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The Rx-Men: Extraordinary ECPs Reveal Their Secret Powers

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Optical League of Extraordinary ECPs

When Metropolis was menaced by evil-doers, a handsome alien in blue tights and a red cape appeared to protect the city. When Gotham City was overrun by crazy criminals, a millionaire playboy dressed up like a bat to strike fear into the hearts of his foes. And when villains began to roam the streets of New York, its citizens placed their hopes in a wall-crawling teenager in a spider suit.

But what of eyecare customers? Was there no one to treat them with sensational service? To stave off conflict where it rises? To save the most mangled of frames and return them to rights in the blink of an eye? To fight the insurance bureaucracy and rise victorious on the side of their patient??

Never fear, true believer, for a new breed of heroes has stepped boldly into the limelight, ready to take on any obstacle with no hesitation. These optical champions fight for truth, justice and the best possible eyecare experience for all on a daily basis. Some were gifted with powers beyond mortal ken, while others have earned their skills through knowledge, repetition and a dedication to be the very best.

Let those who would perpetrate average service, mediocre dispensing and a lackluster patient experience tremble, for INVISION gives you … Optical’s League of Extraordinary ECPs!


ALTER EGO: JON DuCOTE
BASE OF OPERATIONS: EYEWORKS OF ATLANTA, ATLANTA, GA

“I AM THE MASTER OF ADJUSTING! THE ALL-POWERFUL FRAME MAGICIAN!” There is no such thing as ego when you are a superhero who routinely saves the day and loves doing it like ADJUSTOMAN.

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“Long ago when I worked at Sunglass Hut, ODs would send their patients to me for adjustments,” says Jon DuCote. “I really do love adjusting frames for people. It’s one of the most satisfying parts of my job.”

One of his best saves comes by way of one of his favorite patients, “Rev. Smith.” “He brought in his prescription Ray-Bans and was so distraught! They were very bent out of shape, lens popped out. He thought nothing could be done,and I have to admit, I was a bit shaky about them. But I’ve never turned away from a challenge to conquer!”

Spoken like a true hero. “Patience and a magical combination of tenderness and pressure with thin metal, I used my powers to bend the frames and put the lens back into the frame in a matter of moments!” says ADJUSTOMAN. “When I handed them to him, he went nuts, going on and on about what a miracle worker I was!

Over the years, people would come in saying, “Rev. Smith told me I had to come see you to get my frames adjusted.” When a Reverend calls someone a miracle worker, it’s a big deal!


ALTER EGO: RICK RICKGAUER
BASE OF OPERATIONS: VISION ASSOCIATES, GIRARD, PA

RICK RICKGAUER earned his superhero identity deep, deep in the trenches. “I’m a freak when it comes to fixing drill mount problems,” he says, “because when I worked at a chain we sold so many pairs that came back for repairs I had to learn how to fix them or drown in complaints.”

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In fact, while working at that retail chain, he literally had to make tools from other tools in order to repair drill mounts. “For example, I had sidecutting pliers covered in transparent tape to remove compression fittings without scratching the lenses; push pins to remove broken prongs; double nylon jaw pliers to compress the fittings,” he says.

Now having been with Vision Associates, a private practice in a small Pennsylvania town, for nearly four years, DRILL FREAK uses his powers for good. “Now that I have the proper tools it almost seems unfair. Once I had this lady come with a broken bridge on a drill mount. She was leaving on vacation, and the only bridge I had was one that didn’t particularly match. It was close enough, but the prongs were slightly bigger than the original drilled holes.” What to do!?!

“I carefully widened the holes without ruining the lenses. It took some time and patience but it was a success and off she went to enjoy a splendid vacation.” Crisis averted!


ALTER EGO: DR. TEXAS L. SMITH
BASE OF OPERATIONS: DR. TEXAS L. SMITH & ASSOCIATES, CITRUS HEIGHTS, CA

“I HAVE MY PATIENTS laughing within two minutes of every exam — this includes men, women and children. I have a joke for almost every situation, and nothing puts a patient at ease quicker than laughter,” says Dr. Texas L. Smith. Truer words were never spoken, and there may be no greater superpower on the planet than giving the gift of laughter.

One of DR. CHUCKLES’ go-to jokes? “I once had a patient that thought she had bromyalgia because she hurt everywhere she touched with her index finger. Turns out she didn’t have bromyalgia … she had a broken index finger.” Now that’s funny stuff.

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One experience stands out above all others for DR. CHUCKLES. “I asked a long-term patient during her case history if she had had any recent medical events or surgeries. She lifted her sweater and said ‘I recently got these.’ As my life, my wife, and my practice all flashed in my mind in an instant, I was composed enough to say ‘My compliments to the surgeon.’ The rest of the exam gave new meaning to ‘Which is better 1 or 2?’” Ba dum bum!


ALTER EGO: VALERIE SMITH
BASE OF OPERATIONS: SMOKE VISION CARE, NEW BUFFALO, MI

VALERIE SMITH of Smoke Vision Care is no regular insurance biller. She’s earned the nickname HONEY BADGER but, unlike her namesake in the wild, it isn’t because she “Don’t care.” With nine years under her belt at Smoke Vision Care, her superhero moniker came about four years ago, thanks to her fierce ability to ensure all claims are completed and reimbursed correctly. She is one of the greatest assets Smoke patients have and she fights for them daily.

Since taking over the billing in Smoke Vision Care’s Buchanan location, she has kept their accounts receivable well managed: Accounts past due over 90 days are rare and average less than 5 percent for the last four years.

In fact, her powers go so far as to find vision insurance for patients who didn’t even realize they had it. Recently, a patient didn’t know she had EyeMed but, upon hearing the news from HONEY BADGER, purchased glasses. Also, when patients with an ASR under a local university’s plan kept repeatedly having their claims screwed up, reducing their material benefits and giving them less to use on glasses and contact lenses, HONEY BADGER went to bat resulting in all the claims being reprocessed in the patients’ favor. Her favorite way to save the day, though, is to read VSP their own manual when they screw up the way they cover services.

However, it should be noted, despite her hardhitting ability to fight for patients, Smoke Vision Care counts her as one of the most understanding leaders they have, calling her “fair, calm in the midst of chaos and someone who rarely makes mistakes.”


ALTER EGO: JEFF GROSEKEMPER
BASE OF OPERATIONS: CASA DE ORO EYECARE, SPRING VALLEY, CA

SUPERHEROES ARE TERRITORIAL, so similar super powers around the country is only natural and we can never have too many miracle workers. “The good Lord has given me the gift of repairing frames and aligning frames that have been tweaked very badly, even run over by cars,” says MIRACULOS, or Jeff Grosekemper to many. “They call me the miracle worker in the office and some patients have even called me that but I’m quick to remind those that the Lord has given me my talent.”

MIRACULOS has been a certified optician for 22 years. The last 16 have been spent at Casa De Oro Eyecare helping the good citizens of Southern California battle their eyeglass woes. Like the story of a women who called the emergency line late one Saturday night when the doc was out of town … “She had just moved into the area up the street from our office and was unpacking. She dropped a box on her glasses and was very distraught. She said she couldn’t see to unpack anymore,” MIRACULOS recalls. “I told her I would come in the next morning, a Sunday, and see what I could do. The frames were bent at the bridge and the temples splayed out badly and unevenly with a screw broken.” Can they be saved?!? Have no fear! “I was able to replace the screw and align the frame. Best of all, she was surprised to hear ‘No charge.’ I made a patient and a friend that day.” Miracle worker, indeed.


ALTER EGO: DR. MICHAEL PENNEY
BASE OF OPERATIONS: DR. MICHAEL PENNEY FAMILY EYE CARE, POPLAR BLUFF, MO

SOMEWHERE IN SOUTHEAST MISSOURI resides THE BOSS MAN. Having opened his practice in 1987, Penney is now the longest practicing optometrist in Poplar Bluff with a staff of the most loyal, long-term employees around. Lorelei, Debbie, Suzanne and Candice collectively have more than 50 years of experience under their belt working for THE BOSS MAN.

THE BOSS MAN’s crew describes his superpowers as “caring, compassion, loving, selfless … the list goes on and on.” Suzanne Pigmon calls Penney the “all-American Superman! He loves our country and does his best to provide care for both his patients and his employees.” Lorelei Morris adds, “It’s rare to find a job that you truly enjoy. Luckily, I have done so, and that’s greatly in part thanks to Dr. Penney. Our office is like a family, with Dr. Penney leading us as the patriarch. He is encouraging, complimentary, motivating, kind, funny, trustworthy, and supportive. He’s one of the hardest working and most generous people I’ve ever met.”

One example of THE BOSS MAN’s heroics particularly stands out to Debbie Padgett, an employee of 24 years. “We had a 90-year-old patient who was a WWII vet,” she says. “In talking with him during his exam, Dr. Penney found out the patient had been in the 4th Armored Division during the war. The patient told Dr. Penney about how each man received a book that detailed the battles they’d been in, kind of like a yearbook. He said that his book had been lost or stolen many, many years ago during the war. Dr. Penney searched and searched until he found an original book, exactly like the one the patient had lost. The next time the patient came in, Dr. Penney presented the book to him. I will never forget the look on the patient’s face when he realized the book Dr. Penney gave him was just like the one he’d lost.”

Ultimately, what makes THE BOSS MAN a superhero is the love and loyalty of his staff but that’s not all, it’s also what he inspires in others. “Although I spend almost every waking moment with this man, he never ceases to amaze me,” says Penney’s wife, Karen. “Being his wife for almost 26 years, and working with him every day in the office, he still remains my hero because of his compassion and generosity for others. I have learned so much and been so inspired by his kindness and desire to be in the service of others.” High praise.


UNDER THE MILD-MANNERED guise of a former forensic accountant lives the soul of a hero. “Give me an upset patient, emotional employee, or feuding staffers … I have the ability to receive their emotional punches and hit back with a calmer and more productive outcome,” says James Armstrong, aka DE-ESCALATO. “With over a dozen staff members, working in under 1,500 square feet of total office space, I usually see at least one set of tears in my office a month.

“The first thing I do is listen, which involves more than you might think: soft eyes, affirming head nods, or anything else I can do to make the employee comfortable so that they keep talking and get everything off their chest. Once unburdened, I usually find myself affirming their story back to them, so they know someone is listening. More often than not, once they have gotten it out in the open and know that management is aware, the problem is solved.”

But DE-ESCALATO’s job doesn’t stop there. “When situations get more elevated, or involve more deeply personal issues, I do my best life coach impersonation. Everything can have a positive spin, and there is no value in focusing on bad news. After reprimanding an employee for breaking a company policy, I make sure to end the conversation talking about what they’re doing right. Regardless of how I feel, my job is to make sure they leave my office happy, motivated and ready to help patients.”

And DE-ESCALATO is ready to start another day fighting for the greater good!


ALTER EGO: REXANNE COLLIER
BASE OF OPERATIONS: TEXAN EYE OPTICAL, AUSTIN, TX

REXANNE COLLIER is a seasoned veteran. She’s been in the optical industry since 1994 and the optical operations coordinator at Texan Eye for eight years overseeing three locations, so it’s no surprise her superpower shines as the last line of defense in tricky situations. THE CLOSER helps her staff with difficult patients and problem-solving.

“When my staff has done their best helping with a difficult situation and the patient is still not satisfied, that’s where I come in,” she says. SWOOP! “By thinking outside the box and looking for a solution from every angle, I excel at problem solving and pride myself on being understanding and sympathetic to the patient’s needs. I can confidently say I have a tremendous ability to reach patients on their level, explain my position and come to an agreement that satisfies them. The patient leaves with a sense of security and the knowledge that we care about their needs.”

Her patients leave appreciative and impressed, when initially, they came in genuinely irritated, THE CLOSER to the rescue!


ALTER EGO: DR. SELINA McGEE
BASE OF OPERATIONS: PRECISION VISION, EDMOND, OK

“WHEN I SET A GOAL, sometimes ones my team thinks are crazy and unreachable, we make the goal,” says Dr. Selina McGee, the day-to-day alter ego of THE VISIONARY. “I set weekly, monthly, yearly and five- and 10-year goals, and thus far in a 14-year career in the eyecare field I have been very blessed to have met all my goals.”

Most recently, THE VISIONARY set a goal for her office to increase gross revenue in 2016 by 25 percent. They grossed $709,962 in 2015, so the new goal was to hit $887,453. “I have found that if you draw yourself a roadmap toward your goal and do it in bite-size pieces it becomes more attainable,” she says. “The roadmap needs to also have a very clear endpoint so everyone on the team knows where we are going, why we are going, and what it looks like when we get there.” So, she took the gross number the practice needed to reach and began to work backwards: How many patients did they need to see per month? Per week? What did their totals need to be each day? What did they need to average per patient?

“Once I had the hard numbers, then I talked to my team and asked myself and them, ‘What do we have right now to attain this? What is missing to achieve what’s possible? What tools do we need to get there?’ For me, when I break down my goals into what I need to do right now it’s not nearly as daunting.”

Of course, it doesn’t stop there, as a superhero is never off duty. “As a team we revisit and reassess monthly, this allows us to not lose momentum and to correct the course if we need to. We ask ourselves, ‘What’s working?’ That one is usually easy. Next, ‘What’s not working?’ and this one is always harder, but when you build your team and trust each other great things can come from those two questions. Real problems get solved.”

The result? Precision Vision hit the 25 percent mark with five months left in the year. POW!


ALTER EGO: DR. CYNTHIA SAYERS
BASE OF OPERATIONS: EYESHOP OPTICAL CENTER, LEWIS CENTER, OH

“MY STAFF TELLS me that I should put a couch in my office because I have a second job as psychiatrist,” those are the words of DR. INSIGHT. “I have an amazing ability to turn any patient, no matter how difficult, into a smiling, happy patient. I have a knack for finding out something we have in common to strike up a conversation to make them more comfortable. I think it is my ability to connect on any level that keeps patients coming back.”

But Dr. Cynthia Sayers of EyeShop Optical Center is not a trained psychiatrist. She comes by her ability to connect naturally. Take the case of a patient she calls Eeyore. “She is in her late 60s with multiple health issues,” explains DR. INSIGHT.

“She came in a wheelchair, with her son pushing her, barking orders! I was a little intimidated at first, but have learned that finding common ground can help break down the walls with these types of patients. I asked her some personal questions and found out the most important thing to her is her French bulldog, Zelda. I too have a French bulldog so we immediately started chatting about our pups.” BINGO! “I had to schedule her back for several visits,” she says. “On all her visits she would ask about my dog. She was always a bit gruff with her son, which is why I coined her my Eeyore. Instead of getting upset she took it as a token of affection. She would call me occasionally to chat and we became buddies. One day, while celebrating our fifth annual Patient Appreciation Day, she called. She was on doctor ordered bed rest and her son couldn’t let Zelda out. She asked if I would. When my staff asked where I was going during the party, I told them I had to help with Zelda. I’m pretty sure they thought I was crazy.”

“Eeyore was much appreciative. Moral of the story: you never know what someone is going through and finding common ground can make a loyal patient for life,” says DR. INSIGHT. Spoken like a true superhero. But she offers a word of caution … “Angry patients be warned … you will leave EyeShop in a good mood!”

 

 

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America's Finest

This Ontario OD Is Off to a Flying Start

When her hometown’s original fire hall went on the market, she knew it was time to open a business.

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EYES – Dr. Abby Jakob, Kingsville, ON, Canada

OWNER: Abby Jakob, OD; URL:abbyjakobeyes.com ; FOUNDED: 2017; ARCHITECT AND DESIGN FIRMS: Helena Ventrella Design Limited, LaSalle Millwork Patrick Michaud, Maurice Michaud; EMPLOYEES: 1 full-time, 1 part-time ; AREA: 2,100 sq. ft.; TOP BRANDS: Oliver Peoples, Kate Spade, Tiffany, Tom Ford, Swarovski; FACEBOOK: facebook.com/abbyjakobeyes; INSTAGRAM: instagram.com/abbyjakobeyes; BUILDOUT COST: $300,000


After working as an associate at a private practice and several commercial offices, Dr. Abby Jakob took the leap and opened her own practice in her hometown of Kingsville, Ontario in 2017. She hadn’t expected to make such a major move so early in her career — it had only been three years since her graduation from the Illinois College of Optometry — but when the town’s original fire hall went on the market, the choice was all but made for her. “My experience was serendipitous, as I wasn’t even searching for a location — I didn’t think I’d be starting my own practice yet — and this historic building went up for sale. It’s right on Main Street, where traffic is the busiest. I called my dad right away to come see it with me, and as soon as we both saw the potential, I put in an offer the next day,” she says. Jakob had saved a lot in her first two years of practicing, and was able to come up with a 20-percent down payment, so financing wasn’t an issue. Also, the building has one other commercial unit, and two residential units upstairs, which already had paying tenants, so that covers her mortgage each month. “I’d definitely recommend owning your building if you have the opportunity,” she says.

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After being away at school for eight years, Jakob was ready to come home to Kingsville, Canada’s southernmost town. She describes it as “small, ‘boutiquey’ … with lots of cute shops and restaurants, and I wanted my office to have that same character and charm.”

Jakob renovated the site to look bright and airy with lots of natural light, but with warming touches such as three sparkling crystal chandeliers above the optical and a barnwood wall in the front desk area. “I love the shabby chic look, so I added a touch of rustic charm” with the wall, she says.

When Kingsville, Ontario’s original fire hall went on the market, Jakob knew it was time to open her own practice.

Her main challenge was making design decisions. “I am not a natural at picturing the ‘after’ while looking at the ‘before,’” she admits. For this reason, she’s a strong advocate of getting outside help. Jakob says the first person she called after buying the building was Ohio-based optometric practice consultant Dr. Richard S. Kattouf. He helped with the design and layout of the office, and offered advice on hiring and running the business. “For anyone overwhelmed at the thought of opening a practice cold, but who knows that it’s their dream, I’d highly recommend hiring a consultant … A quote that has stuck with me is ‘You don’t know what you don’t know.’”

Jakob doesn’t target a specific clientele, but says she sees a lot of women between the ages of 20 and 40, and believes this has to do with the big role that social media plays in her advertising. “My optical caters to much more than this specific demographic, but I would say these patients are the ones that spread the word on my pretty boutique optical, and offer a lot of support on my social media platforms.”

Jakob does all her own social media. She devotes a considerable amount of time to it, posting something “cute, clever or informative” on Instagram and FB daily, something she’s quite sure has attracted many new patients. She had Cowlick Studios design her website and logo, but since then has done all of her own branding and advertising, including POP, gift certificates, thank you cards and social media posts.

Frames are merchandised as male, female or unisex, as well as by brand. Her favorites are Oliver Peoples, Maui Jim, Tom Ford, Swarovski and Kate Spade, but Jakob is interested in private label and hopes someday to design a house brand.
EYES has its own edger, and “amazing staff member Pauline makes all of our glasses in house.” The practice does not currently have an inventory of lenses, but the labs Jakob uses are quick and most jobs are done in a week or sooner.

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Jakob prides herself on keeping up with the latest technology. However, she keeps the patient’s perspective in mind when it comes to tech. “One thing I’m proud of is that patients always tell me how much they appreciate how thorough I am and that I explain everything I am doing and why.” She believes this has helped grow her practice quickly. “Patients don’t care how much you know,” Jakob says, “until they know how much you care.”

PHOTO GALLERY (19 IMAGES)

Five Cool Things About EYES – Dr. Abby Jakob

1. AWARD WINNER. Dr. Jakob received the Young Professional of the Year Award from the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce at the 28th Annual Business Excellence Awards in April last year.

2. BLOOMING FRIENDSHIP. Every woman who has an exam at EYES is given a flower afterward.

3. FAMILY TIES. The optical at EYES is adorned by an eyeglasses-themed table made by Jakob’s “amazing” father-in-law, with help from her “awesome” husband.

4. A GOOD SIGN. EYES’ distinctive exterior sign was made by local metal company, Bailey Inc. “Since opening, I’ve actually had several friends ask for his information and he even made a logo for another OD in Connecticut.”

5. FULL SERVICE. Jakob performs a screening OCT on all adults, and retinal photos “on any patient old enough to sit still long enough for it.”

WHAT THE JUDGES SAID

  • “Patients don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!” Hello all ECPs? Read it. Learn it. Be it!!! Congrats, Dr. Jakob, That’s the ballgame. You move to the front of the class with that one! To be just starting out, like this, tells me we have an optometric superstar retailer on our hands. Robert Bell, The Eye Coach, San Francisco, CA
  • The logo and awning have a lot of impact. Natalie Taylor, Artisan Eyewear, Meredith, NH
  • What a great little boutique practice! It has a nice, modern, fresh look to it that is very inviting. I like the energy of the owner and her eye for details in design. Jennifer Coppel, TURA, Inc., New York, NY

 

Fine Story

Jakob has some interesting ideas on the best way to use social media. “Don’t just post the usual ‘eye’ and ‘glasses’ stuff you can search for on Pinterest, that you didn’t make. Think about what’s on your mind that day and then search for clever quotes about it … Then if you want to make it your own, create it in an app like WordSwag. It doesn’t always have to be about the eyes!” Jakob says she always gets more likes when she posts a picture of herself, her staff, her pets or her patients (with their permission), “because everyone loves to get to know people, and people love supporting people. I recently got married, and so many of my patients are so supportive and interested, so for those of you that have big events going on in your life, patients love getting a glimpse into that, and I believe it makes their connection to you stronger.”

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Best of the Best

An Iowa OD Who Developed an Industry-Leading Neuro Rehab Specialty

Offering glasses just wasn’t enough.

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DR. DEANN FITZGERALD STARTED practicing optometry in Cedar Rapids, IA, in 1984. In 2006, she founded the non-profit Spanda, Inc., which combines optometry with other healthcare specialties and took her as far afield as Kenya. Soon, she decided to expand Spanda’s activities to her own community. Spanda opened Cedar Rapids Vision In Motion (CRVIM), a vision wellness and rehab clinic, in 2007. What started as a 1,600-sq. ft location with an occupational therapist and a single employee now occupies 6,000 sq. ft and employs two athletic trainers, seven therapists and two ancillary staff.

THE IDEA

A Door Opens

Vision therapy was on Fitzgerald’s radar screen from her earliest days in optometry, but it took some time for her to embrace it. “I originally went to school with the thought of providing therapy but Cedar Rapids was very medically oriented, with the University of Iowa just 20 minutes away. Which made it very difficult at first to want to do therapy.” But by the 1990s — the “decade of the brain” — she sensed a door opening.

THE EXECUTION

Bridging the Gap

Dr. DeAnn Fitzgerald

CRVIM deals with a larger variety of diagnoses and issues than we can list. The services Fitzgerald’s team have developed bridge “the gap between assessment and treatment” for patients of all ages who experience visual processing dysfunction. In other words, “It’s a brain thing,” as the practice’s mantra states. Since 2010, CRVIM has also been teaching, offering instruction to OTs, PTs, ATs and others, passing on Fitzgerald’s “Train your brain to see again” gospel.

Patients find CRVIM in a variety of ways. “We have the general practice so sometimes people come in for routine care and find out that we do other services to help with various problems.” Of course, there’s word of mouth, as well as the training conferences to which the CRVIM team are now often invited as experts. “I have patients come from a nine-state area for our services. With the training conferences, we try to collaborate with other OTs and PTs.” Among the many hats Fitzgerald wears, she is vice president of the Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Association (NORA), an inter-disciplinary industry group whose mission is to see that patients with physical or cognitive disabilities as a result of an acquired brain injury get full ocular health evaluation and optimum visual rehab services.
Fitzgerald doesn’t have the luxury of patterning CRVIM after anything in the industry, “because it doesn’t exist. But I look at what’s possibly working and couple it with things that work — multi layered therapy or integrated therapy for quicker recovery — so we combine vision vestibular and auditory and proprioception all together for a more intense and passive therapy that works well.”

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THE REWARDS

‘The Last Resort’

Fitzgerald finds working with neurologically challenged patients — “giving them back their life,” as she puts it — hugely rewarding, but along with the highs there are tough moments. “These patients have a lot of depression and emotional issues that you have to cut through to get them better.”
Fitzgerald established baseline testing for 1,400 metro youth football players over a period of three years. At first many parents didn’t see the need, but by year three every one of the players came in to get tested. She eventually donated seven laptops so these schools could do their own testing. The Pop Warner youth football league last year rated these schools’ testing system as the best it had seen.
It’s an anecdote that illustrates the complexity, and the importance, of CRVIM’s activities. “We do get very complex patients,” says Fitzgerald, “because sometimes we are the last resort.”

Do It Yourself: Develop a Niche Rehab Practice

  • BONE UP. Be prepared to learn on the fly. Says Fitzgerald: “Optometric education provides the avenues to do rehab, but I have logged countless hours in classes and reading … on … concussion and brain injury.”
  • LOOK AROUND. Fitzgerald advises finding someone who is doing what you want to do­—and learning. “It’s the quickest way to get where you want to go…We have a lot of doctors visit our clinic.”
  • BE USEFUL. Get into the community, says Fitzgerald, and “instead of telling people what you do — ask them what they need. Then help make it happen — often that is the ‘in’ to getting partnered with them.”
  • HIRE CAREFULLY. Fitzgerald says one of her biggest challenges has been finding staff that are competent but also compassionate.
  • PREPARE YOURSELF. Rehab can be taxing for both patient and therapist. Fitzgerald says of her patients: “They have a brain injury. We have to gently get them out of their own way so they can recover.”

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Benchmarks

When Their Tech Lets them Down, These ECPs Have Things Covered

And their patients appreciate the human touch.

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TECHNOLOGY: IN OPTOMETRIC terms it means unparalleled accuracy, speed and convenience. But real life has a way of throwing up cases that just won’t cooperate with the latest equipment. And blackouts can strike anywhere. This is an industry whose gear continually evolves, but it’s also one of accumulated knowledge and, occasionally, improvised solutions. We asked around to see what kinds of tricks opticians and ODs have up their sleeves. If the lights go out while you’re in the chair or at the dispensing table of any of these eight ECPs, you’ll be in good hands.

Carissa Dunphy, Lake Stevens Vision Clinic Lake Stevens, WA

Optician Carissa Dunphy believes it’s important to take both digital and manual measurements from every free-form progressive wearer because she sees differences in patients’ body language towards a camera/iPad versus a person doing a manual measurement. Tech doesn’t always accommodate for specifics noted by the optician, such as someone who is really tall or short, she says. “A fitter of free-form progressives should know how to measure for each position of wear (POW) value manually and should measure both ways, comparing the values and critically thinking about the right solution for that particular patient.”

Bridgett Fredrickson, Whelan Eye Care
Bemidji, MN

Low-tech solutions have a special place in the heart of a veteran administrator like Bridgett Fredrickson at Whelan Eye Care. She and her doc are probably the only ones in her office who know how to handle an exam on paper. “About once a year we have to pull out a form … while our computer software is down.” She knows of older ODs who never came to grips with electronic records, and younger docs who would stare blankly at a paper form. “Those of us [from] that bridge era have a unique perspective and appreciate the old way and the new.”

Adam Ramsey, OD,Iconic Eye Care
Palm Beach Gardens, FL

An old-fashioned technique Dr. Adam Ramsey uses regularly is trial frame refraction, which he finds spares him headaches with patients that are particular. Ramsey says it’s a “great way to move the phoropter out of the way and deal directly with the patient.” If he finds prism in the patient’s previous glasses, he will “usually skip the fancy toys and go straight to the trial frame to refract that patient. Using fixed PD trial frames gives … the best comfort.” Most patients appreciate the extra care, he says, especially when they can visualize the improvement right away.

Mike Davis, OD, Opti-Care
Eldersburg, MD

Dr. Mike Davis is nothing if not prepared. We’re confident his patients could enter his practice in a blizzard-induced blackout and come out seeing perfectly. He keeps a paper acuity chart around, along with a hand-held retinoscope and ophthalmoscope, and trial frame and lens sets. His iCare tonometer is battery powered, and with a PD stick at hand he’s “ready to roll.” The hand-held equipment Davis uses was primarily brought in to save space, but “by happy coincidence” it’s mostly battery-driven, so he’s confident he could get by for a day or so without power. “The art of hand neutralization, figuring out the prescription … with a lensometer, is helpful on house calls and nursing home visits, but mostly a good party trick.”

Marc Ullman, OD, Academy Vision
Pine Beach, NJ

“I … have inserted punctal plugs outside in the sunlight with a jeweler’s headset when the power is out,” proclaims Dr. Marc Ullman with justifiable pride. Magnification is weaker with the headset than behind the slit lamp, Ullman says, but he feels most doctors should be able to insert punctal plugs with a headset if necessary. He has most brands and sizes of collagen and silicon plugs on hand and has lately been using the six-month extended plugs more often. “Punctal occlusion generates a lot of referrals and happy patients at my office,” he says.

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Jen Heller, Pend Oreille Vision Care
Sandpoint, ID

“It may be silly,” says Jen Heller — a champion of the humble PD stick — “but I can prep a pair of glasses anywhere, anytime, with all the lights out and just a dinky little flashlight, and so can all our staff.” Some facilities might sniff at the idea as “backwards,” but Pend Oreille Vision Care still does hand-measured PDs on all orders, because they found that it was easy for rookie staff to lose track of where they’re placing a traditional pupilometer on squirmy kids, or adults with broken noses. “With a hand ruler, everyone can see exactly where that crook in the nose is — or, better yet, take a relaxed PD over the top of a patient’s previous prescription to rule out that plunging eye turn in high hyperopes.” Rulers are cheap and plentiful, and all staff are trained to take manual PDs. This way, Heller says, “patients never have to wait around because someone else is using a piece of equipment or because all dispensing tables are full. Get the needed measurement, and go!”

Pablo E. Mercado, LensCrafters
Alpharetta, GA

Alpharetta, GA-based optician Pablo Mercado told us that outside of screwdrivers and pliers, the PD stick is the one tool he cannot work without. “With it, I can forgo most of the technology at the office and still feel confident I can deliver quality eyewear.” While his workplace has a sophisticated digital system, “for some cases it is a complete dud” and Mercado reaches for the stick. It comes in especially handy when taking measurements from children. But he also uses it to measure the thickness of a frame when edging — and he’s just getting started: “I use my PD stick to show patients how a couple of millimeters can make the difference between being able to wear a particular frame or not,” and to train coworkers. He also finds it indispensable when inspecting eyewear for quality control.

Sarah Bureau, sbspecs
St. Catharines, ON, Canada

Now here’s a really old-fashioned idea: Repair, don’t replace. According to sbspecs owner Sarah Bureau, a modern mobile business based in St. Catharines, ON, Canada. “The general consensus when we, as an industry, are presented with a broken or wear-worn frame is to recommend it be replaced.” But Bureau insists that an acetate frame that has been well loved and has now turned white can be brought back to its original lustre by sanding and polishing the acetate by hand. Using a clavulus or hot fingers to replace a hinge, whether riveted or hidden, can save your client from having to replace a temple or frame front, she says, while cracked acetate rims or broken bridges can be repaired by fusing the material back together and filing and polishing by hand. These are especially valuable options for frames that are no longer in production. The approach does more than just demonstrate Bureau’s concern for the environment; giving your client the option of a repair, she says, is a great way to build a strong and long-lasting relationship with them. “Offering these services results in their confidence in you as a professional and the retention of them as a loyal client.”

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