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Are You Networking? Part 2

Last month we looked at how connecting with your colleagues can benefit you both professionally and personally.

Here we’ll ask you to consider reaching out to your civic organizations to help build your practice – and benefit your community.

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As young doctors, you know a lot about debt. Here I’m going to discuss a different kind of debt we all carry on our shoulders. Your incredible education and professional opportunity are unmatched in our profession’s history. The flip side of this good news is that you may be working harder than prior generations just to make a go of it. I want to challenge you, despite the great demands on your time, to make time to service our debt to society and our communities by giving back whenever you can. Make it part of your business model. Optometry is a profession entrenched in every community across the country. Our profession’s reputation isn’t based on our glorious education, but from our accessibility, humanity and personal interest in each patient. We’re not “loftier than thou,” but are in the neighborhood making a difference. You’ve inherited quite a gift: the good name of optometry. Your generation must not lose this priceless asset.

Don’t Look Away

I remember thinking as a student that they couldn’t pack more into the curriculum than they did. The amount of material we were expected to digest every night was overwhelming. In the rush to form wonderful doctors there’s little time to talk about our responsibility to the communities we serve as professionals. This responsibility is real. The lesson Hurricane Katrina taught us is that throwing money at a problem won’t necessarily fix it. Public health is the responsibility of the professionals in the communities they serve. We can’t look the other way. You can’t find the need in your community without getting involved in it. The best way to get involved is joining a service club. What’s a service club? Rotary, Lions and Kiwanis are just a few examples. I’m the president of a small Rotary Club and this year we put on two free vision clinics for the homeless, an international medical mission, raised money for six local scholarships, gave financial support to several local charities, obtained partial funding for a mammography machine in India and supported a Haitian water well project. One person would find it hard to do any of this alone. By joining with other caring professionals, anything is possible. These kinds of clubs are truly what make America great. Whether because of apathy, lack of time or interest, most service clubs are struggling to get new members. Many face closing completely. This disturbing trend is most unfortunate for the communities they serve. Please make a point get involved in your local service clubs. Most have Web sites that list chapters, meeting times and locations.

Making a Difference

If a service club isn’t your area, join the Chamber of Commerce, give presentations to senior groups, perform glaucoma screenings at local health fairs, or teach children about vision at your neighborhood schools. These don’t require a big time commitment and do make a difference. Community involvement rewards you with great opportunities to network. The more you can get out in the public eye, the more you’ll grow professionally as well. I implore you to do your best to make sure the next generation of optometrists inherits a good name. Don’t find yourself too busy to reach out and serve the communities where you live and practice.

If someone would have told me when I was in optometry school that optometry was a profession where you’re never off the clock, I’d have raised my eyebrows and thought that that person didn’t have any idea what he was talking about. Back then, I would have argued about how ridiculous and off base that statement was. After all, isn’t optometry always touted as the profession that offers great flexibility and a great quality of life? Why would someone make a statement like that implying that you’re always going to be working as an optometrist?


The truth is that I have found that I am always “on the clock” as an optometrist. This doesn’t mean that I’m asking, “Is one better or is two better?” constantly. Rather, this means that I am always selling myself. It makes sense that we sell ourselves, our products, and our services in our offices, but what about selling ourselves outside of our offices? To me, the work that we do outside of our office better known as networking, often can be much more impactful to our patients than the work that we provide in the examination room. Networking through community involvement is one of the easiest ways to advertise yourself to your community and potential patients.


Earning Respect


One of the first things that I did when I decided on my practice location was join the local Kiwanis Club. Not only did the organization give me the opportunity to meet several people within the community, it also gave the people within the community the opportunity to get to know me. Since joining Kiwanis, I have gotten involved in the local Chamber of Commerce, my church, the local elementary schools, and a multitude of community committees. Even though these extracurricular commitments have proven to be time consuming, they are also the best source of advertising and “word of mouth” for my practice. Advertising can be very expensive and is often ineffective in getting your message across to the public. I’ve learned that community involvement is the best way to “sell yourself,” and the best part about this type of advertising is that it’s free! In addition to the benefits of “selling yourself” to a captive audience while networking, it’s equally beneficial that the community get to experience you as a person versus the eye doctor. My patients love to see me at community functions because they see first hand, that my commitment to the community extends outside of my practice. I’ve received a deeper level of respect from the community because they know that I’m committed to every aspect of my hometown.


Commitment to Community


One of the things that I have learned over the years is that my patients have choices for eye care. Sometimes, my patients choose to refer their friends, co-workers, or family member to my practice. Why do patients return to my practice, and why do my patients choose to refer others to my practice? The answer is simple: Patients have witnessed that I’m committed to more than community eye care. I care about the community.


We Want to Hear From You! new O.D.s, what’s on your mind? Please send us your comments, questions and column ideas. We’ll include them in upcoming editions of the newsletter. Please e-mail us at response@newod.com

Starting Strategies

Always keep eye-related information in your waiting room and exam rooms for patients to read rather than magazines and newspapers exclusively. Oftentimes, patients will read this information and inquire about new products and technologies on display. Many times, these brochures will motivate patients to try contact lenses for the first time. – Kelly Kerksick, O.D.

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