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John Marvin

The Best ‘Specialty’ in Eyecare Might Not Sound Like a Specialty

The guardians of family eyecare are primary care optometrists.




lady trying on eyeglasses

I GREW UP IN family medicine. My father is a physician, my mother ran the office and two of my three sisters are registered nurses.

I am a believer in primary care. It is the front line of protecting the health of our families and communities. I am also a believer in the role of the primary eyecare provider. The majority of the more than 40,000 optometrists in the United States chose their profession because they too believe in primary eyecare. Without these optometrists, literally hundreds of thousands of people living in the U.S. would not know or enjoy quality vision. Think about that for a moment. People depend on quality vision to perform well at their profession or job. They depend on quality vision to enjoy time with their family. They depend on quality vision to experience the important things in life. The mission statement for our company is, “We Help People See the Important Things in Life.” We believe in primary care.

Could there be a more important or nobler vocation than providing individuals and families with the very best that the sense of sight can offer?

There is increasing interest in what some refer to as specialty eyecare. In my opinion, the best specialty care to provide patients is general eyecare for glasses and contact lenses. I am not suggesting that managing the health of the patient’s eye is not important, it is. But the opportunity to do this is derived from offering general, primary eyecare. The guardians of family eyecare are primary care optometrists. They are optometrists who do not limit their practice to one area of specialty but rather provide general care with a specialty in listening to concerns, understanding the frustration of poor vision and helping people see the important things in life.

My father once told me something one of his professors told him his first year in medical school. There are three things you need to know, and talents you need to possess, to be a successful family doctor. They are the three As of family care.

1. You have to be Able. You have to be a continuous student of your profession. You have to never stop learning how to be a good doctor. Your annual continuing education shouldn’t be based on how many hours you are required to complete but an intentional plan based on an insatiable desire to learn all you can about being the best doctor you can be.


2. You have to be Affable. People want a doctor they can connect with and who is friendly. To you, they may be the 10th or 11th patient that day, but to the patient, you are likely the only doctor they’ve seen in a while. Greet them like they are the only patient you have for the day. Take time to listen to them, learn about their family and take an interest in treating the whole person, not just examining their eyes. Be someone people enjoy knowing.

3. You have to be Available. One of the most frustrating experiences a patient has is needing to see a doctor who is unavailable. In today’s fast moving, multi-tasking world, being available equals convenience for the patient. Offer extended hours, be open on Saturdays and make sure that when your patient or customer is ready to see you, you are available. Having worked in this industry for more than 35 years, I can tell you that the number one reason people leave one eye doctor for another is because their doctor is no longer available. They used to be open Saturdays, but now they are not. They used to see patients five days a week but cut back to two or three. When they call, they’re told the next available slot is in three weeks. A successful doctor understands that availability is just as important as ability.

In this world of specialization, the real reward of providing eyecare is to specialize in people and their families.


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