Optometric Management Tip # 263   -   Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Private Practice of Optometry Has Bright Future

I want to share a very rewarding experience I had last weekend with the hope that it might make a difference to some optometrists who are contemplating their careers and reevaluating their modes of practice. I presented some lectures and participated in a two-day conference on practice development hosted by the Hayes Center for Practice Excellence at Southern College of Optometry in Memphis. The target audience consisted of optometrists who had been out of school from one to five years and who wanted to start up or buy into a practice.

The Hayes Center is a wonderful educational resource for our profession which was made possible by a very generous donation by Dr. Jerry Hayes and his wife Cris, along with subsequent matching funds by SCO.

Of course, career decisions are not limited to recent graduates. Many practitioners start out in one mode of practice right out of school, hold several different jobs over a period of years and then decide to seek practice ownership. And that’s fine. Experience is a great teacher.

The 35 young ODs who attended this conference were enthusiastic, intelligent and eager to own their own practices. Some had already opened a new practice and needed advice and some were currently employees who were planning to open cold very soon. Some were entering partnerships and some were buying a practice from a retiring doctor.


Like most recent grads, these optometrists had sizeable student loan debts. $100,000 is now on the low side. Many had tried various associations and job offers only to have them not work out as planned. The group realized they knew a great deal about the clinical side of practice, but they were taking on a vast responsibility with the business side of practice that they were not so familiar with. That’s why they were attending the program. They all had decided they wanted to own their practices.

These doctors, about half male and half female including some married couples, were proving that the gloom and doom portrayal of the future of private practice was simply not true. They were proving that the prevailing sentiment that new grads can’t open cold is simply a big myth. They found that they could acquire equipment, find office space, stock an optical dispensary, hire a small staff of employees and start examining patients. They discovered that there was funding available and their debts were not so unmanageable after all. Sure, most had to maintain a second source of income if they opened cold, but their fledgling practices did not require them on a full time basis yet anyway. Sure, these docs have much to learn about practice management, but I could tell they found that aspect rewarding and exciting.

Practice ownership is a great choice

I have no doubt that these ODs were making the best choice for their futures. If personal income is a major goal, and it usually is for most careers, private practice is clearly the way to go. Consider the following:

Sounds like a nice life and an enriching career, doesn’t it?

Would you like to own your own practice?

How did these recent graduate ODs get so lucky as to own their practices? Luck had nothing to do with it. They just decided that is what they wanted and they went after it. They discovered no one was stopping them.

Best wishes for continued success,

Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management