In February, we published an open letter from Dr. Gregory M Pappas, OD, then a fourth-year student at the Illinois College of Optometry serving as the 2020 class representative for the ICO Student Association and the 2020 class rep for student chapter of the Illinois Optometric Association. In that letter, he urged private practice owners to resist the temptation to sell their practices to private equity, because there are several generations of new ODs longing to grow in private practice and eventually pursue ownership.
Since then, so much has changed in the global landscape as well as the landscape of eyecare. When small businesses took a major hit as lockdowns began across the country in the wake of COVID-19, we discussed how practice owners and independent ODs could take advantage of the CARES Act, and what this year's tax guidelines meant for optometrists. Still, many practices are struggling, and many new ODs are finding their dreams of practice ownership put on hold.
This is the context in which we received this open letter from Dr. Hannah Cho, OD of FLOE Optometry. Enjoy!
Dear Dr. Pappas, optometry students, and new grad optometrists,
First off, I know that when you first wrote that letter, you had no idea what would happen in the next month. Since then we’ve been hit with a pandemic that will (hopefully) be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I hope that you’re doing well and staying safe. Oh and congrats! You graduated since then so you’re officially a fellow OD.
I remember reading your letter when it came out and my heart sank because it confirmed my fear that recent and future grads will feel like their options are narrowed to these two: 1) Work for a corporation with limited upward mobility, or 2) work for a practice that will eventually be sold to private equity (because let’s face it, private equity is capable of making aggressive, attractive offers that make it a no-brainer at times).
With that said, I want to give you some hope. While watching private practices struggle for the past several years and seeing the writing on the wall, I realized that practices need to evolve in order to survive in this current world that demands efficiency and techno-savvy. Amazon has conditioned us to expect deliveries within 2 days, and likewise health services need to keep up.
That’s why I created a private practice model that allows ODs to provide the high quality patient care that private practices are known for, and at the same time utilize innovative technology, effective marketing techniques, and best-in-class operations practices. I opened my first practice cold in a super-saturated area straight out of school. It was the hardest year of my life: the learning curve was brutal and banks didn’t loan me money because I didn’t have the required 2-3 years of work experience. I had to max out credit cards and beat back any thoughts of failure. Eight years later, I learned a ton and have so much that I want to give to optometrists in similar positions.
I know that owning a private practice isn’t everyone’s goal, but it definitely was mine, and I can recognize a fellow entrepreneurial OD. With all of that said, I’ve been opening multiple practices and looking for ODs with grit, a humble attitude, and a thirst to resuscitate private practices and take control of optometry.
I’m currently setting up practices in Southern California but will be coming to your state in the near future. That I promise. I would love to help out in any way that I can in the interim; just shoot me an email whenever at DrCho@FLOEoptometry.com. We’re also having a Facebook Live Virtual Grand Opening at one of our locations on Aug 24th at 10-11:30 AM PST if you want to see how a virtual optometry office grand opening looks like during a pandemic. More detail on facebook.com/FLOEoptometry. It’s going to be epic (I hope).
Hannah Cho, OD
Private Practice Advocate
Southern California College of Optometry
Class of 2012