Article Date: 7/1/2011

Did “Dear Linda” Exist?
reflections
The Human Side of Optometry

Did “Dear Linda” Exist?

Was the subject of a 1980's monthly column real?

Irving J. Bennett, O.D.,
Sarasota, Fla.

Recently, an O.D. I met at a Western Pennsylvania Optometric Society meeting asked me how “Dear Linda” was and, more importantly, was there really a “Dear Linda” after all? I chuckled at the questions, particularly the second one.

Letters of advice

This O.D. was referring to the four-year series of “Dear Linda” columns I wrote for Optometric Management in the latter 1980s. The monthly column consisted of business advice—in letter form—for O.D.s who were currently practicing or had recently graduated from optometry school. Topics included everything from how to discuss fees with patients to employee uniforms.

The O.D. I met at the aforementioned meeting told me he was an optometry student when the columns ran, but that he filed them for when he started his own practice.

Although I've written several articles through my optometric career, some of the most satisfying appeared in this series. The reason: I was accustomed to publishing clinical articles, and this column allowed me to be light and conversational.

The answer

Readers, there was and is indeed a real Linda. She's my daughter, and she's been running a successful private practice for almost 25 years.

Linda graduated from the New England College of Optometry in 1980 and soon thereafter had two children (Rebecca and Beth). For the next seven years, she worked one day a week “trying out” (as she says) different modes of practice: Working for an ophthalmologist, in a Health Maintenance Organization and for a private-practice optometrist.

After working in private practice, Linda decided to take the plunge and start her own private practice cold. Her reasons: A desire for independence, the potential of a substantially better income and the self-satisfying feeling she would get if she could do it. And she was confident she would do it.

Rebecca and her mom at the Belmont, Mass. practice.

Beginnings

So, in 1987, Linda bought the dying practice of a Belmont, Massachusetts O.D. This O.D. had been ill, and as a result, had neglected his practice. As an example, the practice's equipment was vintage 1958. None-the-less, the practice location was excellent, in terms of attracting lots of patients, and Linda went to work updating the practice and building a reputation for excellent eye care.

As the old adage goes, the rest is history. In Linda's almost 25 years of private practice, she's moved the office to larger quarters twice. She is now reporting that the practice is outgrowing the latest building—which, by the way, has more than five times the square footage of the original office. Linda has had an associate for more than 10 years, and Rebecca joined the practice two years ago. Rebecca, seeing what her mom had accomplished, resigned from her math teaching job and attended optometry school seven years ago.

While I'm a bit biased, I believe that Linda has proven, as have many others, that private practice remains a viable option for the enterprising practitioner. Come to think of it, maybe it is time for Linda to write a “Dear Rebecca” column. OM


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Optometric Management, Issue: July 2011