Why did you pursue a career in optometry?

My father is an optometrist, and at some point in time our entire family has worked in the family practice, but I really did try to not become an optometrist. I majored in business finance at University of Kentucky (UK) for my first 2 years of college. I quickly realized that entry-level finance jobs were not going to put me on the path that I had envisioned for my life. I switched majors and was going to pursue my PhD in organic chemistry/chemical engineering and had that option up until the end. But I landed a part time job with college credit opportunity as a research associate with John Porter, PhD, in his lab at the School of Medicine at UK. Dr. Porter sat me down when it came time to make a decision on graduate school, medical school, or one I had not really considered: optometry school. He really sold me on optometry and what I could do with it. Of course, the family connection and my father also played a large factor in my decision.

Where do you see the profession in 10 years?

I see three areas that need to interconnect in the next decade. The first is the consolidation of the private practice arena. The regulatory challenges, employees, managed care, billing and coding compliance, revenue cycles, EHR and technology, and marketing are driving people away from wanting to own their own practices. We are already seeing the consolidators having an enormous impact in our profession.

The second area that should have been addressed by now but can’t be avoided for another decade is the issue of how to properly and respectfully integrate optometry and ophthalmology. I’m not sure how it will happen but the wall between optometrists and ophthalmologists must come down.

The third area that is intertwined with the previous two is the integration of online or distant eye examination technology. If we can put all three of these together, there is a chance of perfecting a model that has been a long time in the making.

What advice would you give your 25-year old self, right out of optometry school?

My biggest piece of advice would be to tell it like it is; whether you’re discussing crucial findings with a patient or explaining to a legislator why we support a certain piece of legislation, your opinion matters. Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself, for your profession, and for patients, who need advocacy on their behalf.

What is your advice on how to offer optimal patient care and profitability?

Ultimately, technology can help you deliver optimal care that may or may not lead to profitability. I’ve always been a believer in doing whatever it takes to help a patient. Invest in technology that is proven, can be reimbursed or accepted at a cash pay level, and use it when indicated. It doesn’t make sense to invest in technology that has a negative or absent return on investment.

What are the biggest challenges facing optometry at present?

The biggest challenge I see for our profession is in the mirror. Generations of optometrists have given their souls to be granted authority to use diagnostic, therapeutic, and now surgical privileges in our practices. The problem is that no one seems all that interested in fully integrating that advanced authority into practice. On top of that, many optometrists still refer out mundane medical optometric care to folks who don’t share our optometric philosophies. Before we can move on as a collective profession, we must own this space that we have all traveled so far to reach.