Article Date: 8/1/2009

O.D.s Wired
reflections THE HUMAN SIDE OF OPTOMETRY

O.D.s Wired

An early social networking experience inspired me to create a similar experience on the Web.

PAUL FARKAS, M.S., O.D., F.A.A.O.
BOCA RATON, FLA.

In my early practice years in the 1970s, I helped organize the "Round Robin Group." The group, of which I was an honored junior member, consisted of eight O.D.s who lived throughout the United States and communicated via cassette regarding practice management, optometric politics and clinical and personal issues. Little did I know that our small social network would someday lead to an Internet site.

Snail mail communications

The "Round Robin Group" tape began with me in New York City. I then sent it to Irving Bennett, in Beaver Falls Pa. From Dr. Bennett, the tape traveled to Neal Bailey, in Columbus, Ohio, who mailed it to Robert Koetting, in St. Louis. Dr. Koetting sent it to Sol Tabak in Dubuque, Iowa, who then mailed it to Jack Runninger in Rome, Ga. Dr. Runninger sent it to Murray Klaff, in Bellaire, Texas. The final recipient: Richard Hubler in Porterville, Calif.

Four to six months later, the cassette would arrive in my mailbox, replete with several hours of intriguing conversation — a real treat for a relatively new O.D. eager to get a peak inside the minds of the experts.

Round robin 2.0

Like all good things, I knew our O.D. club would eventually end. But, because it had such a profound impact on both my professional and personal life, I wanted to share its model with other O.D.s. So, in 2001 I asked my son Adam, who's president/CEO of the healthcare software company Wolf Bioscience, to design a Web site forum for senior O.D.s (i.e. age 50 and older). Adam spent his weekends creating what would become seniordoc.org.

The site included Retirement, Health and Welfare, Investment, Clinical, Optometric Economics and State of Optometry forums. Few senior O.D.s participated, so I opened the site to all O.D.s, with the goal of young practitioners receiving senior doc wisdom. Before long, however, registered young O.D.s took the lead in discussions, with few senior docs participating. As a result, I realized seniordoc.org needed a change in direction.

ODwire.org is born

With Adam's guidance, Seniordoc.org became ODwire.org in 2006, offering Forums such as Students & Recent Grads and Multimedia, in addition to the Seniordoc.org forums. (Adam continues to add site features, such as marketplace@odwire.org.). As with the "Round Robin Group" and seniordoc.org, ODwire.org's policy is free membership and speech. The latter meaning O.D.s can openly voice their opinions on organized optometry and corporate interests, among other topics, and disagree with one another.

I believe this is why site membership has grown from 3,000 in 2006 to 11,000 with about 100 new members signing up weekly. Further, our large membership has prompted organized optometry to visit the site to see what optometrists have to say about the profession.

The last "Round Robin Group" tape went out in 2008. Between illness and the death of some of the Group's participants, it has now become a memory. Yet, in some way, ODwire.org carries on the legacy of these optometric icons — one of the reasons running the site has been a true labor of love. OM


DO YOU HAVE A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE? DISCUSS YOUR STORY WITH JENNIFER KIRBY, SENIOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR OF OPTOMETRIC MANAGEMENT, AT (215) 628-6595, OR JEN.KIRBY@WOLTERSKLUWER.COM. OM OFFERS AN HONORARIUM FOR PUBLISHED SUBMISSIONS.

Optometric Management, Issue: August 2009