Article Date: 3/1/2005

Healthy Attitude, Healthy Practice
Know the signs and symptoms of this chronic disease that can keep your practice underperforming.
BY DAN BECK, O.D., Leland, N.C.

Every profession has occupational hazards, and optometry is no exception. I'm not talking about chronic back pain or carpal tunnel syndrome, but a more serious affliction that can affect the health of your practice. I'm talking about cephalic edema.

Common symptoms include a condescending demeanor, disregard for the feelings of others and an inflated sense of self worth. As I recently discovered, the victim is often the last to know he has a problem.


The other day, my wife asked me to hang a painting in our dining room. After mumbling about how no one would ever see it because we never use our dining room, I resigned myself to my fate. With drill, bits and level in hand, I spent nearly an hour determining the optimal position for our new work of art. Finally satisfied with the results, I invited my wife to admire my handiwork. A split second later she announced the painting was, in fact, off-center. "It's in the exact center of the wall," I explained. She countered, "But it's not lined up with the dining room table or the chandelier." As I silently stood there, contemplating, she said, "I don't care how many letters you have after your name, you're still an idiot!" Only then did I realize I had a mild case of cephalic edema, or big head. This condition can strike anywhere, anytime, but new O.D.s are especially at risk.

Sure, graduating from optometry school is a great accomplishment. Who wouldn't like to be addressed as "doctor" or enjoy a comfortable standard of living? But O.D. after your name doesn't elevate you above your fellow humans. Be sure your patients don't wonder if those letters really stand for "Obnoxious Dunce" or "Obviously Delusional."


After 11 years of practice, I've learned that truly successful optometrists share two common traits: They work harder and log more hours than most people, and they treat all their patients equally and respectfully. They never forget our profession is all about keeping patients healthy and happy.

Here are some tips to help you keep a level head:

Be confident without being condescending. Patients respect authoritative doctors, but make sure you give them an opportunity to ask questions or express concerns. Talk with, not at them.

Be patient. Your time is valuable, but don't give patients the impression they're keeping you from something more important. Every patient should feel you're giving him your full attention.

Make yourself available. The health of your practice depends on happy patients. Set convenient office hours, even if it means taking shorter vacations or working one night a week.


Keeping your ego in check doesn't have to be a full time job. Just remember, it's all about the patients, and if you do forget, someone -- maybe your spouse -- will probably remind you.

A '93 graduate of PCO, Dr. Beck (and his wife) mind his Os and Ds at his practice in Leland, N.C.



Optometric Management, Issue: March 2005