Alumni Focus on Jeffrey Williams (OD'07)
DR. WILLIAMS' STORY
Southold, New York (about two hours east of NYC)
Which degree(s), related to optometry, did you earn at Ohio State?
Who were your mentors at the College of Optometry? Who had a positive effect on your education?
The late Dr. Richard Bell (OD’95), on my first day he said to me, “Jeff, I know you are going into private practice when you are done, so you probably don’t want to listen to what I have to say, but I can teach you how to not get sued.” I listened to that man’s every word from that moment on and held myself to the high standard that he held for all of us. To dilate all your patients, and if a patient isn’t 20/20, you need to find the reason. After my father, Dr. Bell’s lessons have had the most impact on shaping me into the doctor I am today.
Dr. Richard Fertel (Pharmacology Instructor) taught me, “Inside every medicine there is a little bit of poison," and I continue to be aware of that when I’m prescribing to my patients.
Dr. Mark Horvath (OD’94) taught me that you have to stand your ground to patients who can be difficult, and not to be afraid to instruct them to seek care elsewhere.
Dr. Alice Epitropolous (extern instructor) demonstrated that 90% of eyecare is in the doctor’s appearance and delivery.
Dr. Mark Wright (OD’80) said, “Three years of financial numbers will tell you the story of an optometric practice” and “if you don’t think you have been stolen from by your staff, you are just not paying attention.”
Dr. Michael Twa (MS’02, PhD’06) told me to “Give your patient clear consistent choices, listen to the patient’s lifestyle and needs and prescribe according to that, not what you think they need.”
Dr. Joseph Studebaker (OD’87) shared the importance of continuing to stay up with technology how to manage and grow a practice that was started by your father.
DR. WILLIAMS' CAREER IN OPTOMETRY
Name of your employer(s) and title, including location.
Sound Vision Care, Inc. – Owner
We are a five-location, six-doctor private practice on the east end of Long Island, New York
Give us a glimpse of your typical day as an optometrist.
I start my day usually by getting up to an alarm clock or a toddler waking me up and I brush my teeth and head to the gym that is down the street. After an hourlong workout, I head home, clean up and get ready to head to the office. In the time I’m getting ready, I spend five minutes learning Spanish on an app for my phone and watching ‘CBS This Morning’ to see what is happening in the world. On my commute to work, I usually listen to an audiobook about business, self-improvement or finance.
Once I arrive at the office, I walk around the office and greet every one of my staff members. Then I catch up on email, check banking balances, and insurance receivables, doctor billing stats, and send out text messages to the office managers on old items and new items. At that point, I’m ready to see patients for the day. I typically will see about 25-30 patients in a day, a mixture of full dilated exams, specialty contact lens fits, and follow ups. I lean heavily on techs and scribes to keep work flow going and to do basic charting.
At lunch time, I usually will read a throw away journal about optometry while I eat my lunch or I will schedule a meeting with an accountant, attorney, or sales rep. On the way back, I try to get candy or snacks for my staff so they can power thru the afternoon. After lunch, I will try to put out office fires as they come up, then see patients until about 6 p.m., catch up on email again, finish charting, then check to see how the stock market closed.
On my commute home, I will continue with an audiobook or flip to satellite radio to catch up on the sports world. When I come home, I take off my doctor/businessman hat and put on my daddy hat. I have a five-year-old girl (Emily), three-year-old boy (Elijah), one-and-a-half-year-old girl (Erin), and one-month-old girl (Evelyn). My nights consist of helping with dinner, changing into PJs, chasing and playing "daddy got you," cuddling, story time, and bed time.
After the kids are in bed, I will have dinner with Kris, and we will catch up on the day with each other as a couple. We will head upstairs, change clothes, and I’ll work for another hour or two at my desk looking at real estate that is for sale, catching up with the property managers who take care of my rental properties, or checking up on my mother who has Alzheimer’s. I usually quit around 11:30 p.m., brush my teeth again, hop into bed, and read on my iPad for about 30 minutes, either a leisure book or some random topics on Wikipedia.
Which optometric issues concern you the most?
Optometry fears change, and a lot of ODs stay complacent in the modes of practice they learned while they were in school and don’t adapt with the times. There is a hurricane of change coming with disruptive technology and private equity, and these changes will continue to mold the way we practice in the future, for better or worse.
Many current ODs foolishly think that if we complain loud enough to the AOA and ‘ODs on Facebook’ these changes will be halted. All we have to do is look at the lessons of Uber and the taxi industry, Airbnb and the hotel industry, Craigslist and classified ads, Amazon and retail, to see that no matter how much complaining and litigation that is pursed, disruptive technology is here to stay and will continue to change our lives.
My fear is that when the winds of change progress over the next five to ten years, there will be a lot of older ODs who will be forced to close down because they didn’t change with the times and just asking which is better ‘one or two’ will be as outdated as the buggy whip business.
Why did you choose a career in optometry?
It was a natural selection. Being a pro baseball player was over for me at age 12 when I was cut from Little League. When I was in high school, the OJ Simpson case went on, and I thought wanted to be a hot shot lawyer in Los Angeles. But alas, I have the attention span of a third grader. So reading hours of legal briefs was out the window, and that dream died.
In undergrad, it was 1998 and the dot com bubble was still bubbling and anyone who had an MBA equaled to having a BMW, so I decided to try the Fisher College of Business. The first accounting class I took bored me to death and I dropped it after the first midterm. I learned in college that I wasn’t really good at anything else, so I got a job at a local Lenscrafters as an optometric technician. It was the first time in my life that I really didn’t struggle at what I was doing. It came naturally.
I joined the Ohio State Pre-Optometry Club and took all the necessary pre requisite classes for acceptance to the College of Optometry. I chose The Ohio State University over SUNY (from NY) and SCCO (dad’s alma mater) because of the people who supported me, Dr. Karla Zadnik, Dr. Melissa Bailey (OD/MS’01, PhD’04) and Sally Haltom. Without them, I would not be where I am today.
Where do you hope to see your optometric career in five years?
As our company grows, I will have to spend less time seeing patients and more time on M&As, positioning the company to be ready for the future, managing people, and training new grad ODs to become full scope private practice ODs. This will include traveling to our different locations across New York, consulting with all practices on becoming more efficient and more profitable, and of course promoting our brand.
What is one piece of advice you can give OPT IV students as they prepare to graduate and begin their optometric careers?
I have more than one:
- I learned from my dad, who is an OD, if a patient cannot see out of their glasses, all the work you did was worthless in the eyes of the patient.
- Don’t fear debt, you will be in the top 10 percent of wage earners in the U.S. Your student loan is the price of admission to the game that will allow you to make a great salary, you will be fine. Just don’t start increasing your spending when your paycheck is larger.
- Do not settle into one way of practicing and get stuck. Constantly reinvent yourself and keep up with technology and optometry.
- Do not fear sales - Doctors seem to have a chauvinistic thought that we are above selling, that it is for lower people. This is, of course, not true. We are selling ourselves to our patients every day that we should be their eye care provider for life. The best and most successful doctors I know are the best sales people.
- Never ask an employee to do something that you wouldn’t do yourself.
- Don’t take yourself and what you do too seriously, or it will negatively affect your life and overall wellbeing.
DR. WILLIAMS' OHIO STATE EXPERIENCE
What were your most memorable moments at Ohio State?
Passing certain milestones:
First year - surviving the rigors of the class load
Second year - passing boards
Third year - starting clinic
Fourth year - going to extern sites
Graduation - having former President Bill Clinton speak at commencement. No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, he was a pretty good speaker.
And of course, four years of football tickets!!
What does Ohio State and the College of Optometry mean to you and your family?
A place to be proud of. Throughout my offices I have Ohio State memorabilia everywhere. Also a second home, literally. We still have our house in Westerville that acts as our "vacation home." If I didn’t have the opportunity I had here in New York, I would have stayed in Ohio. Kris and our family love it in Columbus and we always ask ourselves, “Why don’t we live here?” whenever we come back.
How do you stay connected with the College of Optometry?
Social media (Facebook, Instagram), BuckEYE alumni newsletter, and going to the East West Eye conference every year.
DR. WILLIAMS' FUN FACTS
What are your current hobbies, volunteer work, interests?
Playing dad right now is a hobby of mine - whether playing in the backyard, watching kid shows or kid movies, I try to be as active in my kids' lives as possible when I’m not at work. I try to stay in shape by going to the gym on a consistent basis. I am very active in my church with our Haiti Task Force. Once a year for a week I go to Haiti and do exams there. I’ve been going since 2009. As a side hustle, I enjoy participating in options trading and investment real estate.
I also love gardening and watching things grow. I have a Buckeye tree in the front of my house, and I take special pride in my hydrangeas and seeing the colors they bloom to. I’m also obsessive that my lawn is perfectly manicured. I enjoy feeding the birds with my kids. Every week we refill our bird feeders and watch the birds eat. It was something I did with my grandfather and will continue to do it with my children with the hope that they pass it on.
I have memorized astrology signs and personality traits that go with them. I find that understanding a patient and their personality will allow you to enter their psyche and trust you more as a doctor. This is always a fun topic to break the ice in the exam room.
What was the first concert that you attended / most recent?
First concert I ever attended was Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden when I was 14. I went with my parents because my mom was an employee of Billy Joel and we got comped tickets. Last concert I went to was U2 at Madison Square Garden. I’m not a big live show guy, although I do enjoy a good comedian set.
What are you looking forward to the most with summertime around the corner?
Enjoying the days getting longer. I live in a beach community, so watching my kids enjoy the summer, 4th of July, BBQs, fireworks, carnivals, the feeling that the summer will not end in July, and then the crispness in the air at the end of August with the anticipation of Ohio State Football coming.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
Seeing into the future.
What’s the best eye pun you’ve ever heard?
There isn’t a “G” in front of the letters “OD” after your name
Not really a pun, but Dr. Eric Richey (OD’01,MS’03, PhD’11) said you can cure most eye problems with and eyepatch, a pinhole or "Tobradex."
If not an optometrist, I would be ...
A hedge fund manager