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VOL. 127 | NO. 179 | Thursday, September 13, 2012

Weinreich Switches Gears at College of Optometry

By Aisling Maki

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An attorney by profession, Christine Weinreich recently switched gears, taking on the role of director of corporate and foundation relations for the Southern College of Optometry, an independent, nonprofit academic institution at 1245 Madison Ave.


Weinreich spends much of her time writing grant applications, networking with potential community partners and donors, and speaking publicly, delivering presentations on behalf of the college.

Weinreich practiced law in Michigan for 13 years prior to her new role in Memphis, something she says “really prepared me for any number of different avenues I might want to take. And I didn’t feel hesitant at all taking this road, with my legal background, because I could see so clearly the ways that the skills would transfer.”

Weinreich completed her undergraduate degree in psychology at Kalamazoo College before receiving her law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Mich.

She practiced primarily in the areas of family law and bankruptcy.

“In law, there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work that’s not too glamorous,” she said. “It is hard work, it’s dealing with people’s emotions, especially in family law. … The highlights are incredibly high highlights – coming out of court with a great result for a client and making an impact on somebody’s life.”

Weinreich moved to Memphis just more than a year ago after her husband took a job as a pilot for FedEx Corp.

“We love Memphis,” said Weinreich, the mother of two sons ages 10 and 15. “Our kids are doing very well, they love their school, and it’s been a really fabulous transition.”

She’s currently working on obtaining her license to practice law in Tennessee. Although she’s not required to re-take the bar exam, she says the application process is a lengthy one, and she expects to finally be licensed sometime within the next year.

Knowing that she couldn’t jump into practicing law, Weinreich considered how she could best use her skills and experience – particularly her strong, persuasive writing and public speaking skill set – eventually settling on the nonprofit sector.

During her time as a lawyer in Michigan, she spearheaded fundraising efforts for local charities and found nonprofit to be a “really appealing and rewarding arena.”

“I was really becoming interested in ways that I could use my advocacy skills and my writing skills. The reason I became a lawyer was to do good … because I wanted to help people and really make an impact in the world,” she said. “I found that legal practice certainly makes an impact, but there are these other arenas that also can have a dramatic impact.”

Weinreich began networking with groups and individuals in the local nonprofit sector, which led to her meeting representatives from the Southern College of Optometry, ranked as one of the nation’s leading institutions for optometric education, at a fundraising event.

This encounter led to her applying for the position of director of corporate and foundation relations at the college.

Weinreich doesn’t wear glasses and had never even been to an optometrist, but she was especially drawn to the institution’s charitable work in the Memphis community, as well as its international outreach efforts, which enable students to travel abroad, providing eye care to people in need.

“Last year they gave away over a million dollars in services in the community to people who can’t afford them, and I thought that was great,” she said. “Now my position is to advocate for this institution that’s doing things that really do have an impact.”

Although the Southern College of Optometry retains outside legal counsel, Weinreich says she’s the first attorney ever to have joined the college’s staff.

Although she can’t, in her current role, provide legal advice, the college staff can bounce ideas off of her, and Weinreich has been part of the discussions around the Affordable Care Act and its implications for the college and for its EyeCenter, which logs about 60,000 patient visits each year.

She says optometrists, under President Obama’s health care law, are labeled primary care providers because they’re on the front lines of health care – often the first to suspect underlying conditions, such as diabetes or even brain tumors, in patients.

“It appears the new health care law is going to be good for optometry because we’ll be designated as primary care providers,” she said. “And because of the requirement of more people being insured, it will actually enable our clinical programs to make an even bigger impact because we’ll have more money coming in, and therefore can give more services to the needy. That’s something that I think will be interesting to the Memphis community.”

Weinreich volunteers for the Greater Memphis Greenline and serves on the board of a newly established nonprofit called Outreach Housing and Community Inc., which works with the homeless mentally ill population.

“I’ve been spending a fair amount of time doing that because it’s new,” she said. “I’m very excited to be involved. With the poverty level in Memphis the way it is, the need is clear.”

But her favorite activity is spending quality time with her two growing boys.

“My 10-year-old and I took a long bike ride last night,” she said.

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