Article Date: 4/1/2005

if i had to do it over
Networking Is Not a Four-Letter Word
This and other truisms could hold the key to a more efficient and satisfying practice.
MEREDITH M. WHITESIDE, O.D., F.A.A.O., Berkeley, Calif.

Even though I've been in practice for 7 years, I sometimes feel like a new graduate, probably because I'm still learning valuable lessons from those excellent teachers "trial and error." Making a few rookie mistakes along the way is a given. What you learn from them will shape your future.

Here are some classic "watch-outs" from one who's been there.


When I first started practicing, I wanted to do everything myself -- schedule patients, figure out insurance forms, call patients to pick up their prescriptions. I soon learned this is not the best use of my time.

Calling to check on new contact lens wearers or to see if the allergy medication you prescribed is working is a great relationship-builder. But calling a patient who's missed an appointment is a task your staff should handle. Having staff members who can manage scheduling, billing and other administrative duties can really free you up to practice optometry.

Another tactic that helps me make the best use of my time is the venerable old "to-do" list. Just making a list helps me prioritize my day. I allot a specific amount of time to complete certain tasks and then set deadlines. This helps me track progress and see where improvement is needed.


Optometrists tend to be very independent. That's a strength of our profession. However, developing relationships with other O.D.s has unique rewards. For example, when I'm writing a paper or an article and I'm not sure I've conveyed something accurately and clearly, I find talking to a colleague often helps me. What's more, having a group of like-minded people to call on if I need advice or information is a great support system. Being able to talk to and learn from other O.D.s -- and being available to return the favor -- will advance your abilities in areas you've never even thought of.


When I was a new graduate, I thought "networking" was almost a four-letter word. I felt like I was using people. But now I have a network that extends beyond optometry into the pharmaceutical field and includes physicians and instructors at many universities.

You may say, "I just want to be an optometrist, see patients and go home." That's fine if that's your personality. But networking and making connections can can have a positive influence on many aspects of your practice. You'd be surprised how many doors open when you express interest in optometry-related issues. This, in turn, can translate into information you can use every day in your practice.


If you take charge of your time, delegate tasks with confidence and develop a robust network, you'll be a happier, more productive O.D.

Dr. Whiteside is an assistant clinical professor at the University of California School of Optometry in Berkeley where she was a 1997 graduate. E-mail her at


Optometric Management, Issue: April 2005