THE ENTERTAINING SIDE OF OPTOMETRY
Stop the presses! I must confess, I came pretty close to saying this for this month’s section. Seriously! As the editors of Optometric Management were getting ready to put the August issue to bed, not one, but two major news items affecting our profession broke.
First, Professor Brien Holden of the Brien Holden Vision Institute, who dedicated his life to the education and accessibility of eye care, unexpectedly died. He was a great friend and one of the most colorful characters in optometry. To celebrate his life, next month we will hear from our colleagues about how he affected their lives and our profession. Brien, we will miss you!
Second, Vision Source, an optometric alliance, was purchased by Essilor. I am confident many opportunities will arise from this development, and to get an idea of what Vision Source stands for, this month’s section includes an interview with Glenn Ellisor, its founder and executive chairman. In addition, I speak with Mark Feder, founder and chairman of the optometric alliance independent Doctors of Optometric Care (IDOC), who, among other things, discusses what IDOC offers optometrists.
Finally, in the Travel, Food & Wine section, Kirk Smick, O.D., F.A.A.O., discusses his cuisine and tourist adventures in Peru. Ceviche, anyone?
Jack Schaeffer, O.D., F.A.A.O.,
Key Optometry Alliance Leaders Weigh in…
GLENN ELLISOR, O.D.,
Founder/Executive Chairman, Vision Source
MARK FEDER, O.D.,
Founder/Chairman, Independent Doctors of Optometric Care (IDOC)
Q: CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PREVIOUS OPTOMETRY PRACTICE?
GE: In 1991, I had three practices in the suburbs of Houston. I still have a practice and see patients one day per week, and I am building another location adjacent to the corporate office at Vision Source in Kingwood, Texas.
MF: I still own an optometric practice, Norwalk Eye Care, and I still see patients a few days each month. My partner, Dr. Jennifer Stewart, and I pride ourselves on running a patient-focused practice, equipped with the most current technology and products and supported by an excellent staff.
Q: WHAT IS THE IDEAL OPTOMETRIC PRACTICE OF THE FUTURE?
GE: Successful practices of the future will provide all levels of eye care and optical services, but technology will change the entire patient experience, including flow through the practice, the way data is collected, the manner in which eyewear is chosen/purchased and the way we engage patients before and after their visit. A higher level of leadership skills will exist in these practices to navigate the increased complexities of and address the emerging competition for independent practice. Patient channels will be quite different, and these practices will partner with a variety of integrated health systems and play a new and vital role in healthcare delivery.
1: Dr. Ellisor and wife, Clairice. 2: Dr. Feder riding a camel in Petra, Jordan.
3: Dr. Feder and wife, Sherrie.
MF: The practice of the future is one that is nimble and can easily transition with the times. Our industry continues to change rapidly and if an E.C.P. is still doing business the way he or she was doing it even five years ago, that person will be left behind. Embracing the medical model will continue to be critical. We are quickly moving into a team-based treatment platform, focused on the holistic health of a patient. The independent O.D. must be prepared to collaborate with other physicians and specialists if he or she wants to participate in the future of health care. Lastly, an E.C.P. needs to be keenly aware of how his or her business is performing. The E.C.P. should be tracking key performance indicators, such as COGS, staff productivity and medical and optical business metrics.
Q: DO YOU THINK THERE IS A FUTURE FOR THE PRIVATE/GROUP PRACTICE?
GE: Absolutely! But we must be willing to change and join forces with other independents.
MF: Absolutely there is a positive future for the private practitioner. There is a significant increase in the aging population that requires eye care. At the same time, there has been a slowing of growth in the large retail chain and big box optical stores. Independents should capitalize on these two opportunities. However, the private practitioner needs to be vigilant about the issues that could negatively affect his or her practice, such as changes in managed care, online options to purchase products and new refractive technologies. I believe the best way to ensure the future success of independent optometry is for all of us to work together — collaborate as colleagues on all these issues. Together, we can achieve greater success than on our own.
Q: WHAT ARE YOUR SUGGESTED MAJOR STEPS FOR SUCCESS?
GE: First, I feel it is imperative for independents to work together to develop relationships with integrated health care systems and their PCPs; and, secondly, to develop an extraordinary digital omni-channel experience that begins in the practice and transcends to patients’ homes and workplaces.
MF: My partner and I focus on our business — primarily the metrics that drive our business: optical sales, medical services and staff productivity. We strongly believe that education allows us to stay ahead of the curve in new treatment protocols, the latest technologies and business practices. We both attend numerous conferences each year and meet regularly with other O.D.s in our community to collaborate on ways to improve our practices. We also hire consultants when we feel their expertise can help our business or our staff improve. Most importantly, we focus on providing the best eye care experience for our patients, and we truly deliver on this. We are extremely fortunate to have a practice built primarily on word-of-mouth referrals; I think that is the true measure of our success.
Q: HOW WOULD YOU ADVISE A NEW GRADUATE TO PURSUE A CAREER IN OPTOMETRY?
GE: I would tell him or her to find an opportunity in the most progressive, well-managed, full-scope practice and, in addition to providing the best care for patients, work at learning the management of the business. The environment should drive your first career choice, not just the base salary.
MF: I advise a future graduate all the time! My daughter is in her third year of optometry school. Some of the things I tell her are: stay an active learner, hone your business skills, surround yourself with people you can learn from, be adaptable, and continue to be as compassionate as you are today. In general, I advise new graduates to do whatever they can to go into private practice as soon as possible because they will learn so much and have a rewarding experience as a business owner, partner or associate in a private practice.
Q: DO YOU FEEL A RESIDENCY IS IMPORTANT?
GE: It is for many, but it depends on the person and the situation. My son finished at UHCO in May, and I think he made the right choice by not applying for a residency. He received a great clinical education at the school and extern sites and feels that he’ll benefit more from his experience in the practice and part-time position at the Vision Source Member Services Center. One of my daughters is about to begin her second year at UHCO. We’ll see what route she thinks is best.
MF: Yes. Any concentrated, hands-on, real-world experience is the best education you can get. A residency also allows the recent graduate to bring a specialty into an existing practice that will help the practice grow much more rapidly, thus making the new graduate a more valuable asset.
1: Dr. Ellisor with family.
2: Dr. Feder’s children, Danielle and Scott, in Aruba.
Q: WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES YOUR BUSINESS ALLIANCE UNIQUE?
GE: Our vast leadership infrastructure, beginning with the 175 extraordinarily talented optometrists who serve our members in each market across the U.S. Our complete team of 350 also includes a national network of practice manager leadership, regional and district managers, complete network services, practice management, vendor services, IT, marketing and legal departments led by a 14-member leadership team with more than 350 years of combined health care experience. These teams negotiate, develop and help our members implement a multitude of Vision Source exclusive programs. Since joining the organization in 2013, our president and CEO, Jim Greenwood, is leading a successful initiative to change the perspective of health care executives around the country concerning the role of optometry. This has resulted in 28 health system relationships and approximately 100 others in the pipeline.
MF: IDOC is so strong in helping to grow practices in many ways — from building the medical model, offering consulting services, providing industry-leading discounts and rebates, to gaining access to third party payers, including ACOs. Additionally, we offer IDOC University, with national and regional meetings featuring workshops that help grow the top line. We also offer study groups where members get together locally on a regular basis and share ideas to strengthen their practices. Further, we offer a metrics-driven membership option which includes a combination of software that measures key metrics and business consulting to help interpret the metrics. The consultants advise members on ways to improve key areas of the business that result in strong growth.
Q: WHY JOIN A BUSINESS ALLIANCE?
GE: It’s never been more important and beneficial to join an alliance. Practices have no chance to have the same buying power, learn and implement best management principles, effectively market their practices, access integrated health system patient channels, address the opportunities of an omni channel solution, navigate the dynamic regulatory challenges, receive assistance in opening new offices, plan for retirement or practice transition, etc., without one.
MF: It is very tough navigating the health care industry alone. An alliance provides the collaboration, support and camaraderie that helps all its members to be better and stronger. You can still be independent, but you gain an undeniable competitive edge when you work with colleagues toward a common goal.
Q: IF YOU COULD HAVE DINNER WITH ANYONE, LIVING OR DECEASED, WHO WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
GE: Jack Weightman, former manager of Alcon U.S. He believed in me and in Vision Source before the rest of the industry did.
MF: I would like to dine with Benjamin Franklin. He was a Founding Father, a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman and diplomat. He had working-class roots and was so successful in so many different endeavors, making him a truly fascinating individual.
Q: WHO ARE THE MEMBERS OF YOUR FAMILY, AND WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO FOR FUN?
GE: Clairice is my wife of 34 years, and she has been a big factor in my career success. In addition to helping me get Vision Source off the ground for the first 12 years, she managed most of the aspects of our home and supported my decisions along the way. I have two daughters, Kristen, who is a nurse practitioner and recently became mom to Kenzie, and Erin, who should finish UHCO in 2018. I also have a son, Wade, who is enjoying his first month in practice.
For fun, I enjoy most anything outdoors, including hunting, fishing and diving. I also love to travel with or entertain friends and family at our ranch about 40 miles north of Kingwood, Texas. Finally, I’m passionate about mission work in third world countries through Sight Ministries International. I think I get more out of the trips than the people whom we serve.
MF: Sherrie, my wife, has tolerated me for 34 years. She has worked in NYC for Merrill Lynch selling institutional bonds most of her career after receiving her C.P.A. and M.B.A. I have two children: my daughter, Danielle, is in her third year at SUNY College of Optometry in NYC, and my son, Scott, just graduated from Vanderbilt University and is applying to medical school. Danielle likes to say she has a Ph.D. (papa has dough) and Scott claims an M.B.A. (he constantly uses “my bank account.”)
For fun, I have always enjoyed playing and coaching baseball, getting out on the golf course and watching football, baseball, basketball, hockey and golf. I also like to travel. In the past year I have been to Australia and New Zealand, Israel and Jordan and South Africa. My favorite place to travel in the world is Sandy Lane in Barbados for its beach and fabulous golf courses. (I am not so sure the caddies and greens keepers look forward to our next trip there.)
Q: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MOVIE, BOOK, BAND AND ADULT BEVERAGE?
GE: Movie: The first Star Wars trilogy; Book: “Halftime: Moving from Success to Significance”; Band: Lynyrd Skynrd.
MF: Movie: Top Gun; Book: ”Steve Jobs”; Band: Bruce Springsteen; Adult beverage: A Long Island Ice Tea without the alcohol.
TRAVEL, FOOD & WINE
Peru: Gastronomy, Incas and More
Kirk L. Smick, O.D., F.A.A.O.
Travel, Food & Wine editor,
Recently, I had an open week in my calendar, so I wanted to travel. Trips to Myanmar, Bhutan, Morocco, Vietnam, Cambodia, Hong Kong and Singapore were a blast, but also exhausting, particularly with the time change. In conducting research, I found that Peru is just a six-hour flight from Atlanta with only a one-hour time difference. So, that’s where I went. When I arrived at the Country Club Lima Hotel in the San Isidro District, I was very well rested.
Peru’s San Isidro District and neighboring Miraflores are the heart of the country’s upscale hotel and restaurant life. Next door is the Barranco District, which is the artsy bohemian center of Lima.
Lima is finally claiming its place among the world’s top gastronomic destinations. Central Restaurante, where I enjoyed a delightful dinner of octopus, lentils and several kinds of potatoes, was recently named Latin America’s best restaurant by Acqua Panna, a leading and highly respected restaurant rating guide.
Other highly ranked eateries include Astrid Y Gaston, La Picanteria and Malabar. Ceviche, fresh raw fish marinated in citrus and seasoning, such as cilantro, is a local specialty. We liked the dish so much, my wife and I took a lesson in how to prepare it, and we ate it at every opportunity. (Author’s Note: The best wine to drink with ceviche must have as much acidity as the dish itself, such as a dry “trocken” Riesling from the German Moselle Valley or perhaps a Sancerre from France’s Loire Valley.)
After three days of enjoying Lima, we flew East to Cusco, a delightful Spanish-influenced village high in the Peruvian Andes. Cusco is the gateway to the Urubamba Sacred Valley and the Inca Trail, a multiday trek that ends at the mountain citadel of Machu Picchu (see photo above). As the village lies above 11,000 feet, my wife and I took an ample supply of Acetazolamide and drank plenty of bottled water.
Machu Picchu was built in the 15th century and later left behind. It is revered for its refined dry-stone walls that are held together sans mortar. The views of this stunning monument may be the most spectacular I have ever seen. We felt perfectly safe during the entire trip and heartily recommend a week’s vacation in Peru. OM
Special thanks to so many of you who have sent restaurant suggestions that are your favorites. I am busy cataloging them all. Please keep them coming to email@example.com.