I pushed away the large stack of
manufacturer’s brochures in frustration and reached for the phone.
Building a new office was easy compared to choosing the new
equipment I’d need to furnish it. I knew what the reps were telling
me about their products, but what they couldn’t tell me was how
they’d work in my office. They couldn’t tell me what was hype, what
was unexpected and what wouldn’t work at all. I didn’t want to make
A few quick phone
calls later, after talking with doctors who actually used the
equipment in their offices, I felt my decision-making was made much
easier. These weren’t doctors I had never met. They were friends
I’ve made over the past 10 years through my involvement in my
professional society. They’re not my competition; they’re my
colleagues and friends. I respect them completely and would help
them without hesitation, as they had just helped me.
There are many
reasons to network in your state and local optometric societies. Our
profession must remain organized to remain strong and viable. Paying
dues is nice, but it won’t keep us viable. You’ve got to go to
meetings, get to know what’s going on locally, regionally and
nationally. It’s one of those simple things: the more you give the
more you get.
Afraid to Get Involved
I first attended
local society meetings when I was still in school. I’ve always been
really shy and it was tough to even get the nerve to show up. What
helped was that I felt as if the other doctors really wanted me
there and enjoyed my point of view. I began to see that these were
friends who had gotten to know each other over many years. Yes, they
happened to all be optometrists, but they were friends first.
So how does a new
doctor start with networking? Get involved! If you have an active
organization, call the president and ask what you can do to help. I
guarantee they won’t turn you down! Unfortunately, there are many
areas where optometrists don’t meet regularly. If that’s the case
where you practice, make a quick phone call to your state
association and ask for a list of optometrists in your area. Phone
these local optometrists and ask if they’d like to participate in a
study group. Be sure to include everyone. Professional societies are
richer and stronger when they’re diverse. Get together over pizza
and talk about what’s going on and have some fun with it.
counter-intuitive part of networking is that you really help
yourself by helping others. The more you give, the more you get.
Your involvement helps everyone: your patients, your profession,
your neighborhood and yourself. Your goal is to build relationships
and connections between people and organizations before you need
When it comes to
your livelihood, don’t be introverted. Don’t wait for things to
happen to you. Make them happen. Go to meetings with your card in
your pocket and shake hands and say hello. You’ll be welcomed with
enthusiasm. I love to meet new doctors at meetings and would eagerly
help and support them.
Look at the big
picture. The best things in life can’t be bought or sold, but are
built over time. A strong profession, a strong career and a strong
network of friends and colleagues are all attainable and extremely
gratifying. It just takes that first step to go to meetings and get
involved. We look forward to meeting you!
Attention, students!!! Do you realize that many
of you have the privilege to engage in a more expanded scope of
practice as students than many of your future colleagues can who are
licensed optometrists? That’s right! Unfortunately, I’m among those
licensed optometrists in my home state of Illinois who cannot write
a prescription for oral medications. As a student at the Southern
College of Optometry, I wrote many prescriptions for oral
medications under the supervision of my staff doctors. It seemed very unfair
and odd to me that after graduating and moving back home to
practice, I’d be practicing a much narrower scope
of optometry as a doctor than I
practiced as a student.
I’d like you to re-read the original question that I asked
you, paying particular attention to my choice of words describing
your scope of practice as a privilege. That’s right. Optometry is
unique to health care because our scope of practice varies from one
state to another. Some of our states have earned the privilege of
practicing full scope optometry through their dedication and
commitment to organized optometry. Just as the privilege of expanded
scopes of optometric practice can be earned, we are at risk every
day for losing these privileges that we have worked so hard for.
Making A Difference
Our state associations do much more than fight for an
expanded scope of practice. Think about optometry in the news over
the last five years. Organized optometry has fought a number of
battles such as rights to provide postoperative care to our cataract
and LASIK patients, access privileges to numerous insurance panels,
and elimination of the unequal reimbursements paid to optometrists
versus ophthalmologists for the same procedures.
I mentioned, I’m experiencing firsthand the importance of several
individuals sharing one voice in order to make a difference. In
Illinois, optometrists from throughout the state have shown their
support of our state association and joined in the fight to expand
our scope of practice to include oral medications. What I’ve
witnessed through this process in Illinois is that we really can
make a difference in numbers. This fight takes the support of many,
not of just a few.
Investing in Your Future
a doctor who is actively involved in my state association, I witness
a multitude of attitudes toward organized optometry. Unfortunately,
not all optometrists have a positive point-of-view about organized
optometry because “they don’t really perceive the value in the
investment of organized optometry, whether it be the AOA or at the
state level.” My comment to these colleagues is always the same.
Organized optometry is an investment that you as an
optometrist can’t afford NOT to make. Even if you have no interest
in changing the face of optometry in your state, don’t you see the
value in keeping the privileges that your profession offers you?
Organized optometry is the key to helping optometry continue to
grow. Our profession sure has come a long way in the last 25 years,
and I believe that it is most important that we don’t lose any of
the privileges that we have fought so hard to obtain. My fellow
readers, you are the future of optometry. Join with me in the fight
to keep optometry moving forward and give your time and attention to
organized optometry, both at your state’s level and with the
American Optometric Association.
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