I was a Boy Scout. (No, I never made Eagle Scout. I barely earned a camping merit badge.) Still, I did have one important honor. I was the Scout who found the most interesting “oddity of nature” for the year 1965. My Scoutmaster proudly announced that it was “fox poop.” Beat that, Eagle Scout!

And, I did learn the scout motto: Be Prepared! That’s why I write this column today. The world is flying into the future and I want to help my colleagues to Be Prepared:

• Learn to read. Sure, you know the difference between Mittendorf and Vossius. Who doesn’t? I mean, learn to read something important like “For Whom The Bell Tolls” or “Hamlet,” or even “Green Eggs and Ham.” Communication is the key, and you can only learn to communicate if you first hold paper in your hand. No, reading text messages does not count :(

• Respect your elders. I feel very strongly about this ever since I actually became an elder. At your next meeting, sit at the old guys’ table (the one where at least 50% of the occupants have had more than one colonoscopy). You’ll be glad you did. Also, it’s likely they will give you their dessert because they are watching their cholesterol.

• Buy decent toilet paper. This is a strong practice builder, well loved by patient and staff member alike. Also, it’s preferred by four out of five optometrists. (I wonder about that one out of five who disagrees? Hmmm.)

• Keep bottled water in the exam rooms. Hide a couple small bottles in the cabinet for those patient coughing spells that only occur when you are behind or when the patient has a deadly disease. The time you save on watching them hack will not only cover the additional water cost, but also put your kids though college.

• Write the patient’s eye color in the chart. You want to feel stupid? Get subpoenaed as a witness in a colleague’s malpractice case and have an attorney ask you if you “carefully examined this patient’s eyes,” and then ask you, “Just offhand, what color were the patient’s eyes?” Trust me. You will feel very stupid.

• Make every person who dares to enter your office use a squirt of hand sanitizer. Do I really have to explain this to you? EVERYONE. No exceptions. You too.

• Remove your desk drawer. Empty its contents into the trash. Reinsert your desk drawer. Repeat yearly.

• Review the cover photo and bylines of each magazine before placing it in the waiting room—unless, of course, you want to see your preacher looking at a picture of Kelly Ripa in a bikini above the phrase “Jumpstart Your Sexy Side.”

• Admit errors. When you break a patient’s eyewire fiddling around with pantoscopic tilt, go right to the patient and immediately apologize for your staff member’s mistake.

• Step away from the Internet! Do not e-surf between patients. It is distracting and annoying. Also, you will invariably download something that will infect your EMRs and send all your patients a picture of some naked person from your college frat, or an advertisement for 1-800-ChangeDoctors.

• Read the chart BEFORE entering the exam room. This is one area where EMRs can be very, very helpful. I love to walk in the room knowing way ahead of time the critical medical information, such as that this patient has missed four appointments. It helps me in planning his next year’s pre-appointment for a day we’re closed.  

This list is not exhaustive, although many of you are probably now exhausted after reading it. The point is simply this: Be prepared. If you’re going to pick up fox poop, wear gloves.