Article Date: 9/1/2010

Mapping Out Your Career Path
fix this practice

Mapping Out Your Career Path

What do the three modes of practice offer to graduating optometrists?

RICHARD S. KATTOUF, O.D., D.O.S.

Q As a third-year optometry student, I'd like to know what the best career strategy is for a new graduate. Is it best to complete a residency to acquire more specific skills? Should I go corporate (at least part-time) while student loans are being paid off? Or, should I jump right into private practice?

Jaclyn
via e-mail

A: Let's take this great topic in three parts.

Residency. In working with hundreds of students, I find that many do not have confidence in their clinical skills. For these students, residency is a good option. And, certainly, a residency is a fine choice for students who wish to pursue teaching, research or intense specialization. But let me make it clear that to enter private practice, a residency is not a necessity. Many of my clients practices are extern sights for optometry students. It's rare that the practice owner is not impressed by the extern's clinical skills and optometric knowledge — even though the extern is still enrolled in school. Many students "fear" leaving the confines of academia. They choose a residency so they may stay another year. Fear is a bad reason to choose a residency.

Corporate practice. As most of you know, I have a bias toward private practice. (The Illinois College of Optometry recently approved a new program, the Kattouf Program for the Advancement of Private Practice.) That said, I support our "brothers and sisters" in all segments of our profession.

For example, one of my best clients owns a "state-of-the-art" optometric practice next to a corporate optical. He doesn't own an optical, but his practice is highly "medical" and renders optometric specialties.


ILLUSTRATION BY MERRICK ANGLE

All of my "cold start-up" clients work outside their new practice at least two days per week for a year or less. By implementing proper management techniques, the new practice can cover its overhead, so the outside employment earnings go toward "living" expenses.

Many times, the corporate sector offers the flexibility of hours for part-time employment. Working with an established O.D. or M.D. in a private practice is a great option, but the hours of operation are more narrow than corporate optometry.

Can you work as an employee in any sector of optometry to save a large enough sum of money to purchase or start a practice? Consider that new doctors often need to purchase a new car, pay student loans, buy their first home, get married and possibly start a family. This scenario does not spell save.

Private practice. Most O.D.'s currently in private practice graduated 20 years ago or more. As a result, some claim private practice ownership was easier in the "old days" because graduates were not as deeply in debt. Untrue. Yes, the dollar amount of the loans are greater today, but the value of the dollar has lessened with time. Also, 20 years ago the graduate faced a sellers' market. Few practices were for sale, and their selling prices were much higher than they are today. Now, graduates face a buyers' market — many practices for sale, but few buyers.

Many fear that private practice ownership is a mountain they cannot climb. Not true. With proper planning, guidance and advice, you will not fail. OM


DR. KATTOUF IS PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER OF TWO MANAGEMENT AND CONSULTING COMPANIES. FOR INFORMATION, CALL (800) 745-EYES, OR E-MAIL HIM AT ADVANCEDEYECARE@HOTMAIL.COM. THE INFORMATION IN THIS COLUMN IS BASED ON ACTUAL CONSULTING FILES.

Optometric Management, Issue: September 2010