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Optometry Podcast: Difference Maker Dr. Dave Ziegler

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Dr. Dave Ziegler wears many hats in optometry.  He is a lecturer and columnist for Optometric Management. He serves on advisory panels for Essilor and Vision Expo. And his private practice, Ziegler Leffingwell Eye Care  has been innovating the doctor/patient experience for over 30 years and serves as the Sports Vision experts and team doctors for the Milwaukee Brewers. He is fascinated by the retail experience in eyecare and recently completely redesigned his practice inspired by retailers like Apple and how consumers shop in today’s world.

When he’s not innovating in his private practice, he’s giving back to the career he loves.  Dr. Ziegler went on his first Mission of Hope Haiti trip nearly 2 years ago.  What he found was a population in desperate need of refractive care, but the donation of glasses was only scratching the surface of the true needs of the people of Haiti.  With typical mission work, a group of doctors comes for a few days, helps a few hundred or maybe even a few thousand people, but then they are gone. People need eyecare 365 days a year, not just that week.  His goal became to start a sustainable clinic.

How do you keep a clinic running full time?  It starts with making it financially solvent. Dr. Ziegler had read advice from a group of nuns that had set up sustainable clinics in Haiti before him: If there is no margin, there is no mission.  If the clinic doesn’t make enough money to support itself, it has no sustainability. And if it has no sustainability then it has no long-term mission. He went to the clinic directors and told them they had to charge for services, even a nominal amount, to make it sustainable.

At this time Haiti has no doctors of optometry, so all of the prescriptive care at the eyecare clinic is done remotely through doctors in America. In April 2018 Haiti opened it’s first even school of optometry, the School of Optometry & Vision Sciences at the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy of l’Uiversite d’Etat d’Haiti.  The school’s five year program aims to graduate 16 ODs per year.  Until that time, Dr. Ziegler is helping oversee the clinic from afar with the help of doctors from around the US.   Haiti’s sustainable eyecare clinic has rolled out in 3 parts:

Phase 1: Refraction and Lens Fabrication

Using the SVOne autorefractor, Dr. Ziegler and his team taught staff members at the Haiti clinic to auto-refract.  This information is sent to doctors in the US to review and then write a script based on patient complaints and their age.  The lab is also fully equipped to cut lenses and fill the prescriptions on site.

Phase 2: Treating Ocular Disease

The next phase will be ocular health care management with the incorporation of retinal cameras and diagnostic tools.

Phase 3: Development of a Surgery Center

Long term, Dr. Ziegler envisions cataract surgeries being provided at the clinic, and hopes to partner with Haiti’s new optometry school to offer the clinic as a training and externship site.

If you want to set up a sustainable mission clinic, how do you get started?  Dr. Ziegler’s advice is to partner with an industry leader who knows the ins and outs.  Essilor has the infrastructure in place to help get the project off the ground and get you the resources you need to get going.  

Step 2 is to hit the pavement for donations.  Equipment donations, volunteers for travel, or even monetary help from optometric colleagues is essential to making this project come to life. In his practice, Dr. Ziegler helps grow donations for the Haiti clinic with cause marketing.  He private labelled a frame line that he named “Soul” – when you buy a pair of glasses, you’re touching the soul of another person. Forty dollars of that frame purchase goes to Mission of Hope Haiti. It’s a great way to share his passion for serving others with the patients he sees every day.

Do you know a doctor that is making a difference?

This World Sight Day, Essilor of America will recognize those eyecare professionals who embody the company’s mission of improving lives by improving sight with its #DifferenceMakers campaign. Head to EssilorUSA.com/DifferenceMakers, where visitors can bring an eye care professional’s good deeds into focus by nominating them to join Essilor on a mission trip to Southeast Asia in 2019.  

Thank you to our partner Essilor for supporting the production of this podcast.

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