Faced with the sluggish economy, a changing regulatory climate, shifting patient expectations and new forms of competition, today’s optometrists are getting more creative in their approach to both clinical and business matters. Whether it’s improving their diagnostic skills, implementing new technologies in the exam room or office, employing the latest management techniques or raising the level of patient care, forward-thinking ODs are pushing ahead with fresh ideas. They are the focus of our second annual Optometric Business Innovators report, a special collaborative project between Vision Monday and Review of Optometric Business. For the last six months, ROB has profiled honorees in various categories–business management, optical dispensing, digital media, marketing, the patient experience, influencers and contact lenses. This month: doctors recognized for achievement in contact lens dispensing.
BARRY FARKAS, OD, FAAO
Drs. Farkas, Kassalow, Resnick & Associates
New York, New York
“Do the best that you can for every patient, do it fast and get it right, and the world will beat a path to your door.”
When Vistakon introduced the disposable contact lens in 1987, they called on Barry Farkas, OD, to offer clinical insights on the new product that would revolutionize the way consumers view and wear contact lenses. It wasn’t a surprising choice of speakers since Farkas had been on the cutting edge of technology innovations related to CLs and other aspects of optometry all of his career—and he still is.
“I’m an opportunist and I’ve been fortunate to be associated with extraordinary individuals, like Donald Korb, OD, who brought out new concepts, and I was able to be involved in the embryonic stages when I could help to develop these products.” Over the course of his career, these new concepts included the first oxygen permeable contact lenses, extended wear lenses that patients could sleep in, and thin membrane soft lenses that promote oxygen transfer, hydrogel lenses for keratoconus, dry eye one-day lenses, and LipiFlo treatments for MGD deficiencies. The practice has participated in numerous FDA studies, which Farkas said provided invaluable opportunities to bring new products to market early.
Farkas, who graduated from Pennsylvania College of Optometry in 1971, joined a practice founded in 1958 by his uncle Paul Farkas, OD, and his partner, Ted Kassalow, OD, early pioneers in contact lens fitting.
The practice philosophy is to be evolutionary, and he references other areas that the practice embraced early on, including co-managing laser vision correction patients, offering corneal refractive therapy and specializing in treating kerataconus, dry eye, glaucoma and other difficult cases. “In all areas, we strive to do the best we can,” Farkas said.
Farkas believes that the focus of his practice remains patient-based. “It is important to have new products, but you always need to remember that the patient in your chair is the reason you are there.”
“For an optometrist, there is nothing more fun or profitable today than offering Ortho K.”
Hal Ostrom, OD, considers himself a lucky man to have found his calling within optometry–as a specialist in performing Ortho K, the reshaping of the cornea with the overnight use of rigid contact lenses.
“I see a lot of kids, and very typically I’ll have a pre-teen or teenager come in who, when I began working with him, was a -3.0D myope,” he explained. “I can see a change in how outgoing they are, how they have changed their look or their demeanor, and in how much they enjoy the freedom of seeing well and having nothing in their eyes all day.”
About 70 percent of Ostrom’s practice is related to Ortho K, contact lenses and medical model optometry; and the remainder comes from eyeglasses. His practice, which is located in an 18th century New England home, soon will move to larger quarters. He recently hired an optician and is expanding his dispensary to make that a 50/50 revenue mix.
Ostrom’s specialty contact lens work has grown, largely from word of mouth and referrals from colleagues. A 1984 graduate of New England College of Optometry, he continues to educate himself on contact lenses and corneal reshaping techniques. He was the first in his state to become a fellow in the Orthokeratology Academy of America, in 2006. He is certified by a number of contact lens manufacturers in providing Corneal Refractive Therapy, a process similar to Ortho K that utilizes various reverse geometry designs in rigid contact lenses. His web site also describes his methods as Gentle Vision Shaping (GVS), a more consumer-friendly description.
In evaluating a candidate for Ortho K or GVS, Ostrom provides a free consultation, which takes about an hour. A lot of that time is spent answering patient questions and taking corneal topographies. Still, his best marketing tool is his satisfied patients. “People who have undergone a dramatic change in vision tend to talk to other people about it,” he said.
MADELINE L. ROMEU, OD, FAAO
Dr. Romeu Eye Associates
West New York, New Jersey
“Our motto is, ‘The Visible Difference,’ and we try to fulfill that for each patient we treat.”
Many optometrists specialize in fitting contact lenses, but few have the knowledge and experience of Madeline Romeu, OD, who specializes in hard-to-fit patients at her practice in West New York, NJ, near New York City.
“Whether a patient has keratoconus, post-LASIK or has irregular corneas or transplants, I can always improve their vision,” said Romeu, who received the Bausch + Lomb Contact Lens Excellence Award upon graduating from the State University of New York (SUNY), College of Optometry in 1976. Taking a position as an assistant clinical professor in the college’s contact lens department, she taught interns from 1976 to 1996, serving as chief of contact lens service for the last two years. Romeu has also taught students in her New Jersey practice as a preceptor for students from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry and an affiliated professor with Inter-American University College of Optometry in Puerto Rico.
In private practice since 1976, Romeu offers a full scope of services including eye exams, medical treatment of disease, low vision and dispensing. She is also a sought-after consultant who advises contact lens, optical and pharmaceutical companies.
“My association with Transitions Optical since 2003 has been especially significant,” she noted. “It involves various initiatives with respect to UV protection, children’s vision and eye health issues for Hispanic and other ethnic groups.”
Romeu also serves as chairperson of the AOA subcommittee on diversity communications. She has lectured extensively nationally and internationally and is interviewed frequently on Spanish and English TV, radio and in print media.