My name is Miki D’Angelo O.D. and my specialty in eye care is vision therapy and rehabilitation. I completed a residency with Dr. Barry Tannen at his private practice, Eyecare Professionals, in New Jersey this past July. Following the residency, I moved back to my hometown on Long Island and joined an existing private practice.
According to a 2013 census commissioned by the AOA, there are approximately 40,000 optometrists currently practicing in the United States. They believe that the profession of optometry will grow more rapidly than the demand of vision care, but more slowly than the demand for medical eye care needed. So what does that mean exactly?
I suppose you can take these statistics two ways…
- There will be a higher demand for ophthalmologists
- Or a higher demand for specialized optometrists that feel comfortable treating more complex cases
I may be biased, but I am going to air on the latter side of these two options. I think we can all agree that the way the profession is moving, our training is preparing us to have a larger scope of practice. This gives optometrists the golden opportunity to stand out in the health care field. We have the best of both worlds: our education is rooted in the visual system, but with our extensive training in medical optometry, we have the knowledge and ability to provide a different perspective to complicated cases.
Now my definition of medical optometry may be different than yours, but I believe it is anything beyond basic refraction and treatment, including…
- being a specialist in areas such as glaucoma
- macular degeneration
- dry eye
- neuro-optometric cases
- myopia control
- vision therapy
- traumatic brain injury
- low vision
There is an abundance of primary care optometrists who serve a much needed purpose, so why not stand out and utilize the training you received?
Here are my top three reasons for specializing in an area of optometry that you are committed to:
This is simple. Everything is about supply and demand. If you’re the only person in an area willing and able to serve a certain population, you will be the one that is sought after. I have known specialty care doctors that are booked out 8-10 weeks in advance because they are in such high demand!
Pushing yourself to be different is not always easy, but it is worth it. Patients will come from miles away if they hear that a doctor is well educated and willing to treat their case.
Perhaps you feel that the education you received at school was well-rounded, but it didn’t leave you with a strong background in any one thing. This may leave you feeling a bit wary about entering into a specialty. Despite how you feel, do not lose sight of the fact that being a doctor means you never stop learning.
When you decide to (and you should!) delve into the specialty care pool, you have some options. You can do a residency program in the area you are interested in to get a more solid foundation or you can make your own educational path. Many programs, including the AOA and COVD , offer mentoring programs for new doctors that pair you up with older more experienced doctors to help guide in your endeavors. Also, each specialty within optometry has a yearly meeting that you can attend to learn more information and make connections.
The last option is to start treating one patient. Do your research and apply it. The lessons you learn from actively treating someone is tenfold more valuable than reading it in a book.
At the end of the day everything comes down to money and making a living, right? For those that haven’t seen it first hand, specialty care may be the most lucrative way to grow your business.
Don’t believe me? Think about where insurance is headed. Lower reimbursements means you have to increase your volume in order to just stay afloat. Offering a legitimate specialty service often affords the opportunity to get away from insurance. This gives you the power to set your own fees, your own reimbursements and grow a separate business within a practice.
At the end of the day, whatever avenue you decide to pursue, do it with passion and integrity. Keeping our profession on the cutting edge of technology and treatment will just continue moving us forward and providing the finest care to our patients.
My specialty field, Vision Therapy
I chose vision therapy and rehabilitation as my speciality because I believe that it is a service that is far reaching to all age groups and can change a person’s life forever. I believe that this is an area of practice that no other health care professional is trained in, it is optometry’s best kept secret.
I believe that you have to capitalize on opportunities when they present themselves and to me, vision therapy is a golden opportunity. Sometimes you can’t seize an opportunity unless you have the right resources, and for VT, that resource does exist via the College of Optometrist in Vision Development’s (COVD). They are dedicated to helping new graduates get started and grow their business. Once you log on as a member, you have access to an abundance of practice management tips, vision therapy facts and educational resources for parents. If you are the tiniest bit interested in vision therapy and rehabilitation, I highly recommend you click over and register as a member!
The best place to start would be to attend their annual meeting in San Diego, CA, from October 21st – 25th.