It started out my desire to have a different forum from the ones I was engaging in. Most forums at the time were difficult places to navigate, hard to find what you were looking for, and sometimes it was upsetting because you could throw something on there innocently enough and somebody would shoot of the woodwork and insult you or start a controversy around what you said.
How did get started in optometry?
My father became an optometrist because of an eye infection he had as a child. He recovered from it and that prompted his interest into eyes. I wanted to go into something medical, and I was trying to sort through it. We fail to see what right in front of us. My father was so happy with his job, just beaming. At point, I started looking at my friends and what their parents were doing for a job and how happy they were. He seemed to be very happy. I figured if I could be just half as happy as he was, then it would work. That’s why I chose optometry.
What was your first practice like?
When I came out of school, I worked. I hustled, three or four jobs, you know. My first job was with my dad. I relieved him for the first time in his career on Saturdays, and he was very excited about that. I then found an opportunity with an ophthalmologist-for two days he was in surgery, and his office wasn’t seeing any patients. So I said, I will see patients on those day if you give me the medical privilege under your license and we’ll split the revenue 50/50. It was a great little niche. It was very profitable for me, and I had a lot of autonomy there.
What made you so fully embrace social media and web content marketing?
In 2005, I was doing some statistics on my new patient volume, and I was spending $7,000-$8,000 on marketing in traditional media and my new patient volume over the preceding couple of quarters had declined. I was spending too much money, so I set out to find a way that costs less and was more effective. I stumbled on what they called back then SEO or search engine optimization. It was easy back then-you could game the system-but it got harder. It started to involve social media, so I figured out how to do that. From that, I actually wrote a book called Searchial Marketing: How Social Media Influences Search. I continue to learn how to use these tools for the benefit of my practice.
What do you say to colleagues reluctant to take advantage of online marketing?
They’re spending a lot of money they don’t need to; there’s a free way to drive business and they’re not taking advantage. Now, I’m not saying they need to learn it. Most of my colleagues are clinicians at heart. They’re interested in taking care of people, and they shouldn’t have to be marketers. But they need to understand the impact it can have on the practice and find a way to get those services in the practice by having their younger staffers do it. Or having a professional company guide them. About 85 percent of people search for their healthcare providers online. If you’re not able to be found on that first page of Google, you’re leaving a ton of money on the table.
How did ODs on Facebook start?
It started out my desire to have a different forum from the ones I was engaging in. Most forums at the time were difficult places to navigate, hard to find what you were looking for, and sometimes it was upsetting because you could throw something on there innocently enough and somebody would shoot of the woodwork and insult you or start a controversy around what you said. I thought, I can do this on Facebook, I have 100 optometry friends on Facebook. We can start a group, we write down everything from the forums we don’t want and I’m going to create guidelines that make it a different kind of forum. I was shocked it grew so rapidly. What I was feeling in these other forums resonated with a lot of people. They could get their clinical and practical management information, have a little fun, and not worry about Internet haters and alter-egos.
How do you decide on verboten topics and how do you enforce that?
It’s a real community, and people on there know what kind of topics are OK to post. Every once in a while, someone violates the guidelines and I notify them in private in a kind and gentle way. And if they repeat, I remove them from the group. I police it, and I have a lot of people who send me messages when they see something outside the guidelines because they want to keep the group as pure as possible. As you can imagine, it would be a full time job to police it all on my own.
How much time each day do you spend on social media?
I would say, combined with what I do on Facebook and what I do in the industry, about half an hour a day. I’m on and off of it. In the evenings, sometimes I’ll have the laptop in my lap while I’m watching TV, and I’ll peek at it during a commercial. I’ll be engaged for a while because I’m curious. I post on there for my knowledge and my practice. I still use the group just like the day I set it up.
Do you see social media or something similar as the future of communication among ODs?
The future? It’s here now. I would say a good 60 percent of ODs lurk. They’re out there, they use it. It’s growing quite a bit.
What do you do for down time?
I’m coaching my son’s football, and I have a dog. I love to ski. I love to travel. I like hanging out with my friends, and I’m a baseball fan.
Where did the idea for LiquiLens come from?
When I worked at that ophthalmologist’s office in 1995, he was implanting the first multifocal IOL, which was AMO’s Array. When I saw the postops, they weren’t as happy as he was-they were trying to compromise far and near. I realized there was an unmet need for an implant that could provide better near and far focus. I’m a tinkerer, and I put my head to the problem for 5 years. I figured, what changes work from far to near? Only two things: the ciliary muscle contracts and/or gravity takes over. The eureka moment came at SECO in 2001 when I came up with the gravity liquid concept. I literally went to an Italian restaurant outside the convention center, and I started playing with oil and water in a glass, much to my waitress’s dismay. It’s been a 10-year nightmare ever since. [Laughs]
Where are you now in the development process?
We’re trying to get to market in Europe right now. It’s a long, drawn-out process, we’re raising money.
What would you change if you could go back and do it all over again?
I wish I knew about that before I took the call. [Laughs] I would have used a belt more when I lifted weights. My back’s a mess. I learned a lot of lessons in building this IOL company, I’ve had to tread water for while. That I would do differently.
What's the craziest thing you've ever done?
I told you I have a bad lower back. So, I was in Cancun on vacation, and the doctor had me on some pain medicine. I went swimming in the ocean, got in a rip tide, and got sucked out to sea. Literally started going under, losing my energy, and everything. Miraculously, there was someone out there, a half mile out, who rescued me. It was a very, very close call. This was the stupidest/craziest thing I ever did. That’s one that always gives me nightmares. [Laughs]