve initiated a program of having all of our technical support and sales team members NCLE certified. As of December, 2016, all of our team members have achieved that goal. Because SynergEyes is a leading specialty contact lens company, I knew as a contact lens clinician that the company needed to have an extremely trained and capable team to provide the technical guidance required. I’m quite proud that we have accomplished this strategy.
RC: Where do you see SynergEyes five years from now?
JK: Our mission is to continue to innovate new designs, platforms and materials for our lens product offerings. We are the first to have achieved FDA approval of Tangible Hydra-PEG, a super lubricious coating (covalent bond) developed by Tangible Science, Inc., and we are now offering it on our Duette lenses. Plans are to extend Tangible Hydra-PEG over our other products in the next few months. We are also working on a next-generation hybrid that will bring extreme innovation to the contact lens market. Additionally, we are in the process of developing hybrid products for the myopia management needs of our customers. Finally, we are widening our portfolio of products to enable us to offer best-in-class lenses that will meet the specific needs of the patient.