Article Date: 9/1/2009

Finding the Perfect Match

Finding the Perfect Match

QUESTION: How do I get established in the profession?

By David L. Kading, OD, FAAO, Seattle

Answer: This question plagues students and recent graduates. Surprisingly, it's also an issue for practitioners who've been out of school for many years. Just as there's no such thing as a perfect marriage, there's no such thing as the perfect practice. But you can build, or become part of, a great practice if you keep these guidelines in mind.

Assess the neighborhood. Many students accept a job offer based on the practice alone, without having any knowledge of the community. If the practice is great, but the neighborhood isn't where you'd like to raise a family or live in the foreseeable future, you may want to seek a job in an area that's better suited to your lifestyle.

Speak with reps. Once you've decided where you'd like to live, contact manufacturer reps from that territory to get their take on which practices are the best places to work. Reps also will be aware of job openings and neighborhoods that don't have an optometric practice and could support a start up.

Work inmultiple settings. If you don't want to open your own practice after graduation, plan to work in a variety of optometric environments. After I graduated from optometry school, I worked in academia, a VA hospital, several corporate locations and in private practice. Working in multiple settings and for different optometrists shaped me into the clinician I am today. I observed what worked well and what didn't, and I was able to implement the best practice management strategies when I was ready to open my own practice.

Network with other ODs. Wherever you plan to work, it's important to join local and state optometric associations. You'll get to know optometrists, ophthalmologists and medical doctors in your area. They'll serve as valuable resources and referral sources. When medical doctors know you're willing to see their diabetes patients, they'll refer them to you, especially if you make a good impression through written correspondence. Through networking, you never know when a chance for volunteer work or other career opportunities may arise.

Develop your expertise. During my residency in contact lenses, I realized I was good at fitting patients with irregular corneas and keratoconus. So, I established myself as an expert in this area by lecturing to doctors about diagnosing and treating these conditions. Many lecture attendees have applied my recommendations to treat their own patients, while others have referred their patients to me.

One Step at a Time

The more I travel and observe practices across the country, the more I realize optometrists are part of a big family. Most of us are willing to help each other succeed. Establishing yourself in the profession and finding (or building) the ideal practice requires research and networking with others to turn your dream into a reality. It also takes hard work and perseverance, but you can achieve your goals if you take them one step at a time. Your efforts will help you enjoy a successful careerinthe years to come. nOD

Dr. Kading practices in Seattle, where he specializes in anterior segment disease, dry eye, and fitting contact lenses for keratoconus, post-corneal transplant, post-LASIK and corneal reshaping. You can reach him at

Optometric Management, Issue: September 2009