In a recent Optometric Management article O.D. Scene creator, writer and editor Jack Schaeffer, O.D. interviewed Drs. Robert and Stephanie Davis. The following is an excerpt.
One of the highlights of my career is when my daughter, Brooke, and son, Mark, informed me they wanted to pursue a degree in optometry. I was just as excited when my third child, David, began optometry school last year. Brooke and Mark now practice with me. (I’m sure David isn’t far behind.) It’s been a great pleasure to see them interact with patients and staff. This constitutes a real dream come true for any parent to practice with their children.
There are so many “optometry families” that are shaping our profession. In the first of this series, we talk with some of these families. Keep in mind that optometry is still a very young profession, so multigenerational practices are a major part of our future.
RD: Robert A. Davis, O.D. | SD: Stephanie Davis, O.D., Pembroke Pines, Fla.
Q: Why did you decide to become an optometrist?
RD: When I was growing up in the Bronx, I visited a local optometrist who greatly influenced me in the profession. He was kind, treated me like a family member and fit me with contact lenses that made me feel better about myself. He even helped me do better in Little League Baseball. I wanted to follow in his footsteps.
SD: When I was in high school, I always favored math and science and did well in them. Therefore, I considered a career in the medical field. There were many options available to me, but after spending a summer working in my dad’s office, the field of optometry appealed to me. I also met many of my dad’s optometric friends who were happy, sincere, hard-working people. Since I wanted to raise a family and be there for my children, optometry was a good choice.
Q: What was the biggest issue facing the profession when you graduated from optometry school?
RD: Being able to use drugs to treat patients. When I graduated in 1970, we couldn’t even use drugs to help diagnose eye disease in New York. Florida had a better drug law than New York at that time, and that was one of the reasons I decided to go to Florida to practice.
SD: When I graduated, commercial optometry was growing in South Florida. There was more price advertising, and big box stores were becoming more popular. My father had a more personalized practice and emphasized treatment of ocular disease, specialty contact lenses and vision therapy. This was the direction I wanted to follow.
Q: What did your schools focus the most on, in terms of education?
RD: The Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University focused on teaching us how to make sure our patients were able to see as sharply as possible with the most comfortable glasses or contact lenses. We also focused on vision therapy. We have interns in our practice every quarter, and this part of our wonderful profession is not emphasized as much in my opinion. The vision therapy education helped get me interested in sports vision, and that lead to my affiliation with the Miami Dolphins.
SD: The Nova Southeastern College of Optometry primarily focused on clinical care and treatment of eye disease. I felt we didn’t get enough training in fitting contact lenses and practice management. I was fortunate enough to learn more about the practice management and fitting of specialty contact lenses in my dad’s practice.
Q: What was it like growing up with a parent who is an optometrist?
SD: It was great. My dad was home early enough so we could have family dinners together. Because he was the owner of the practice, he had more time to take family vacations with us. I always enjoyed hearing about his interesting cases and finding out ways he would help build his practice. I especially liked the sports vision aspect and how he used technology to test the athlete’s eyes.
Q: What was your reaction when your child told you he/she wanted to become an optometrist?
RD: I was surprised at first because I never pushed her into the profession. Once I found out she was interested, I was very supportive and very happy that one day we would be working side by side.
Q: What is the best advice your optometrist mom or dad gave you about practicing?
SD: To get out there and network, being active in local associations, join organizations, speak to schools (career days), be a part of rotary clubs, etc. He also told me to always be sincere and straightforward with what you could do for the patient. Let the patient feel free to call the office with questions/problems. Try to remember names and faces; ask about family members and to give back to the profession.
Q: What individual concerns did you each have about working together?
RD: I was concerned that Stephanie might not appreciate all the hard work it takes to build a practice. That is one reason she spent almost two years practicing in New York City in all kinds of practice modalities before coming into practice with me. It is the best advice I could offer optometric families.
SD: My only concern was that patients and staff would not treat me like any other doctor in practice because my dad worked with me. I wanted to be treated like my own person. Fortunately, it’s been an absolute pleasure to be working together, and none of my concerns have come to fruition.
Q: Were you ever worried that other optometrists would mention nepotism when you told them you work together?
RD: We never had that problem. We’ve always been well respected in the community because of the way we practice our profession. I have tried to give back to the profession by being active in local associations, being an adjunct clinical professor at Nova Southeastern University and Salus University, writing articles for our professional journals and lecturing all over the United States and in many countries throughout the world.
SD: That was never an issue for us. As my dad said, we got involved in giving back to our profession and are respected in the community.
Q: What kinds of things do you do to keep your relationship professional when in the office?
RD: We make sure our patients understand which Dr. Davis they are seeing, and we consult with each other in front of the patients in many cases to show the professional respect we have for each other.
SD: We call each other “Dr.” at all times. Not only do we make sure we are professional in front of patients, but with our staff as well.
Q: What has been the biggest surprise about working together?
RD: My biggest surprise was how much I have learned from Stephanie. She has a special way of caring for each patient. She has an understanding of how to easily find the reason the patient is in the chair. The way in which she educates the patient as to why she is prescribing the glasses, contact lenses or treatment is remarkable.
SD: My biggest surprise is how hard working and easy going my dad is with his patients and staff. His business sense is also quite impressive. It is always so nice to hear our patients’ reactions when they learn that we work together. Some patients say, “I wish my son and/or daughter could work with me,” and that “your dad must be so happy and proud that you can work together.” That always puts a big smile on my face.
Q: How do you determine work responsibilities, in terms of how many patients you see, etc.?
RD: I see the patients who have been coming to me for more than 40 years, so they tend to be older. Stephanie examines the younger patients for the most part, but we do share patients of all ages. After seeing me for so many years, it is so nice to see how easily patients are willing to see Stephanie for their comprehensive eye exams.
SD: I see patients of all ages. However, I do tend to see the younger patients. I am a mother of two and enjoy working with children. I also love to fit specialty contact lenses for patients of all ages.
Q: What have you learned about each other since you’ve been working together?
RD: Stephanie has two children, and I know how well she can combine being a wonderful mother while still being a great optometrist.
SD: My dad is very easy going. I am just so amazed at how calm he is while running a busy and successful practice. He is an inspiration to me. I would love to someday take over the practice and to continue to keep it in the family … Maybe one of my kids will fill our shoes and become an optometrist if they so desire!
Q: What is your favorite book, movie, band and adult beverage of choice?
RD: Book: “A Tale of Two Cities”; Movie: Midnight Cowboy; Band: Chicago; Adult Beverage of Choice: Vodka and pineapple juice.
SD: Book: “The Storyteller”; Movie: An Officer and a Gentleman; Band: Aerosmith; Adult Beverage of Choice: Vodka and tonic with two limes.
To view complete article visit O.D. Scene on OptometricManagement.com