OD Q&A: Matt Geller, OD

February 23, 2014

We give [students] the issues of what's going on in the profession but not to a degree where they're going to become overwhelmed. We try to cover an issue with a proactive and positive voice.

How has OptometryStudents.com changed the conversation in optometry?

We give [students] the issues of what's going on in the profession but not to a degree where they're going to become overwhelmed. We try to cover an issue with a proactive and positive voice. Even if it is something negative, there's always a way to reframe a question or reframe an issue to give people a positive and proactive way of thinking about it. The whole idea is just to set them up to be involved, set them up to understand what's going on and take the profession away from just people punching the clock, to be docs at the end of the day and hopefully just giving back a little bit more. Unless they understand what's going on, it's a lot harder for them, so that's where we come in.

Have you always been interested in writing or blogging?

Yeah, I was always interested in writing. [Laughs] I guess I got a big mouth. I like to talk, I like to discuss ideas. I used to blog and write about self-help things, positivity-related things, just ways to succeed, ways to enhance your personal and professional life. It was easy to tie that into optometry, but I've always loved writing.

How did you achieve a reach of 20K monthly visitors and 3347 Facebook visitors for optometrystudents.com?

I learned Web stuff. I'm not really much of a coder but I am a brand-builder. The most important lesson I learned, which everything relies on at the end of the day, is, “Content is king.” Having genuine content leads to a genuine following. We said, “Forget the bells and whistles, let's just give students in optometry exactly what they need.” And we wrote articles that really helped people. It's very easy to get a following built up, the Facebook fans are engaged, and we have a really great thing going on. We’re approaching nearly 25,000 unique visitors a month.

You do all the graphics, marketing, video, and Web site admin jobs. Why don’t you find more volunteers?

The graphic design and marketing and stuff like that, I think it really comes down to knowing the point we want to get across, and it's hard to develop that stuff if you don't know what you're really aiming for. There's a lot of little subtleties to it that make something more genuine, and I really enjoy that part of things. I really enjoy that it's the creative side on it. I don't need to give it up at this point.

What is your favorite city?

San Diego right now. I just moved out here about 7 months ago and started working with Dr. Eric White. Anyone who knows him, he's just a rock-star guy, so am I super-blessed to be with him.

How has social media changed student interaction in the profession, from job seeking to peer conversation?

Everyone should be involved in some way or another. You really learn a lot from the social media side of things. But if you really want to build connections and meet people, you got to do it in person. It’s an exponential thing-the more people you meet, the more effective your next connection is, and the more people who know you, the more your name gets jumped around. You’ve got to back your name up with something reputable. Everyone's got different opinions and viewpoints, and making yours known works the crowd of professionals.

Is there a specific emerging optometric technology that excites you?

It’s the Freedom Meditech Clearpath DS120. It looks at the crystalline lens and measures autofluorescence levels of glycosylated end products of glucose. It's looking at how much of this glucose end product is stuck to the lens. They did some clinical studies that they were able to predict diabetes 5 to 6 years prior to it happening. We've got it in our practice now. I think that’s super exciting.

Do you have any regrets? What would you change if you had it to do it over?

I don't have any major regrets. I don't think I would have done anything different. I would have stayed in New York and went to school there, I would have definitely moved to San Diego, I would have definitely worked with Dr. White. I would have definitely done everything I've done with OptometryStudents.com. I'm blessed and everything has just worked so well, I don't have any regrets at this point.

What's something different that most people don't know about?

I'm a pretty laid-back guy, and I like to hang out and stay low stress. I think about all the projects I've tackled, and at the end of the day I am super valuing free time and relaxation. That’s something I will never let myself get too busy not to have. At the end of the day, what is life all about? It's about that. I just got into rock climbing, and I’m really having fun with that. I cancelled the gym membership and started climbing about 5 days a week. I could spend two hours at the rock climbing gym with no problem.

Will you continue to helm OptometryStudents.com now that you’re no longer a student? Do you see yourself changing your focus as your career evolves? For example, do you have plans for a new grad site?

We're launching NewGradOptometry.com in early March. This is an independent project I've started, and it's going to be the main resource for new graduates to get the information they need to succeed. We took the time to map out some of the things we need to do to become licensed, get on insurance plans, deciphering some of the myths and big questions, and this is going to be really, really huge. We've got about 20 or so articles up already even though the site is not live. But with the OptometryStudents.com, yes, I will be involved but not as much as I used to be because I’m not a student, and we want to always keep that student voice present. Benjamin Emer is an ICO second year, and he's been the current senior editor for about year now. He's going to take up more of a leadership role.

What is the craziest thing you've ever done?

Two years ago I went to Interlaken, Switzerland, and my girlfriend and I did something called “canyoning.” You hike up into the Alps in a wetsuit, helmet, lifejacket [laughs],all that stuff. You jump off cliff faces into big water pools or you slide down these rock water slides into big water pools. Some of the cliff faces are 35 feet, and you're jumping into something that's only 5 or 6 feet deep. By far the scariest thing I've done. In one of the groups ahead of us, a guy broke his leg and had to get air-lifted out. I was questioning [laughs] why on earth I chose to do it. I would never do it again because the risk is too high. But I would never change that for the world, it was mind-blowingly crazy. Not only did I have to worry about myself, but then I had to watch my girlfriend jump right after me, and it was double the pain. It was 4 hours and absolutely intense.ODT

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