Finding Your Vision

By: Jacob Batte and Cain Madden

The Vision to Open a Business

In life, sometimes we put off doing what will make us happy because of concerns that seem to matter less in hindsight.

Such is the case with Dr. Lisa Mitchell (BS ‘00). For years, she did not go into practice with her husband, Dr. David Mitchell. He had even been encouraging her to do so. But she worried about the two of them not having enough personal space and all their financial security being tied to one place.

“When I worked for someone else, the hours were long, there was a lot of added stress and my career was headed down a direction I didn’t envision it going,” Lisa says. “I wish I would have done it years before.”

Before they could open up Mitchell Family Eyecare, they had to meet. That happened at Southern College for Optometry in Memphis.
Lisa says it is not uncommon for optometry couples to end up together — her class produced eight couples. Added to that, they worked together at the same coffee shop and lived in the same complex.

“We became friends first, and it didn’t take long to realize we’re a great match,” she says.

After graduating, their life together started out in David’s home state of Virginia working for a larger company. Lisa says she enjoyed her work experience in Virginia, but she had wanted her career to be in Louisiana and was getting homesick.

Whereas, David grew up with his father in the military, so he could settle anywhere. And he agreed no place is like southern Louisiana.

“It was pretty easy to move here,” he says. “The hard part was not eating like I was on vacation. You get back here and there is all this wonderful food. And, all of a sudden, I had heartburn, I was gaining weight and I was like, ‘What’s going on?’ I realized, ‘Oh, I can’t eat that all the time.’”

“There’s nothing like giving a child their first pair of glasses and seeing their reaction,” – Dr. Lisa Mitchell

The patients are another reason Lisa says she was happy to move back home. In Thibodaux, she says relationships matter more.

“We get to build a relationship with them because we’re not just seeing them once and never seeing them again,” she says. “You feel like you are all part of a little family.”

Today, Lisa will tell you she loves optometry, but her path to the career did not open up until she began at Nicholls. During her freshman year, the university required her to interview someone in her chosen field. At the time she considered pathology because she knew she wanted to go into the medical field but not medical school, and she met a pathologist at Thibodaux Regional.

“She actually talked me out of it, and that was the best thing she could have done for me,” Lisa says. “She told me I should be in a career where I interacted more with people and not sitting in a lab. That was the best advice I ever got.”

Then during her sophomore year she started her job at Vision Plaza in Houma. That gave her focus on what she wanted to do.

Lisa says her family all went to Nicholls and she always intended to start her education here. Now, patients coming in on Friday will see both Mitchells wearing red.

“I have my little Boots Clune pin that I wear on my lab coat, and patients often make a comment about,” she says.

“Thibodaux owes a lot to Nicholls,” David says. “It would be a little blip on the map without Nicholls. Nicholls spurs a lot of economic development and growth.”

Years into it and working in a practice in her hometown with her husband, Lisa is grateful she found optometry. She says it gives her the opportunity to help people and to change someone’s life for the better.

“There’s nothing like giving a child their first pair of glasses and seeing their reaction,” she says. “When they put those glasses on and see the birds in the sky or the leaves in the trees, there’s absolutely nothing like that.”

“I did a lot of traveling when I was in school. There is nothing like the people in South Louisiana. Family is a big thing here.” – Dr. Jenaye Deroche

Keeping An Eye Out

Dr. Jenaye Deroche (BS ’13) loves that she gets to work with people. She loves that she can get to know them and their family over a long period of time. It just so happens that she’s also examining their eyes.

The Houma native knew she was going to be an eye doctor when she was 12 years old. She can remember the exact moment. Her family was at Tulane Medical Center because her brother had an eye complication. As they were walking the halls, she studied the photos depicting the history of eyeglasses. That’s when it clicked.

“I looked at my mom and said, ‘Yeah, I like this, I think I’m going to do this,’” she says.

Because Louisiana doesn’t have an optometry school, Dr. Deroche had to go to Birmingham after she finished at Nicholls State University. It was the family that brought her back after she graduated in 2019.

“People are different elsewhere,” she says. “I did a lot of traveling when I was in school. There is nothing like the people in South Louisiana. Family is a big thing here.”

Now she works at Mitchell’s Family Eye Care, which feels like she is coming full circle. Dr. Lisa Mitchell had been her eye doctor growing up. Dr. Deroche had peppered her with questions after that revelatory day at Tulane. Dr. Mitchell took on even more questions when she hosted Dr. Deroche during one of her clinical rotations.

“I feel like she has mentored me from the ground up,” she says. “I’ve learned how to manage people and how to treat some of the crazy things that she and Dr. David Mitchell have seen over the years.”

But it was all worth it, as Dr. Deroche had a job waiting on her when she graduated.

“That was a phenomenal feeling,” Dr. Deroche says. “It’s nerve-wracking whenever you are trying to decide what you want to do. So it was comforting to know that I had that waiting on me.”

As an eye doctor, she likes that she sees different problems in different people every day. Having the opportunity to work with different people and their variety of personalities is one of the reasons she has stuck with her 12-year
old prognostication.

“You can really get to know the people you see. If you see a kid, you can watch them grow up, watch their eyes change and get to know the family,” she says. “You get to have a really good relationship with your patients.”

Though her future hasn’t yet come into focus, she knows she’ll still be helping people.

“Every time you get someone crying in your exam room because you helped them see something that they haven’t seen in years, or have never seen. It may be the first time they have seen leaves on trees. You might think it’s kind of crazy, but when you’re with them and they put those glasses on, it’s a pretty awesome feeling,” she says.

Hebert Fulfilling Lifelong Prophecy

For as long as he can remember, Dexter Hebert (BS ’17) was always going to be a doctor. And pretty soon, he will be.

The Chackbay native is in his final year at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry. When he graduates, he’s headed back to Louisiana.

Turn back the clock to his senior year at Nicholls State University and his future – however bright – was unclear.
Hebert chose Nicholls because it was close, his mother is an alumni and it has a reputation for producing top-notch doctors. He didn’t even apply anywhere else.

“That’s what I’ve had in my head. I knew my brother was going to do something with technology and me, medical,” he says. “I came to Nicholls preparing to go to med school.”

As he approached graduation he still wasn’t sure what medical field he wanted to pursue. He had formed a fascination with the eye through classes with Dr. Gary LaFleur and Dr. Chad Young. So, at the last minute he rushed an application to optometry schools.

“I remember being in Dr. LaFleur’s developmental biology class and he was teaching us about the development of the eye. We went to a room in Art and he blacked out the windows and created a pupil. I thought that was really cool,” Hebert says.

“That actual wiring of how the brain flips the image is phenomenally interesting. There are millions of nerve endings and everything has to be in the right spot or your vision will be off. That’s just amazing to me.”

In addition to professional fascination, he likes that the industry is family friendly in multiple ways. For starters, people don’t often wince at the thought of going to the eye doctor. As an undergrad, Hebert was a phlebotomist – medical professionals who draw blood – at Thibodaux Regional Medical Center. While he loved the experience, the patients at the medical center were not as thrilled to be the recipient of his services.

“I like that I get to help people and not be the bad guy,” he says. “It’s not like going to the dentist. You come in, you leave with no pain and you can see better.”

Hebert is also a family man and it’s important to him that he spends time with his wife, Jill, and their future children.

“I’ll have normal hours. I’ll get weekends off. I don’t have to worry about being on call too much,” he says. “I want time for my family. That really drew me to this profession.”

He wants to open a chain of private practices across South Louisiana. He describes his vision as a medically-based Lenscrafters.

“I want to brand myself as someone that people can trust but it’s not just a quick 15 minutes come and go place,” he says. “I want to offer full medical eye examinations and have a plan to take care of my patients.”

He’s already got an eye on his first clients.

“It would be really cool to be the official eye doctor of Nicholls Athletics,” he says. “We have a sports optometry school, and there is research being done on how concussions affect athletes. I would like to be able to treat our student-athletes and make sure they are playing at their best.”