Article Date: 9/1/2005

If I Had To Do It Over
The Learning Never Stops
BY DAVID S. HILL. O.D., Franklin, N.C.

THIS SUMMER heralded a coming of age of sorts for me. June 2005 marked my 21st year of optometric practice in the mountains of rural Appalachia. Yep, 21 years of private practice in the same office in the same town — the town where I was born.

So you might be asking, how can I be qualified to talk about "adapting"? Well, if you think my career has been devoted to maintaining the status quo, then you don't know optometry.

Change Finds You

Changes in the delivery of primary eye care create new challenges for us every day. Coping with and learning from these challenges is the very essence of a thriving practice.

It's been said the definition of intelligence is the ability to adapt, and this "adapting" will be a wild ride throughout your career. I'd say "Buckle up," but there are no seat belts, just some advice from someone who's been there.

Always remember, your education taught you more than facts and figures. It taught you how to learn and to think on your feet, which will serve you well in practice. You must always be prepared for the unknown and be ready to size up a situation quickly, determine the best course of action and follow that course until the unknown becomes the known.

This is especially true if you're going solo. How you identify and react to unknown situations and adapt your practice will determine your success. And believe me, you'll be confronted with obstacles — and opportunities — that you never faced or even heard about in the classroom or the lab. This industry is nothing if not challenging. But you don't have to do it all yourself. Some situations call for outside help.

Hire Experts

That O.D. after your name doesn't qualify you as an attorney or a certified public accountant (CPA). If you're contemplating leasing or buying an office or signing an employment contract, don't try to interpret the fine print yourself. Hire a professional experienced in these areas.

I found I could save thousands of dollars a year by hiring my CPA's firm to manage my books. This outsourcing essentially reduced my daily bookkeeping to balancing the cash registers against the computer and making the daily deposits. The accounting firm does the rest — all of it — for $450 a month. And I'm free to be a doctor of optometry.

You'll be busy running the day-to-day aspects of your practice, so be prepared to bring in outside help for other areas. Taking on too much responsibility can limit practice growth. Your ability to discern what you can outsource and what you should handle in-house will be a key part of your learning process. Heed your instincts.

New Challenges Daily

As you continue to adapt, grow and learn, you'll become a bona fide practitioner of the optometric arts, a superb diagnostician and world class in therapeutics. But a word to the wise: Each day will bring new challenges that will lead to new opportunities.

Even here in God's Country, where I've been practicing for a score of years plus one, I'm faced with many of the same situations that big city O.D.s see. I've learned that wherever you practice, how you respond and adapt to these situations will set you apart.

Your ability to adapt to new situations has a tremendous impact on your practice.

Dr. Hill is in solo practice in Franklin, N.C. He graduated from the Southern College of Optometry in 1984. E-mail him at

Optometric Management, Issue: September 2005