• Meet the OPAL Program Participants: Garren Burton

    Learn how 2019-20 OPAL participant, Garren Burton, got involved in the program in part two of AAOE's recurring series, "Meet the OPAL Participants."

    AAOE’s Ophthalmic Practice Administrators Leadership (OPAL) Program is designed to move you to the next level of your professional growth. Work one-on-one with a mentor, develop a unique project and showcase your leadership skills at a special event during the Academy's annual meeting. Application submissions for the 2020-21 cohort are due by April 30, 2020. Apply today!

    What prompted you to participate in OPAL?
    Being that I am new to the profession of practice administration, I thought that OPAL would offer a unique opportunity to expand my knowledge and enhance my leadership skills at an expedited rate. I seek opportunities where I can contribute to the field of ophthalmology that will have far-reaching impact. As a practice administrator, I have a unique opportunity to impact multiple aspects of our specialty. It is fortunate there is a program that caters to investing in the up-and-coming leadership professionals and challenges us to be communicative, collaborative, informed and innovative.

    What are your biggest challenges as an ophthalmic practice administrator?
    The greatest challenges I face as an ophthalmic practice administrator are promoting growth and evolution in a 30-year-old practice, as well as improve the cultural cohesiveness and employee satisfaction and retention. Cultivating a supportive, prosperous and positive work environment while reducing the volatility of employee turnover has required self-reflection, planning and execution. I believe when people feel seen and appreciated, they engage and are inspired to give more of themselves. I apply this philosophy to my leadership style with the staff and physicians alike.

    Bringing about change to an experienced practice is challenging because there are the aspects that are tried and true, and there are opportunities for improvement and increased efficacy. I have to blend my passion for modernization with respect and admiration for the strength and accomplishments that are the backbone of the company. I am learning to appreciate differences and harness my enthusiasm for change. The challenge is to implement change while fostering trust and creating partnerships with staff, peers and my leadership.

    What will you do for your capstone leadership project, one assignment of the OPAL program?
    My capstone leadership project is developing a telemedicine app to conduct LASIK candidacy screening. This will reduce the influx of free office consultations in medical cases that are not candidates for LASIK or PRK surgery. The app would thereby maximize the utilization of LASIK consultations for candidates with a higher probability of being a candidate.

    As a result, there will be an improvement in practice revenue and EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) and a paradoxical reduction in PNL through the reduction of providing free consultation that costs the company threefold.

    How did you get involved in ophthalmic practice administration?
    I got involved in ophthalmic practice administration by being recruited from managing a LASIK clinic in 2019. I was offered an opportunity to receive a promotion to become a practice administrator for over 14 clinics. However, my career in ophthalmology actually began 13 years ago in ophthalmic clinical research.

    From there, I moved into the clinical aspect of ophthalmology as a clinical and surgical technician. I continually sought opportunities to learn and grow: qualifying for COA (certified ophthalmic assistant) and OSC (ophthalmic scribe certification), positions as lead technician, trainer and more. Through the progression, I developed strengths and a hunger for not only clinical ophthalmology, but for leadership and development of staff.

    This move to practice administrator is an answer to many prayers and years of blood, sweat and tears. I know it is crucial that I absorb all that. I plan to act as a sponge, internalize what I gain and, in turn, pour back into the ophthalmologic community.

    About the Participant

    Garren Burton is the director of operations and practice administrator at Prairie Eye and LASIK Center and Prairie Spa. He is based out of the main office in Springfield, overseeing all 10 offices throughout central Illinois. Most recently, Burton served as the senior practice manager for The LASIK Vision Institute in Austin, Texas, where he worked for 11 years before being recruited to come to Springfield. Mr. Burton is currently a participant in AAOE’s Ophthalmic Practice Administrators Leadership Program (OPAL).