Alumni, CE & Donors | Featured Alumni

Dr. Larry Spitzberg

An Office with a Puppy

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Dr. Larry Spitzberg, OD, PhD., ’85 found that Ulysses, his friendly puppy got so attached to him that he started bringing him to his office. Today, Ulysses, a toy museum and Western paintings are unique aspects of his practice. Here is Dr. Spitzberg’s take on optometry:

What led you to optometry?

I had trauma to my right eye at the age of six and lost some sight in that eye. I had eye surgery, contact lenses and binocular vision therapy to bring the vision back. This led to my interest in optics leading to masters and doctorate degrees in optics and physics. Optometry was a natural profession for me. I was able to combine business, research and helping others all in that one profession which I have enormously enjoyed for 33 years. I have had mentors and great colleagues such as Dr. Randall Jose, Dr. Jerald Strickland and the late Dr. Jerome Rosner along the way which has made each step enjoyable and rewarding.

Why is your office unique from other practices? What do patients think about the toy museum and your puppy Ulysses roaming around? What led you to Western paintings?

Dr Larry SpitzbergWe have been named the #1 Optometry practice in Houston for a few years and we are proud of that designation and work hard to keep it that way. We strive from the front door entrance to the exam room to the glasses and contact lens areas to make the experience enjoyable and a little bit of a down home environment with a little learning thrown in. The more that we can learn about our patients in a friendly way, the more that we can help them see better and make the experience better. My specialty of Low Vision Rehabilitation, though only a small part of my Primary Care Practice, has allowed me to uniquely help patients see better when they have given up on many daily activities such as reading and driving.
The toy museum at the office came about when my interest in buying antique toys outgrew the house and the office needed to expand any way. Now when I turn on the 3.5 foot diameter handmade working carousel with lights and music or the FAO Swartz 5 foot high Steiff diorama, the kid in all of us starts to smile.
Ulysses is fairly new to the practice. He used to stay at home before Harvey as both my wife and myself work but after Harvey he became attached to me 24/7. He is a good boy and now a service dog. What better homey environment than a friendly puppy that doesn’t shed. He is perfect towards everyone but 3 year old boys who think that he is one of the toys!
We live in Houston which is part of the old wild West and our patients can experience part of the Western culture when they come to the office. The custom made Western sculptures dominate the waiting room. My hobby of painting and my fun of attending the small rodeos around Houston allowed me to paint large backdrops for the sculptures and the spurs, hat, boots and saddle are also on view.

What are a few tips you would offer to current graduates?

Practice to the highest level you can. Do loads of medical but don’t forget the optical basics. Buy an OCT.
Work with a colleague. Practices are combining together to achieve economies of scale.
There are no more white hats and black hats in optometry. Corporate or independent optometry are all the same if you do your best work.
Do the specialty that interests you. Follow your heart with help from your head.
Optometric success takes a whole village of non-optometric helpers including experts in insurance, IT, accounting, QuickBooks, ADP, and bankers and lawyers.
Treat every patient with respect. Follow the Golden Rule. The worst cases always happen at 5pm on Fridays; be prepared to stay late for them.

Tell us about the benefits of owning an independent practice? You’ve been in the same location along with other medical practices for close to 30 years. What benefits does this provide?

I have seen kids grow to be parents and their kids grow up and become parents. Living in the same area as the Practice has enabled me to be a part of the patients’ lives from weddings to funerals. Every doctor in my medical/dental center is a patient and so is their staff. We get referrals every day from them.

What is your view about the future of Optometry?

Optometry has a very bright future but it is going to have to change to continue to be successful.
I don’t think that the small independent practices will prevail in the next 30 years: the large independent practices will. Larger practices can offer one day services on glasses and compete with the Internet. Larger practices can also afford the expense of all the necessary diagnostic instruments such as OCT’s, topographers, and auto refractors.  Providing the best service will allow us to compete with the new advances in Telemedicine.
Successful small independent practices will need to specialize in pediatrics, low vision, dry eye clinics, scleral lenses and other specialty contact lenses, and co-management services for cataract and LASIK surgeries to stand out as being different and better.