Article Date: 6/1/2013

School Viewpoint
school viewpoint

Giving You the Business

The perception is that our schools don’t teach business. Is that accurate?

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MICHAEL BACIGALUPI, O.D., M.S., F.A.A.O.

OM is pleased to present the first in a series of occasional columns on optometric education written by Dr. Bacigalupi.

Dr. Irvin Borish once told me, “An ‘academic’ would never tell an optometrist how to run their practice, but every optometrist will tell ‘academics’ how to run their schools.”

I think I understand his quote. I was in private practice for many years before I transitioned into optometric education. Historically, you could make the argument that the schools did a bad job of preparing graduates for the business aspects of optometry.

I’ll be honest: During my first year of optometry school, I ignored most of what was taught in the practice management class because the practice of optometry seemed so far away. Interestingly, as I prepared to open my practice cold, I went back to the handouts from the class and thought, “This is great stuff.”

A lingering misconception

I would guess that similar experiences have led many O.D.s to the perception that optometry schools don’t teach business. So many people have jumped onto this “bandwagon.” They want to teach students all they need to know about business in a weekend. They are all well-intentioned, but the truth is … we’ve changed.

For example, first-year students at NOVA Southeastern University College of Optometry take the course “Contemporary Issues in Optometry.” Taught by an O.D.- M.B.A. on faculty, the course is about organized optometry, the profession’s history and what the future holds. The instructor presents with an “eye” toward business. During the rest of the first, second and start of third year, students have no practice management courses: They are focusing on becoming clinicians.

At the second half of third year, this changes. Another O.D.- M.B.A. on faculty teaches the two-credit-hour course “Practice Management,” which guides students through topics such as business plans, office designs, marketing, finance and legal concerns. The summer between third and fourth year, students take a “Mini-M.B.A. for Optometrists” course taught by the H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship on campus.

Business school faculty teach individual modules tailored to meet the real world environment, including Human Resource Management, Business Planning & Decision-making, Negotiation Strategies, Accounting & Finance and Marketing.

The practice management track concludes during student’s fourth year in-house training. A series of 10 seminars are presented by experts. Students meet with successful O.D.s from different modes of practice, young O.D.s just starting out, financial planners, billing & coding experts and practice appraisers.

The bottom line

Students get a significant amount of business education at the end of their curriculum when they begin to think about the future. So, let’s change a misguided perception. The students might be studying for the National Board exam instead of giving us their undivided attention, but we are teaching business. OM

DR. BACIGALUPI, A FREQUENT AUTHOR AND LECTURER IN THE AREAS OF PRACTICE MANAGEMENT AND STUDENT AFFAIRS, IS THE ASSISTANT DEAN FOR STUDENT AFFAIRS AT NOVA SOUTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF OPTOMETRY. FROM 1995 TO 2005, HE FOUNDED AND GREW A PRIVATE OPTOMETRIC PRACTICE IN RURAL TEXAS.



Optometric Management, Volume: 48 , Issue: June 2013, page(s): 82