How to go the distance

September 14, 2015
Two AOA-member doctors, with a combined 123 years in practice, offer tips for a long and happy career.

Excerpted from page 14 of the May 2015 edition of AOA Focus.

Proverbially speaking, experience is the father of wisdom—traits a pair of long-established doctors of optometry continue to build upon. With a combined 123 years in practice, and still going strong, Frank Fontana, O.D., and J. J. Abrams, O.D., offer practice gems for a long and happy career.

1. Embrace the latest.

Fresh out of Northern Illinois College of Optometry (now Illinois College of Optometry), Dr. Fontana went into business providing refractions with an ophthalmologist in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1952. "Then as I built my own practice in 1957, contact lenses came out and I jumped right on board and started fitting them. Getting into the contact lens field when it was brand new was the best thing in building my practice. It really allowed us to market ourselves—to let people know what we've done and what we can do for them."

2. Be social

"It seems so simple, but really, the main thing is you've got to like people. You've got to enjoy people, and you've got to be social. If you're not social, you're not going to succeed," Dr. Abrams says. For more than 50 years, Dr. Abrams has been part of a local service club in Indianapolis, Indiana, that not only has helped facilitate professional connections, but also patient referrals over the years. "Get to know your patients; ask them their hobbies, take an interest in them and that will go far in helping your practice."

3. Importance of great staff.

Make an investment in staff and they'll return the favor with years of quality service, Dr. Abrams says. "A staff member I started training 20 years ago now manages the optical department in my west-side office. She's been with me all these years. My staff have always been reliable, and I've always hired young ODs to work with me to make for a very vibrant practice."

4. Share accomplishments.

"People notice when you get an achievement or your published article is being talked about, and it's astounding how proud patients will get. How does this build your practice? Patients notice and feel like they're a part of it. Your patients are your biggest practice builders, and they're quick to share with their friends about how good your practice is," Dr. Fontana says.

5. Be patient.

"The biggest advice I could give to any young practitioner is to be patient. Don't expect to knock the world over in your first five years, or even your first 10 years—it's just not going to happen. This is something I just had to learn over time. Practice, build your following, and keep in mind that staying engaged in the profession helps you in the long run," Dr. Fontana says.

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