Article Date: 1/1/2004

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A Life Lesson for Each of Us
Experience and wisdom often go hand in hand -- especially in this case.
By Gary Gerber, O.D.

After 31 years of practice, most 60-year-old optometrists would be well into planning their retirement. Yet when my client Neil Draisin, O.D., called me, he wasn't seeking advice about his exit strategy. On the contrary, he was talking about building a new, 6,000-square-foot office.

I frequently hear younger doctors lamenting over their career choices. Frustrated by things such as increased competition, managed care and Internet contact lens dispensing, these doctors need someone they can look up to as a model of optometric excellence.

So as we start 2004, it's fitting to profile Dr. Neil Draisin's career accomplishments and share some of his insight. Indeed, his story is inspirational. I'm sure you'll agree.

Gary Gerber: Neil, tell us how you started.

Neil Draisin: After graduating from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry in 1971 I did something that was pretty much unheard of then -- I completed a pediatric residency. After that I moved back home to Charleston, S.C.

GG: What was your practice like when you started?

ND: Certainly a lot different than it is now! We had 400 square feet of space and were literally doing vision training in the bathroom and hallways!

GG: So vision training has always been a part of your success?

ND: Absolutely. It's my passion and it's what drives me as an O.D. As you know, our new office is totally automated and computerized and everything that we can delegate we delegate. That allows the doctors to spend time doing what we do best -- being doctors.

Our office isn't just about vision training -- it's a full-scope practice. Yet with all of our modern equipment and technology, being able to help a kid succeed at school and ultimately excel in life is still the core reason why I love being an optometrist.

GG: Is that why you're not even thinking about retiring -- because you have a genuine love of practicing?

ND: That's certainly a big part of it. I think another part of it might in my genes. My dad didn't retire until he was 91 years old. He was in the furniture business and he did better working three days a week than his younger co-workers did working full time. I got a lot of my work ethic from him.

GG: What advice would you give to your younger colleagues who think optometry has either let them down or feel that they're on the wrong career path?

ND: I didn't grow from a 400-square-foot office to my current one overnight. There were a lot of stops along the way. In fact, in 30 years of practice, this is my fourth office. So the first thing I would tell them is to be patient.

Next, I would tell them to not be afraid to ask for help in building their practices. As you know, I still continually attend continuing education lectures to not only keep my clinical skills sharp but to learn more about how to run my office. These younger doctors should take advantage of these readily available resources and keep on learning. The old adage, "You have to spend money to make money" is certainly true and I'm living proof that continually reinvesting in your education and practice pays off.

I'd also caution younger optometrists to not get caught up in an environment that combines high income with low responsibility, which can be seductive and hard to escape from.

GG: So, what does the future hold for Dr. Neil Draisin?

ND: Well, I don't have any plans of retiring, that's for sure. I love what I do, especially helping kids. I'm excited by the changes in our profession, not intimidated by them. As long as I enjoy practicing, I'll keep doing it.

GG: From what I've seen of Dr. Draisin, he'll continue to practice for a long time, which is good news for his patients.

Dr. Gerber is the president of the Power Practice, a company specializing in making optometrists more profitable.  Learn more at www.powerpractice.com or call Dr. Gerber at (800) 867-9303.

 



Optometric Management, Issue: January 2004