Don’t hate me for what I’m about to say. You’ve been warned. I recently returned from 13 days in Italy. I guess I’d say this spectacular trip was related to optometry since it’s the reason we could afford it. But there is also a deeper message that can be taken from this trip that is pertinent to all of our practices. Do you agree that one sign I have been practicing optometry too long is that everything reminds me of something optometric? Kinda pathetic, right?
What I have learned about optometry from Italy:
1. You should never say goodbye to old stuff. I loved the churches. Some were over a thousand years old! Sometimes a direct ophthalmoscope or a PD ruler is still a good idea. Oh, and it’s still okay if you spend some time just helping your patients see better like optometrists did in the good ole days.
2. Optometrists need a sense of humor. A little laugh will not make your patients think you’re not serious. Italian artists have a sense of humor. One famous painting at the Uffizi portrayed Mary and Baby Jesus with the grown-up Jesus in the crowd surrounding them! It was like “Where’s Waldo.”
3. Take a lunch break. Food is really important. Nowadays, in the United States, it can be really expensive to eat fresh, healthy food, but in Italy it is very affordable. And we all know resveratrol is good for you, so go ahead and have that glass of wine. You’ll feel better and live longer. Okay, maybe just with dinner. Not for lunch.
4. You are certainly allowed to make your own decisions, and I would never advise anyone to take my advice on the future of healthcare, but Italians brag about socialized medicine. They say it’s awesome and covers everything at no charge, assuming you forget the 70% of their income they pay in taxes. It reminds me of that old line: If you think healthcare is expensive now, just wait until it’s free from the government. But they are healthier because they have to walk everywhere since gas is twice as much as it is here. And it’s already through the roof here.
5. I’ve said this before, but look in the mirror, fellow doctors. Italians always look put together. In every little medieval city, even the city maintenance workers look like Versace. Even the town cheesemaker in Oira dresses up like he’s meeting the Pope. Love it!
6. Two words: midday siestas. In Italy, most shop owners shut down between 1:00 and 2:30 in the afternoon. I have always believed that optometry offices should be open at noon for those dads who run over during lunch to pick up little Suzy’s contact lenses, but closing later on in the day seems okay to me. Gives us a chance to regroup, finish morning notes and, most importantly, binge Bridgerton.
7. Put art in your office. I saw where Andy Warhol’s picture of Marilyn Monroe sold for like $200 million. It seems wrong to me that this is about 200 times more than the real Marilyn ever earned, but I still love art. If nothing else, stick a couple of polaroids of your kid patients behind the phoropter on a bulletin board. Ask mom and dad if that’s okay and have them sign a release in case Billy’s mug shot is worth $200 million one day.
8. Back to stylin’. Are you still wearing those funky glasses that you got for yourself 10 years ago? Shame on you! Italians choose their glasses as carefully as they choose their tomatoes. Your patients should never see you in the same glasses twice. Oh, and don’t forget to choose your tomatoes carefully, too.
9. Like the Italians, we need to learn to speak English. Don’t throw out big dumb words to try to impress your patients! This will never prove you are smarter than them, mainly because you are not and will never be.
I would advise all of you to try to visit Italy. It’s a beautiful place full of beautiful people doing beautiful things and eating beautiful food. It’s almost as amazing as West Virginia. Your office should also be like that. Is it?
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.