Forward-thinking ODs provide fresh ideas that colleagues can use. This month, we honor ODs who have been influential in the optical industry, selected from our fourth annual Optometric Business Innovators report from Vision Monday and Review of Optometric Business.
JUAN CARLOS ARAGON, OD
SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT
GLOBAL PROFESSIONAL & CLINICAL AFFAIRS
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
CHAIR, GLOBAL BOARD
OPTOMETRY GIVING SIGHT GLOBAL CHAIR
“As an optometrist from the developed world, I see a need and an obligation to support the growth of our profession in emerging countries, and to contribute, in a sustainable way, to the reduction in refractive error induced functional blindness. This is what I am passionate about and why I donate much of my personal time to this cause.”Juan Carlos Aragon, OD, studied optometry at the Superior School of Medicine of the National Polytechnic Institute in Mexico City, graduating with honors in 1984. The Costa Rican native then joined the eyecare industry, and over the past 29 years, has occupied several international professional, clinical and business executive positions with Bausch+ Lomb, CIBA VISION, Ocular Sciences and CooperVision.
With CooperVision since 2005, he has been president of the company’s business in Latin America, Asia Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. He is now senior vice-president of global professional and clinical affairs for CooperVision.
Dr. Aragon has been involved with eyecare and contact lens education for many years. He helped establish the Asia Pacific Contact Lens Education Program, secured funding for the 1st World Congress on Optometric Education and has been instrumental in developing strategies for the International Association of Contact Lens Educators.
Dr. Aragon is chairman of Optometry Giving Sight’s Global Board of Directors and its Global Development Board. He sits on the advisory board of the American Optometric Foundation and is a board member of the Contact Lens Institute. He has lectured on eyecare and contact lens related topics in over 50 countries worldwide and belongs to several professional organizations.
BOBBY CHRISTENSEN, OD, FAAO
VISION SOURCE MIDWEST CITY
MIDWEST CITY, OKLAHOMA
“Tell the truth and you don’t have to remember what you said the next time you meet that person.”
Bobby Christensen, OD, has had a profound positive impact on optometry. He built a successful, full-scope group optometry practice, is an active lecturer in clinical care and practice management, and continues to be instrumental in the growth of Vision Source as a successful and dynamic national network of independent optometry offices.
In 1995, Dr. Christensen became one of the first optometrists to join Vision Source, which had been founded four years earlier by Glenn Ellisor, OD. Since then, he has helped Vision Source grow into the largest membership alliance of eyecare professionals in the country. He currently serves as senior vice-president, overseeing a team of network representatives that services the 2,035 Vision Source practices in the US and 60 practices in Canada that are part of the Vision Source Network.
A graduate of the University of Houston College of Optometry, Christensen began his career in 1974 when he joined the practice of Bob Baldwin, OD. “He was forward thinking and was a good tutor. I learned entrepreneurial and business skills from him,” Dr. Christensen recalls.
Dr. Christensen has held numerous offices in professional organizations and has received many professional honors. He is well known as an author and lecturer in the areas of pathology, primary care optometry, contact lens care and practice management. He is a fellow in the American Academy of Optometrists and has earned diplomate status in the Cornea and Contact Lens Section.
“Support those who support you, whether they are your patients, your suppliers, or others with whom you do business, and constantly innovate to meet the ever-changing business landscape.”
After graduating from The Ohio State University College of Optometry in 1969, Ronald F. Cooke, OD, entered private practice and quickly recognized the importance of professional judgment in business decisions as the foundation for effective, successful vision care delivery. He became one of the primary innovators in the development of Opticare Vision Centers, a group of affiliated optometric practices in the Cincinnati area.
Realizing that private practitioners needed the same volume pricing advantages as chain retailers, Dr. Cooke co-founded Diversified Ophthalmics in 1977. Diversified implemented the concept of single sourcing so that ECPs could quickly and efficiently find the services and products they need with a single call, including ophthalmic lab services, frames, office supplies, ophthalmic equipment, diagnostic equipment and contact lens distribution.
After several years of testing the concept of affiliating independent ECPs by establishing and operating the Independent Ophthalmic Exchange (IOE), Dr. Cooke guided the development of the ECP Network, which is now among the top Group Practice Organizations in the country. Cooke felt that starting The ECP Network was important to help independents continue to compete by offering additional services such as affordable certified EHR technology, online digital practice assessments, and “Practice Booster” in-office practice consultation and business guidance.
In his 40 years of eyecare experience, Cooke has stayed ahead of the curve through innovation directed at helping independents be more successful in practice.
NEIL GAILMARD, OD, MBA, FAAO
CO-FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT
PRIMA EYE GROUP
GAILMARD EYE CENTER
“I’m passionate about practice management and helping optometrists succeed in independent practice.”
Neil Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO, is founder of one of the country’s most successful optometric practices, located in his hometown of Munster, Ind. Dr. Gailmard and his wife and partner, Susan Gailmard, OD, built the practice by “looking at everything we do, from the patient’s point of view.” The practice employs three full-time associate optometrists and a staff of 28 in a 10,000 square-foot eye center.
Despite having reached the pinnacle of practice success, Dr. Gailmard continues to test out new ideas, and share his vast knowledge with other ODs.
“Gailmard Eye Center continues to serve as a laboratory of sorts for me to develop practice management strategies,” he says. “It gives me a platform to test new concepts, and it keeps me up to date with new challenges, and I integrate those findings into my consulting work with other optometrists.” Since earning his MBA degree in 1998, Dr. Gailmard has been actively advising optometric practice owners on how to increase their productivity and profitability.
Most recently, that consulting work is exclusively available through his new company, Prima Eye Group, which he started in 2011 in partnership with Jerry Hayes, OD. Prima is a fast-growing doctors’ alliance, which provides numerous practice management services in addition to vendor discount programs: “Prima offers independent optometrists an opportunity to work one-on-one with top national consultants,” he says. “We help optometrists with the practical aspects of operating and growing a practice, and we also have consultants who specialize in marketing, human resources and practice finance. Prima is a great value in practice management consulting.”
“Professionalism is that virtue emanating from within ourselves, and is not predicated on where we choose to practice.”
Mark J. Uhler, OD, has distinguished himself by creating a thriving 17-year-old practice located in two Walmart locations, specializing in contact lenses and medical eyecare. However, along with serving his patients, Dr. Uhler has become an “influencer” in the optometric profession thanks to the Energeyes Association, of which he is co-founder and president. The organization focuses on elevating the perception of ODs practicing in a corporate-affiliated setting.
“Service and quality of care are both a unique function of the practitioner, not the location. Corporately based optometrists provide the same level, and at times, a better level of professional attention, expertise and service than private practitioners, regardless of landlord,” says Dr. Uhler, who graduated from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry, Salus University, in 1992 with a Clinical Excellence Citation from The Eye Institute. He was named a 2005 Walmart Doctor of the Year Awardee. In addition, Dr. Uhler has served on the Walmart Advisory Panel for the past six years. As an AOA member the past 26 years, he has served on the Pennsylvania Optometric Association for the past four years.
He says his work with Energeyes creates a community for corporate-affiliated ODs, as participating doctors work together to change how their place in the profession is viewed: “I encourage young ODs and new graduates to fully explore the fantastic opportunities of practicing within a corporate environment,” he says. “Don’t buy into the myth. Find out for yourself.”