By Steve Vargo. OD, MBA
I can remember as a 4th year optometry student hovering over the copy machine at Kinko’s making hundreds of copies of my killer resume. After all, I was “almost” a doctor, and I was using the fancy paper! As I mailed off a couple hundred resumes, I proudly marched home and anxiously waited for employers to start lining up to bid on my services. You can imagine my disappointment when all my hard work earned me just one response from an OD – to tell me he wasn’t hiring.
If I could do one thing over again as an optometry student, I would have developed a marketable specialty while I was in school. Granted, I may not have been an “expert” by graduation. Expert status often comes after years of hands-on experience, but you could certainly develop the basic skills to build upon as you enter the workforce. You could accomplish this through self-study, finding a mentor, completing a residency or working for a doctor who specializes in your area of interest. Also, start networking with doctors and people of influence in this niche. The relationships you develop can often have a strong influence on the level of success you achieve post-graduation.
Here are a few Eye Care specialties worthy of consideration:
Do you like to work with children? Vision therapy is a doctor-supervised, customized approach to treating vision problems that cannot be corrected by glasses, contact lenses or surgery alone. It involves “teaching” the eyes and the part of the brain that control vision to correct itself. Some of the more common vision problems that can be treated with VT are amblyopia, strabismus, binocular vision disorders, eye movement disorders and accomodative (focusing) disorders. Doctors who specialize in vision therapy work predominately with a young patient base, although adults can also benefit. Under the right model, VT can be very profitable. Some doctors have built very successful practices doing VT exclusively. If you would like to learn more, contact Tom or Amee Lecoq at Lecoq Practice Development.
Contact Lens Specialty
Orthokeratology (OrthoK) is an exciting field that involves customized contact lenses that are worn at night and removed upon awakening. The corneal molding that occurs at night allows for clear vision throughout the day without the need for glasses or contact lenses. Numerous studies have shown that OrthoK slows myopia progression in children by creating what’s called peripheral myopia. Beyond myopia control, OrthoK (often called Corneal Refractive Therapy) is a great option for people with active lifestyles who seek freedom from daytime glasses or contacts, and are not candidates or want to avoid corrective surgery. Watch this video to learn more about OrthoK.
If you have a passion for sports, helping your athlete patients enhance their vision and improve their athletic abilities can be a rewarding and profitable niche. According to the Sporting Goods Manufacturing Association, 89-90 million Americans participate in at least one sport. Sports vision exercises are designed to improve the visual abilities of an athlete with respect to his/her individual sport. The focus of training is on eye alignment, focusing, peripheral-vision, eye-hand coordination, eye teaming/tracking, dynamic vision, contrast vision and visualization. Check out this article by sports vision expert Dr. Don Teig on The Visual-Mental Component of Hitting a Baseball.
Dry Eye Specialty
Dry eye is one of the most common patient complaints you will hear in practice, especially among your contact lens patients. Nearly half of adult Americans regularly experience dry eye symptoms. Marketing yourself as a “dry eye specialist” can be very attractive to prospective patients seeking comfort from their dry, red, irritated, gritty eyes. From experience, I can tell you that many dry eye patients received previous care from other doctors that proved inadequate in alleviating their symptoms. In many cases, they were simply prescribed rewetting drops to use as needed. Many of these patients have just learned to “live with” their symptoms. This is a real opportunity to differentiate yourself and earn a loyal patient. There are several treatment options for dry eye patients; including eye drops and lubricants, warm compresses, prescription eye drops, treating eyelid disease, environmental modifications, nutrition and hydration. These visits can often be billed to a patients medical insurance. Here is a video we made for our practice: How to Treat Dry Eyes
If you have an interest in health and nutrition, why not incorporate that into your practice? Nutrigenomics is an emerging field that studies the effects of food and food constituents on gene expression. Preventative medicine aims to alter the course of disease, including ocular disease like diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration and glaucoma, Nutrition and lifestyle can have a major impact on eye health. Help provide your patients with the information they need to choose disease preventing and health promoting foods that match their lifestyles, cultures and genetics. Watch this video to learn more: http://vimeo.com/103611560
It’s never too early to start creating your “brand”. What are you interested in? What are your passions? Do you like working with kids? Do you like sports and nutrition? Become an expert in what you love. Your job will cease to feel like a “job”. You will also become much more marketable to potential employers when you can demonstrate your value to the practice. Seek out a work environment where your skills and knowledge are valued. Break the mold and find “success”.
Every year hundreds of ODs graduate all over the country. What are you doing to “stand out”?
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Steve Vargo, OD, MBA is founder and CEO of OD Success magazine. He frequently writes and occasionally speaks and consults on business related topics. He is the owner of iMobile Communications, a company that works with small businesses to integrate mobile marketing strategies. He is also President of New Media OD, a media and education company that publishes this magazine. He is in private practice in the Chicago area, where he lives with his wife and 2 sons. Contact Steve at NewMediaOD@gmail.com