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Be Ready When Asked, “What’s Your Specialty?”

Trying to attract the attention of an ophthalmic practice? Specialization and passion top the list of attractive qualities.

The practice I belong to, the Cleveland Eye Clinic, was among the earliest ophthalmic practices in the country to recognize the value of working with optometrists. Optometry and ophthalmology have mutually benefited from the synergistic dynamic of modern eye care, and, as both disciplines have deepened their respective specializations during the past few decades, our patients have benefited and the practice has flourished. Today, the Cleveland Eye Clinic has five ophthalmologists and 10 optometrists on staff, and we have relationships with hundreds of referring optometrists.


There are a number of attractive qualities a clinician might possess that would make them attractive to a surgical practice seeking to bring a new practitioner on board.

When a group of surgeons adds another ophthalmologist to a practice, the goal is shore up the practice’s ability to address patients’ evolving needs. One year the practice might be in the market for someone whose experience includes expertise in refractive surgery; another year, a surgeon’s skill in microinvasive glaucoma surgery might make him or her an ideal choice.

The same holds true when a surgical group considers bringing in an optometrist. We look for a candidate who has a particular specialty, such as ocular surface disease management, perioperative surgical patient comanagement, refractive surgery management, or specialty contact lens experience.

Having a team of eye care practitioners whose areas of interest cover the gamut of patient needs adds value to a practice and helps it grow. Whether you are fresh out of an optometry residency or are seeking to take the next step of your career, focusing on a specialty or enhancing the one you already have is a sure-fire way to make yourself more appealing to ophthalmic practices.


If an optometrist has an exemplary track record in pre- and postoperative surgical care of cataract patients, then my practice may hire that practitioner to help maximize the efficiencies of our practice’s cataract service. These efficiencies would include maximizing surgeons’ time in the OR. Such a hire would likely engender confidence that the practice’s patients are in the hands of an eye care provider who will educate patients on all possible IOL upgrade opportunities.

Without a qualified optometrist in its cataract service, a practice’s busy ophthalmologists may feel pressured, as they retain both clinical and surgical obligations. As surgeons become busier, they may feel that they can provide better service by having a knowledgeable optometrist to help explain in detail the IOL upgrade choices available to patients. With lengthier or detailed perioperative care, a team of providers may create a more knowledgeable patient base that will have confidence in choosing appropriate vision-correcting surgery, thereby allowing the practice to provide better services and higher patient satisfaction, which in turn can translate into increased profitability. With an optometrist on the team who has an interest in perioperative cataract patient care, the practice can provide enhanced service that allows patients to understand all possible options.

ODs as Liaisons

By Mohammad Rafieetary, OD, FAAO

In the mid 1990s, I was practicing in two locations. My academic work was centered at the Southern College of Optometry, in Memphis, Tennessee, and my clinical work was in practice at a referral center, the now defunct Omni Eye Services of Memphis. Around this time, a number of optometric and ophthalmic practices in the area merged.

It was during this period that Steve Charles, MD, the world-renowned vitreoretinal surgeon who founded of the Charles Retina Institute in Memphis, decided to join forces with optometry. Dr. Charles and his practice administrator decided to bring an optometrist on board with two duties: to act as a liaison between the region’s referring optometrists and the Charles Retina Institute, and to help manage day-to-day patient care at the practice. Dr. Charles and I developed a working relationship during my tenure at Omni Eye Services of Memphis, and he asked me to join his practice.

Twenty-one years later, the practice is as strong as ever, due in part to the relationships I help cultivate with other optometrists in the practice’s referral base. The Charles Retina Institute has been a private practice for a number of years and now offers optometry fellowships, educational student programs, and continuing education to area ODs. Such programs keep our practice strong and provide a service to our referral network.

Mohammad Rafieetary, OD, FAAO
  • Optometrist, Charles Retina Institute, Memphis, Tennessee
  • mrafieetary@charlesretina.com
  • Financial disclosure: None


The key to attracting the interest of a hiring ophthalmology practice is to identify an area of eye care that excites your passions and brings you joy, and then to invest your time and attention to that particular issue, condition, or treatment paradigm. When you have a passion for something, it makes itself known by what you say and do. When you present yourself to potential employers, that passion transcends the specifics on your resume, just as perfunctory responses telegraph a lack of inspiration.

Every eye care practitioner in our practice—from the most recently hired optometrist to the founding ophthalmologists—is a reflection of our brand and of the care that our patients can expect to receive. Specialization and passion, combined with a commitment to educating our patients about every option for improved sight and visual comfort, is what our practice seeks in the optometrists we add to our staff.

Our practice is not unique in its respect for passion. Demonstrating how your passions may benefit a practice’s culture will only pay dividends in the long run.

William F. Wiley, MD
  • Co-Chief Medical Editor, CollaborativeEYE
  • Private practice, Cleveland Eye Clinic
  • drwiley@clevelandeyeclinic.com
  • Financial disclosure: None
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