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5 Legendary Optometrists Give Advice to New Grads

This is a sponsored post by Vision Source, a supporter of NewGradOptometry & new graduate optometrists! 😎 


Man… there are some really good optometrists out there.

Ever since I was a 1st year optometry student in 2009, I always looked out at these notable ODs and thought about their success. I would always wonder about the path they took to reach success in practice and in their personal lives. Of course, I wanted to be there myself and that was the sentiment of my fellow classmates and new grads as well.

Over the last few years, I’ve had the pleasure of becoming closer with the 5 optometrists mentioned in this article. While I have learned much from them during casual conversation, I wanted to share more of that with the NGO readers and new grads.

I decided to reach out to Dr. Scott Jens, Dr. Ben Gaddie, Dr. Dori Carlson, Dr. Alan Glazier, and Dr. David Kading, five Vision Source optometrists, and close colleagues, to get just a few solid pieces of advice from them. This is just the surface of the plethora of valuable knowledge they have for new grads.


Alan Glazier OD, FAAO

bgDr. Alan Glazier is well known for his extremely successful Vision Source practice, Shady Grove Eye Care in Rockville Maryland. In addition, Dr. Glazier has become one of the most well known optometrists after he founded ODs On Facebook, an extremely well respected Facebook Group for optometrists, optometry students, opticians, ophthalmic professionals and executives in the eye care industry.

Dr. Glazier, how has collaboration with other optometrists, both in your community and online helped you as an optometrist? How can new graduates collaborate with other healthcare professionals in their community and online? In their community, how do you properly refer a patient or ask for help with diagnoses? How can you do this online as well? Any resources to share?

Such a great question Matt, and it caused me to reflect on the community of optometrists we have here in Maryland and the metropolitan Washington DC area. As the founder of ODs on Facebook and our industry’s first virtual conference CEingIsBelieving, I am constantly reflecting on online collaboration as well.

In my community, I have utilized my optometrist connections to learn what other practices are doing to grow and thrive. I have had lunch almost every Friday for many years with a very good optometrist friend, Michael Berenhaus, someone I greatly respect for his business acumen, and we share thoughts and generate strategies and ideas.

I have learned a tremendous amount from senior optometrists about the importance of supporting the state and national associations, how to talk to legislators and what I can do to help advance my profession which has helped me to understand and appreciate what these organizations do for our profession and how important it is to be involved.shady-grove-eye-care
Online, well, I’ve always enjoyed a good conversation and value conversations where I take away good information and leave with a positive vibe. The genesis of “ODs on Facebook” was to create a community where clinical and practice management could be discussed in a safe environment, free from vitriol and insults and partisan political nonsense. I use my forum to learn and communicate just as everyone else does. I take at least one pearl per day back to work with me that makes my career and the careers of my employees richer and in a state of “Kaizen,” or continual improvement.
New graduates should reach out to as many local ODs as possible for lunch, or to shadow them.

The best opportunities come from networks, so I am certain an investment in growing your local optometry network will pay off in spades over your career.

Once you have established yourself in your career, meeting other health care professionals who may not understand the capabilities of optometry is important for our profession. It can also help generate referrals. Online, establishing yourself as a thought leader by creating eyecare related content can help you earn the respect and admiration of other healthcare professionals which can lead to interesting opportunities for yourself, as well as enhance the reputation of the profession.

Twitter is a place where this happens all the time; I’ve been asked to guest blog numerous times by physicians. This type of communication can also help build your practice on tools such as Quora, as well as build your SEO. I don’t diagnose anyone online, and am careful to be sure I always let patients know that what I provide is “not medical advice” as there is liability associated with that, but I will often steer them in the right direction with references and other assistive information.

Scot Jens OD, FAAO

DrJens-bioDr. Jens is notable not only for his massive success as a Vision Source optometrist with 2 practice in Wisconsin, but also for his dedication to the technological side of optometry. Dr. Jens is the founder of RevolutionEHR, the leading cloud-based EHR for optometry.

Dr. Jens, how do new graduates keep up with the digital side of their practice? How can a new graduate bring integrated systems and automation using technology to a practice they are joining or starting? Do you have specific examples of technology you enjoy using? How can a young “tech savvy” mind bring something valuable to a practice and how do they balance this with patient care?

New graduates were raised with technology at their fingertips, and so it is natural for them to aim for high levels of automation within their practices. Whether associates of a practice, or starting cold, new graduates have ambition for technology-driven patient care.

As I moved through my practice career, I implemented automated refracting systems as one of the key performance-enhancing technologies for the practice. From the Marco Epic system, to the exam-lane TRS system, our practice has improved patient throughput and delivered a high-tech feel for patients.isthmus eye care

But, the contribution of those systems was multiplied when we utilized the direct integration to RevolutionEHR. By eliminating the risk of erroneous data entry and creating speed in the exam lane, we were able to push data from the refracting system into the proper refraction tests and build multiple Eyeglass Prescriptions, each with a specific usefulness for the patient, with the click of a button. Then we began to utilize automated measuring instruments from Essilor in the optical dispensary, and through another level of integration with RevolutionEHR, to pass digital measurements for high-technology lens production that optimizes the patient’s vision.

This seamless flow of information through the patient experience is good for the patient and the provider, and certainly delivers a sense of “wow” to the patient.

Beyond clinical services, new graduates should be highly motivated by the proliferation of online patient portals. While many healthcare patients are becoming familiar with these portals, few find them to be highly relevant to their health and wellness.

The evolution toward a higher level of patient engagement can be significant leveraged by eye care practices into more online patient scheduling, development of protocols with patients for sharing their health information, and expressing a legitimate interest in developing a direct line of electronic communications between the patient and the doctor.

Of all healthcare providers, new graduates are much more likely to understand, embrace, and educate their patients on the values of such electronic connectivity. Practices have proven that they get more patient connectivity and commitment when patient portals are utilized. In eye care practices, those opportunities can come from posting eyeglass and contact lens prescriptions for patient access, and encouraging patients to book and/or re-book appointments.

New grads will love the opportunities to grow their practice through patient portal technology.

Dori Carlson OD, FAAO
DORI CARLSON1579 walletDr. Carlson was the 2011 President of the American Optometric Association. She paved the way for positive reform in the political space of optometry and to this day works hard to manifest the best for optometry. She has 2 Vision Source practices in North Dakota.

Dr. Carlson – what are your top 3, very specific tips you can give to a new optometrist who wants to start a practice, whether opening cold or just buying into a practice? Specifically, what can they do to make sure the practice is successful in the early days? Perhaps you can focus on the pillars of clinical care, finance/business, and patient growth. Our goal is to give new grads some great and motivating advice that they can take home and use immediately.

I’ve done both – opened cold and bought an existing practice. While buying an existing practice is nice because there is an immediate source of cash flow, both are rewarding.

I did a residency after graduation but that doesn’t have to be the path for everyone. The most important thing is to be confident in your skills in front of the patient. Be warm, genuine and sincere. And when in doubt, it’s ok to say “I don’t know” as long as it’s followed up with “but we’ll figure this out.”Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 10.06.57 AM

With regards to finance and business management, be honest with yourself about your skill set and ask for help with those things you don’t do well or know how to do. Always know your numbers!  What’s your revenue per patient? What are the demographics of your community? What’s your budget? It’s hard to make intelligent financial decisions about your office when you don’t understand the numbers.

In a nutshell: be the CEO of your practice and not just the doctor seeing patients.

Lastly, I cannot stress how important it is to be involved in your community outside of the office. This is the fastest way to grow your practice. You cannot expect people to come to you if they don’t know you. In the eyes of a potential patient, you’re no different than the “box store” down the street. My OD husband is an avid cyclist and sometimes bikes to the office 15 miles away. One day I was in the grocery store and a patient walked up to me and said, “I saw your husband on his bike. He’s on his way and should be home soon.” Those relationships are priceless and help grow your practice.

David Kading OD, FAAO

dave kadingDr. Kading is a Vision Source optometrist with one of the most successful practices in the Seattle area. In addition he is an influencer within the world of eyecare when it comes to re-thinking the way we do business. Paving the way both clinically and with top tier practice management tips, Dr. Kading’s advice is always something to take note of. His success with filled a much needed gap in education for optometry students and new graduates.

Dr. Kading, what is your single tip for how a new graduate OD can become a top clinician in their community? How do you go from fresh out of school to being clinically confident? Any resources or tips to make that happen?

First off, I think that everyone should do a residency if you want to be the BEST at something.

It is hard to be at the top of your game in a particular area unless you have the clinical experience. If you want to be that person, then you need experience and nothing gives you that like a residency.dave kading optometry

Optometric Insights advocates that the best way you can accelerate your success is to make wise investments in your future. When it comes to clinical skills, we definitely think that a residency is in your best interest.

Beyond that, it is committing to lifelong learning. Treat every challenging patient like a learning experience. The top doctors that I work with, look to the literature as their mentor. When we do not know the answer to a question, my fellow interns and I scour the literature to find the answer. Then we look for ways that we can apply our new knowledge to as many patients as we can within the first month. That may mean that we are looking for new glaucoma patients, or that we seek out people who have MGD, etc.

Every successful person that I know was not passive. They all sought out the greatness that they achieved.  Exceptional people never contemplate the shortcuts, instead they hustle and push towards greatness. Whether that is clinically, practice building, or leadership, your success lies within how hard your willing to work. The people who think that optometry is easy after graduation are not the ones at the top of their game.

Ben Gaddie OD, FAAO

original_DrVoted one of the most influential doctors in the past 50 Years by Optometric Management, Dr. Gaddie has revolutionized the way that optometrists practice medical eye care. With 4 Vision Source practices in Kentucky, Dr. Gaddie delivers the highest degree of medical eye care to his patients. Both clinically and from a practice management standpoint, there are very few ODs who have not acquired some wisdom from this profoundly influential optometrist.

For new grads, I would concentrate early on letting everyone know (patients, other healthcare practitioners, the public and most importantly your networking community contacts) that you have the knowledge, skills and technology to diagnose and treat eye disease.  Everyone says they do medical eyecare, but does your practice setting, equipment, ambiance, staff and back office have the capabilities to deliver?

The easiest and very first step, is to make sure you tell each and every patient you see the type of services you provide.gaddie

For example, the patient that presents on Monday after being at the urgent care for “pink eye” or contact lens ulcer, explain that you provide emergency after hour care, and give them your cell phone number. On hold messaging in the office should clearly delineate the types of medical services you provide as well as the messaging on your website.

We decided to forgo most traditional marketing strategies and instead hired a public relations firm. Now we tell our medical message without having to be all things to all people.

Finally, never underestimate the power of a great mentor. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without one. Also, it is imperative to be involved with a study group and/or alliance group like Vision Source. Here is where you will find like minded professionals who experience the same challenges and successes that ultimately you want to emulate.

Have a question for Dr. Jens, Dr. Carlson, Dr. Glazier, Dr. Kading or Dr. Gaddie? Just post below in the comments and we will get back to you! Thanks for reading!

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About Matt Geller

Matthew Geller
Dr. Matt Geller is a technology entrepreneur with a track record of developing successful online platforms to solve problems in the healthcare space. Matt is an optometrist in San Diego and is the founder of, and the co-founder of!

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