For First Meeting, FastOD Uses Meetup to Gather Student ODs in New York

By Delia Paunescu, Assistant Editor

Gary Gerber, OD, (center) with attendees during the networking cocktail hour.
NEW YORK—It’s long been said that while optometry schools do a good job preparing future ODs as clinicians, they lack teaching their students savvy business practices. To combat this lack of financial savvy, a former optical exec held an event at the Sofitel in Manhattan, bringing together students from SUNY Optometry to unveil his new networking idea.

Carlos Navaro has been working in optical for 13 years, moving from an executive position at Johnson & Johnson/Vistakon to global vice president at Bausch + Lomb, where he oversaw both lens care and consumer health. “Being strong business people is not taught in OD school,” Navaro told VM. “I created FastOD specifically for optometry to appeal to doctors in their early careers. I’m not bringing strategies or concepts but tangible insights that these young doctors can put into practice tomorrow.”

For its first meeting FastOD jumped right in, gathering young ODs-in-training via a page on The night began with a networking cocktail hour, after which Navaro introduced the organization and then asked his speakers Gary Gerber and Justin Bazan to share their expertise.

Dr. Brian Levy (L) with Carlos Navaro (R).
“I feel that FastOD's approach to providing concise, useful business tips and advice to optometrists is complementary to the comprehensive consulting services that The Power Practice provides to its clients,” Gary Gerber, OD, president and founder of the Power Practice, told Vision Monday. For FastOD, Gerber will contribute articles and help lead live events for on and off the web.“Having built a successful practice and having advised thousands of practices and leading manufacturers, my team of consultants and I at The Power Practice possess insights that ODs in the earlier stages of their careers can benefit from. I enjoy sharing my experiences with doctors to help them become more successful and FastOD provides another channel for me to do this,” he added.

For Bazan, whose savvy in social media has been featured at VM’s Leadership Summit as well as through the Power Practice, he sees his new role with FastOD more simply: “I will help with keep their content current and fresh in both ideas and techniques,” he told VM. As for the future of the new organization, Bazan said he hopes it will show young ODs that there are helpful organizations out there that understand their situation. “It will give them a place to associate with others who are just like them,” he said.

Justin Bazan, OD, (center) with Antonio Chirumbolo (l) and Matthew Enos (r), students from SUNY Optometry.
According to Navaro, this meeting is just the beginning. Chapters in Philadelphia and San Francisco will have their first meeting by year end while first quarter 2012 will see new chapters open in Baltimore/D.C., Jacksonville, Fla. and Boston.

Aided by a frequently updated website, will complement the in-person meet-ups—which he expects will meet quarterly—with “featured presentations,” webinars and articles from contributors including Gerber, Bazan and Jennifer Stewart Ellison, OD. Content will be posted regularly and fall into four categories: marketing and social media, profit and revenue growth, management and professional development and “wild card”—which Navaro explained will be member requested and topical.

All contents on the website are free through January, at which time a “freemium” model will be implemented. Some of the site’s features will still be available to the public then, but complete access will cost members $299 for six months or $499 for the year. Students registered to the site will still have complete access at no cost, Navaro added.

FastOD will also be overseen by an advisory board consisting of Brian Levy, OD, Aaron Price and Adriano Allegrini.