Children’s vision practices are a necessity, says Mary Lou French, OD, MEd, FAAO, but practitioners cannot come to this practice mode purely as a business decision. “Unless you genuinely love the population, they’re going to know,” she says. In other words, you can’t fake it with this audience.
Dr. French has recently had the opportunity to come back into a practice that she once owned and sold. It wasn’t exclusively a children’s practice, but about half of her patients in this Orland Park, Illinois, practice were under 18. She fit them with contact lenses and eyeglasses and offered vision therapy.
When she had the opportunity to sell—a few years earlier than anticipated—she took it so that she could spend more time with her daughter and new baby grandson. But she kept an eye on the practice and was aware that the vision therapy business was dropping. So when the doctor who purchased the practice from her asked if she wanted to come back to offer vision therapy, she agreed to do so for one day per week. Now she’s working two days a week and anticipates that it might grow as she just completed the Brien Holden Vision Institute myopia course and is excited to start offering myopia management services.
The key to building a successful children’s practice is hard work and genuine caring for kids. “I pounded the pavement. I visited all the PTAs. There’s not generally an instant gratification,” she adds. But most importantly, “you have to love kids. Adults don’t expect you to crawl around on the floor, but kids do, and they also expect you to treat them like a person,” she says, adding how important it is to talk to—not over—a young patient.