Curious about what a private practice guru thinks about the future of optometry? Interested in private practice and want to learn how to ensure your personal success? Want some advice from a leader in optometry on how to succeed as optometry students?
Dr. David Kading, OD, FAAO is a private practice optometrist who specializes in cornea and contact lenses. He is extremely student friendly and is the co-founder of Optometric Insights, a career coaching organization for optometry students. Because of his expertise in private practice, I invited Dr. Kading to share his perspective on the future of optometry. Dr. Kading was very open and emphasized that the future of optometry lies in specialization. By specializing, optometrists can set themselves apart and open themselves to greater opportunities in patient care.
I encourage our readers to visit OptometricInsights.com. In his words, “Optometric Insights Inspires Success. OI exists to help existing and emerging optometrists find the practice of their dreams.”
Thank you to Dr. Kading for taking time out of his busy Optometry’s Meeting schedule to share his expertise with us.
Transcript of interview:
Q: Give us a brief introduction about yourself, where you come from, and how you practice.
A: I practice in Seattle, Washington. I have two practices there. I own both of them. My wife and I practice together. I have an associate that currently works with us, and an associate we’re in discussions with on contract. In our practice, we specialize in various different things. My practice revolves around cornea and contact lens, and my wife’s practice revolves around pediatrics, monocular vision, and the associates will do glaucoma and vision therapy and so forth. So we’re trying to do a sub-specialty practice.
Q: I notice your practice is going through specialties a lot. Where do you think optometry is headed in the next 5-10 years? Is it going to be a lot of specialization?
A: I think that as general optometrists, we have some really good opportunities just with the products we offer, with the contact lens technology we have, and with the way the medical model of optometry is going. So I think that the average joe blow optometrist, the vast majority of us will continue to do just fine. But if you want to set yourself apart, one way to do that is consider doing a residency, consider looking at certain areas that you an specialize in. So for instance you go to speak to an optometrist and you say, hey, I’m interested in joining a practice, and I have a specialty that I’m interested in going that is outside the scope of where that practice is. It makes us as optometrists much more desirable for future optometry practices.
Q: Did you plan this out during your time in optometry school? Do you have any recommendations for how students now can prepare for the future you’re referring to?
A: In school, it’s so easy for us to get caught up in our everyday life because it is so busy. Optometry school is not the easiest thing in the world. Kind of having a forecast of what you want out of practice. What are you looking for in order to get fulfillment. For most of us, that is helping people out. For some people, they find that they want to form a strong relationship with people, and that is a really great thing about optometry, we can form relationships with our patients. But beyond that, I think that for us, we kind of got an interest in doing specialties in our third year. I think this would be kind of fun to specialize in this area, not necessarily knowing we would develop a strong subspecialty clinic within our practice. We all do primary care as well, but it’s that specialty that sets our practice apart. And within our own clinic, we refer to each other that allows us to do that. So getting back to, we decided in our third year that we wanted to do some specialties. But you don’t have to. You can still do primary care but look for niches.
Here is another example. InfantSee is another great way to grow our practice. We probably have no bigger or better practice grower in our practice than Infantsee eye exams, doing pediatrics. And you don’t have to specialize in pediatrics to do Infantsee. For every baby that you see, you get a good chance of getting two adults out of it too with the parents. So it is a good way to grow a practice.
Q: Did you do a residency yourself?
A: I did a cornea and contact lens residency.
Q: At what time in school did you say you decided upon doing a residency?
A: I seriously considered it during my third year. During my second year and third year, I started meeting with and getting to know the residents that was at the school and deciding this is cool, I like what you’re doing, why did you decide to do this, and chatted with them. And through the residents at the school or getting to know the residents at optometry meetings like Optometry’s Meeting or the Academy or SECO or Vision Expo, you can get to know and understand residencies.
Q: What do you love most about private practice?
A: I exist in order to enrich the lives of people so that they can be more successful in their every day life. That is the reason why I exist and get up in the morning. So in order to do that, I have to attempt to fulfill that for my team, the doctors, as well as my patients. If I can go to bed at night saying I enrich people’s lives and allow them to work to their greatest potential, I have succeeded. I do it though different ways. I do it through specialty contacts. I love it when a patient with keratoconus comes in and have not been able to see or have struggled to see and we can turn things around for them. That gives me great joy. But we do it every day with soft contacts or with glasses or telling someone your eye health is unremarkable. You had an infection before and now you’re doing much better. So as long as I can leave the day enriching someone’s life, it’s a good day.
Q: What is your least favorite part of doing private practice?
A: The challenges of everyday life. Every day you need to walk away from your practice like you’re doing something good. And if you’re not able to, then you’re bummed out. So we had some staff issues the other day where some staff members made some really stupid decisions in her personal life that affected her work life. That is difficult because I have to make sure the other employees lives are enriched, and my patients lives are enriched. So we’ve had a dent in the system. And so hammering out those dents are the most complicated and most frustrating parts of being in private practice.
Q: You mentioned that you hired an associated and in process of hiring another one. What are the qualities you’re looking for in an associate?
A: I want somebody in my practice that has an interest in growing the practice and is willing to work hard to do so. I don’t want someone to walk in the door and just expect patients to show up. I want realistic understandings of what it will be like to get into practice. And also because in my practice we work around specialties, I want somebody interested in doing something different than what I do. I want somebody who when I see a problem with a patient, I can refer to them in house. I can refer out low vision. I can refer macular issues. I can refer glaucoma. I’m trained and I can take care of all those things myself, but somebody who has done a residency is much more capable than I am. That is what I look for in my practice, something that’s not the same that everybody does.
Q: Would you say that your requirement of a residence is mandatory to be an associate at your practice?
A: Not necessarily. But most likely. It is not that we wouldn’t hire the right person because I have met some people that I certainly would’ve been interested in hiring, but because I’m looking for a sub-specialty and unless somebody has done some specialty work, it’s very difficult for us to have that happen unless they have done a residency.
Q: Let’s play a word association game. So I’ll say a word, and you just say first thought that comes into your head. So don’t hold back, be casual.
Future of optometry – brilliant
Optometry students – engaging
AOA – the future
Vision insurance – a bummer
Medical insurance – our future.
Scope of practice – expanding
Private practice – exciting. I’m so excited about private practice I love what I do. I love being the master of my own density.
Thanks again to Dr. Kading for his time at Optometry’s Meeting, be sure to check out all they offer at their Optometric Insights, it’s a fantastic resource for students!