Have you ever thought about what makes you special? Or have you fallen into the trap of conformity that comes from the uniformity of your schooling and continuing education? Back in the day, each optometry school had a personality and was staffed by personalities; you could almost tell which school ODs attended by their knowledge and application of it. 

Good ol’ Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) was significantly involved in medical optometry in the late ’70s, and the school leaders were instrumental in the medical optometric movement. Because PCO was so medical, we had some insane professors in chemistry, biology, medical diagnosis and treatment. Yet, I wasn’t sure how to take a PD or measure a seg height until I saw my first patient and realized he didn’t give a crap about his arcus. He just wanted to see the preacher and his hymnbook. 

I soon realized folks from Southern College of Optometry actually knew how to prescribe a contact lens, docs from Illinois had a broader range of knowledge on just about every topic and no stupid docs came out of THE Ohio State School of Optometry (so far, but I am still watching you). And SUNY docs, well, they’re from New York, so they think they know everything.  

But these days, kids have a better chance of being accepted into optometry school than they do hearing the word “Trump” on a newscast. But are they unique? They seem to be cloned. Homogenized. 

Time for Some Spice

It is time for you to become colorful and amazing. You are not boring! OK, you are, but let’s pretend something interesting is in there somewhere. Here’s the plan:

1. Get a tattoo. Not a snake around your neck or “L-O-V-E” on your knuckles. Just something that will remind you of that little nugget of fearless creativity God gave you. What tattoo did I get? I would never do something so dumb. My patients already know I am crazy.

2. Take dance lessons. This will make you so much more graceful and will help with the hunchback you developed staring at whatever that thing is you found in that retina. I myself took Two-Step lessons. Of course, to practice in Texas, you have to pass a practical exam that includes the Two-Step, so it was a practical choice. 

3. Offer something no one else can. Maybe leech-assisted chalazion removal? I just tell patients I don’t like to write the number eight. The staff reminds them they will hear that story every year unless they purchase their contact lenses from us. 

4. Dress like you have a soul. For some folks that means wearing a nutty tie every once in a while. For others, zipping your fly would be a good start. It helped my practice. 

5. Remember something about every patient. Do they love baseball? Are they in a band? Did they recently escape from a prison? This is important stuff, and it must be far more accurate than their cup-to-disc ratio. Especially those who escaped from prison. They hate when you think they’re in a band. 

6. Get a hobby. Not golf—something cool like not texting. I erect skyscrapers. Oh, and I marry and divorce wealthy superstar actresses. That’s why I take Fridays off. 

Be special. You are, aren’t you? Let your freak flag fly! Optometry (yawn) needs it.