Dear soon-to-be grads,

In a month or so, you’ll enter the real world of the practice of optometry. Some of you are terrified of the real world. Don’t worry! That’s why they invented residencies and optometry school faculty members. One of my classmates even went on to law school. Several went on to med school. I heard they found what they were searching for inside somebody’s gall bladder.

But, if you require one final learning experience, I am just the guy to lay it on you.

My First Lesson
Don’t take yourself too seriously. Life, even in the office, must be entertaining, or you will hate it … as will your patients, staff, kids and spouse. One of the best ways to sabotage your career is to never have a good time. If you don’t smile, giggle, or laugh out loud, you’ll never be a success. You might take good care of patients. You might even make a decent income, enough to join the country club, take the family to the beach, and otherwise squander away your income on the meaningless stuff I wish I could afford. However, you are not successful unless you have fun while squandering.

My Second Lesson
When you go to optometry meetings and are looking for a place to sit, before you sit down, ask the doctors in the row or at the table one question: “Excuse me, doctors, but how many of you have had at least three colonoscopies?” If the majority say they have, sit there. These doctors have been around a while, and you will learn more from them at one luncheon than you will in a lifetime hanging around your classmate with the funny hair.

Another Critical Message
Marry somebody smarter than you. I cannot stress this enough. Yeah, you’re smart. You’re about to graduate as an elite member of the medical community, and that ain’t easy. So, be picky with your life partner. Look for someone smarter than you, nicer than you, cooler than you, and more capable than you. He or she won’t be that hard to find, trust me.

A Sure Winner
When patients brag about baking a pie, call them a liar. I have had many awesome pies made just for me by little old ladies who want to rub my nose in the fact that they can indeed bake a wonderful pie. Call ’em on it every single time they brag. This will create a pie annuity that never devalues.

It's in the Details
Always explain every single detail about every little thing you find in the examination to every patient. Yes, even fetal cataracts. Yes, even persistent pupillary membranes. Yes, even marginal degeneration. Yes, every little thing that makes this patient’s eye different from an eye model. Everything! Patients will leave your office certain that you’re obsessed. But, they will like that what you’re obsessed about is THEM.

At the exam, tell patients WHY you want them to come back to see you, and specifically, WHEN you want them to come back to see you. Now, if they are habitual no-shows, schedule them on your day off. You can send them a little note apologizing for the fact that you were not at the office when they came in for their appointment as scheduled. It feels good.

Refer to Other Optometrists
I am not a low vision or VT kinda guy. These doctors are very “special” and just crazy enough to like low vision and VT. On the other hand, I enjoy repairing glasses. They think that makes me strange. Trust me, I’m strange for a lot of reasons other than that.

Lastly, if you have any questions, write them on a pie and forward it to me. Have a hilarious life, doctor.