At a young age Dr. Wendy Runyon Foster, owner of Vision Care 4 Life, knew she wanted to help people as a doctor. Foster’s determination to excel in school allowed her to graduate high school early at the age of 15. She credits her parents with instilling a great work ethic in her.
While studying at University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) for her undergraduate degree, Foster worked at a restaurant. One day, a customer of the restaurant encouraged her to apply for an open position at a local Pearle Vision Center. That customer happened to be the manager at the Pearle Vision Center. Once interviewed, Foster was hired. “After just two days of working at Pearle Vision, I knew I wanted to be an optometrist,” said Foster.
In those days, Foster worked in many roles in the optometrist office, including being an optometric technician and ophthalmic lab assistant. She was an ABO Certified Optician for 7 years.
Foster graduated from UMKC and began studying at the Illinois College of Optometry (ICO). “The practical experiences I had prior to studying at ICO provided the knowledge of what I wanted to do – and what things to avoid in a commercial or private optometric practice,” said Foster.
Upon graduating from ICO and gaining her credentials, Foster worked at the Heart of America Eye Care in Shawnee Mission, Kansas, in surgical comanagement with 12 other doctors and specialists.
Looking for a change and to branch out on her own, Foster moved to Wichita as a single mother with her daughter, Darbi, in March 2003 after being offered an independent optometric and medical eye care practice next to the Eye Masters facility in the Town East Mall. While working there, Foster introduced vision therapy and an optical laboratory to the practice.
Foster had no family or contacts in Wichita when she decided to accept the offer. Her work ethic and confidence in her abilities were instilled by her mother, an immigrant from Okinawa who worked tirelessly in a factory, and her father, who labored in a steel mill, while raising a family.
Foster’s practice Runyon Optometry, P.A., grew over the next seven years, and they began to acquire more equipment and hire more employees. During this time, Foster remarried to her new husband, JD Foster. "JD was instrumental in managing the growth of the business," said Foster.
In 2010, they ran out of room to grow at their facility in Town East Mall, and decided to look for a larger facility to accommodate her practice.
Foster turned to the Kansas Small Business Development Center (KSBDC) at Wichita State University, and received help from Assistant Director, Alan Badgley, who provided a market analysis and some financial projections for the move to a larger facility.
Later that year, Foster was able to acquire a SBA 7(a) loan through Intrust Bank to cover the operational costs, renovations and equipment for the new practice. In July 2011, Foster opened the doors of her new practice ‘Vision Care 4Life’ after only one week of transition from Runyon Optometry, P.A.
Dr. Foster’s contributions to the community are notable. She is the Chairperson of the Kansas Optometric Association’s Charity Care Committee. In that role, she has provided eye examinations and glasses to youth in the juvenile detention center, and contributed to the Medical Services Bureau, Project Access, Dress For Success, See to Learn, Infant See and Vision USA as a provider. Foster and her staff have also volunteered by providing vision health screenings for the Lion’s Club at the Kansas State Fair, as well as eye exams for the participants at the Special Olympics here in Kansas.
Vision Care 4Life also sponsors an annual “Eye Art Contest” for her clients. The winner of this year’s contest will win $200 in store credit. The idea to create an art contest came from her daughter Darbi who loves art. “The contest has been a great way for our patients to express themselves through art, build excitement, and reward their creativity,” said Foster. The 2015 Eye Art Contest deadline this year is on September 3rd.
When asked about the biggest obstacle that she had to overcome in her career, Foster recalled the financial stresses of being a single parent when her student loans needed to be paid. Her advice to young optometrists – or anyone else looking to start a business – is to find someone already working in that role, and grill them with questions, shadow them on the job, and to learn as much as you can from that experience. Then ask themselves the question if this is what I really want to do? “If it’s about the money, you may find yourself unsatisfied. To achieve success in any profession, your motivation must be your passion for the work,” she added.
Dr. Foster’s future ambition involves making a positive change in the world – on a grander scale. She is searching for the right opportunity to cross her path. "I would like to continue to give back and help others in need," she concluded.