Is there such a thing as truth? I was brought up by Betty and Earl to believe there is. Oh, yes, my parents, coincidently also named Betty and Earl, thought so too, but I’m talking about Betty and Earl down at the drive-in. Betty and Earl knew that if someone came to the drive-in, they would probably want a couple of hot dogs and some popcorn, and you could hang your hat on that, my friends.

So, having been taught that there is truth to certain things, I am concerned that optometry and optometrists might be living in a haze rather than clearly seeing the truths in our profession that we can count on no matter what. Here are some truths in optometry:

1. People want to have good vision. You cannot hurt somebody if you help them see better. I know we can all give examples of folks who come in at 20/50 and say, “I’m just here for a checkup. My eyes are fine.” What about them, you may ask? I think we can make them see 20/20, but we cannot make them improve upon their 20/200 brain. Still, they do actually want to see. 

2. Each exam has an endpoint. Of course, sometimes the endpoint is that we just cannot help the patient. Not everyone can choose which is better, number one or number two. For some folks, the endpoint is the wilderness, not the mountaintop. Let them continue to wander visually until they decide where to make camp. Personally, I love when a patient comes in with a bag of glasses from 10 different eye doctors, none of whom are any good at optometry. My goal shifts to not being the dumbest doctor in the bag. If you make the patient be the boss of their own eyeballs, they will never rank you lower than the fifth dumbest eye doctor in the bag. Now there’s an endpoint for you.

Dr. Montgomery Vickers

3. Consulting online reviews is no way to run a practice. Patients who gripe online are not your best practice consultants. People who harass you online also harass everybody they ever meet online. Do your best to help them receive the care they need from the ophthalmologist who disrespects optometry the most. Karma.

4. People care about your appearance. I am living proof that you don’t have to be pretty to be successful in optometry, but wearing a clean shirt is not a bad move. Don’t leave home without it. Oh, and bathe. You know who you are. Yes, I am talking about you.

5. It’s okay to drive a cool car. I know doctors who own a tricked-out, luxurious car but have an old beater they drive to work because they are afraid the patient will think they are just there to make money. (1) There is nothing wrong with making money. Your patients make money too, right? (2) If somebody is messing with my eye, I want them to drive a nice vehicle. That means they see lots of patients. And, taking it even further, if somebody is doing my heart bypass, I want them to be driving a gold-plated Bentley with a personalized license plate that reads, “BSTHRTDR.”

6. You cannot save your staff from their choices. I spent my early years trying to make my staffers better and happier. This did not work. But when I changed my approach to make them better employees, they automatically became better and happier or they hit the road, which also, I think, helped them be better and happier while simultaneously making me better and happier. If you want your staffers to make the right choices on the weekend, spend time teaching them to make the right choices in your office.

7. You must accept you aren’t perfect. If you do, then you are actually perfect after all. Yes, you will blunder through more often than you will ever know. Welcome to humankind. Wanna be perfect? Ask your spouse how to do it.

8. You need to get paid. I know, 50% of your townspeople are covered by a crappy vision insurance plan. Still, assuming you would like to keep the lights on, then, obviously, you need to get paid. It’s okay. Don’t just blindly accept a plan that puts you deeper in the hole with every patient. My goal has always been to charge a million dollars per exam and see one patient a year. Think. Reconsider. How are you going to get paid? You need to get paid.

9. People, you have to stop and spend time just breathing. Close your eyes. Be here right now. Oh, I should have mentioned, pull your car off the highway first. My bad.

Dr. Vickers received his optometry degree from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry in 1979 and was clinical director at Vision Associates in St. Albans, WV, for 36 years. He is now in private practice in Dallas, where he continues to practice full-scope optometry. He has no financial interests to disclose.