Article Date: 9/1/2010

Everyone is an Expert
Street Smarts

Everyone is an Expert

By Dan Beck, OD

Have you ever wondered why patients frequently claim that any doctor who has previously examined them or one of their relatives is "one of the top experts in the country?" For example, "My Aunt Rose was treated by the very best cardiologist, and cousin John went to the highest rated orthopedic surgeon in the nation," they say. "My daughter's pediatrician has more experience than any other doctor on the East Coast," they boast.

There are basically two reasons for this mindset. The first is that patients are literally "told" of a doctor's brilliance by his staff, on signs, and by diplomas and pamphlets littering the waiting rooms and exam areas. The second reason is that people want to feel safe, so they often convince themselves that they're seeing the absolute best physician in the field, because they only want to trust their bodies to the very best.

I recently attended the annual AOA meeting. While onsite, I took a course boasting a panel of 5 of the "top glaucoma specialists in the country."

Each panel member presented cases, then the rest of the panel commented on whether or not the patient had glaucoma and if the patient needed treatment.

From the very first case, the disagreements started. These (self-proclaimed?) glaucoma gods continually questioned each other's diagnoses and therapies. In fact, two of them literally got into a shouting match on stage in front of a full room of optometrists.

So, what does it really mean to be an expert? Did the so-called experts study harder? Do they have more experience? Have they obtained some fancy certificates and diplomas?

To me, an expert is someone who knows how to do something the correct way, but realizes and accepts the fact that the correct way will change over time.

As an eyecare provider, if you fulfill that criteria, congratulations, you're an expert. To prove it to your patients, just send me a check or money order for $29.95. I will send you a certificate complete with my "expert" signature. nOD

A top expert in optometry, Dr. Beck is a 1993 graduate of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry. E-mail him at

Optometric Management, Issue: September 2010