Interview with Dr. Joseph C. Mallinger CEO Vision West

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We are doing a series of interviews with leaders in Optical. Some are with people from small or large companies and others with their own individual practice but all have a unique perspective that we can learn from. Our first was with Sherrie Rogerson, VP of Strategic Marketing for Doctors Vision Center . For our second we are interviewing Joseph C. Mallinger, OD, MBA, FAAO – President/CEO of Vision West, Inc. Here it is:


For over 20 years, Vision West has helped to service and support the independent ophthalmic practice. The company is endorsed by state associations and eye care groups nationwide, Vision West services over 5000 members across the country. It provides discounts, savings programs, vendor selection and is a comprehensive resource for practice management. The concept of Vision West grew from volunteer members of the California Optometric Association (COA) striving to bring into reality a vision of a revenue stream capable of sustaining the success of the Independent Eye Care Provider well into the future. Over $7 million has flowed from Vision West into State Associations. No other ophthalmic buying group has come close to this ongoing commitment to the success of the independent eye care provider.

Questions and Answers from Vision West Interview with Dr. Joseph C. Mallinger, OD, MBA, FAAO – President/CEO

Joseph C. Mallinger OD
Joseph C. Mallinger OD

1. How long have you been with Vision West and tell us a little bit about your career progression there and before?

I owned an optometric practice in Carlsbad from 1976-1996. During this time I was on the Board of the San Diego County Optometric Society (SDCOS). I eventually became President of SDCOS. Following a short time away from volunteering my time to organized optometry, I ran for the position of Trustee of the California Optometric Association (COA) Board of Trustees. Moving through the chairs – including becoming Secretary/Treasurer of the COA, I was eventually elected to the office of President of the COA.  Health reasons forced me to give up my practice in 1996. I returned to business school using an Executive MBA program while being hired to work in the position of Business Development at  Vision West. I completed the MBA program and went on to become  Senior Vice President/Chief Operating Officer of Vision West. In February of the year 2000 the Board of Directors of Vision West selected me to become the President and CEO of Vision West.

2. What exactly does Vision West do and what differentiates it from other buying groups?

Vision West provides many more services than a buying group. Our Mission Statement includes a primary goal of giving back to profession. In fact Vision West is  best described as the only National Co-op Purchasing and Practice Management Group with a history of giving back over $7M to State Associations, IPAs, and other independent eye care provider groups to help promote the role of the independent eye care provider in the U.S. Vision West lists over 240 vendors, the largest selection of vendors within the ophthalmic buying group segment of our industry and a variety of practice management opportunities, online courses with the Southern College of Optometry (SCCO), and the opportunity to attend practice management including other value added courses for Vision West members only.

I say we are a National company because although 65% of Vision West members are from California the other 35% come from of all the States within the U.S. and we are endorsed by many State Associations, IPAs and other independent eye care organizations in many different States. Vision West helps independent eye care providers improve their business skills, e.g. learn how to analyze their purchases and inventory turns to make more informed purchase decisions. For example, Vision West has the ability to track top selling frames by region and zip code. This information is available on our website for Vision West members only. This data is very useful information for the individual making the frame purchasing decisions for the office. We are currently sponsoring four different, low cost ($79) seminars about how to become a medically based practice and staying current with billable medical services. These seminars are available to Vision West members only, we firmly believe in providing these highly valued programs and added services to loyal Vision West members!

4. What do you think are the major obstacles facing optical practices right now?

I see three major obstacles:

i) The current depressed economy.

ii) Not staying current with the billable medical services optometrists are now providing to patients on a routine basis, while not billing for the delivery of these very valuable professional skills.

iii) Poor management of the ophthalmic frame inventory, including the turn-rate and the costs associated with poor purchasing and the resulting high return rate associated with the ophthalmic frame products not designed to suit the needs of the demographics of the patient base serviced by the independent eye care provider.

Vision West continually addresses these obstacles with the promotional programs, marketing resources and the educational opportunities discussed above.

5. If you could change one thing about our industry in general, what might that be?

I would like to change the U.S. consumers’ perception about eye care so that they would have a better understanding and awareness of what professional services the independent eye care provider delivers on a daily basis. The entire ophthalmic product industry must do a better job informing the general public of the need for routine eye-health examinations. Knowing optometry is a primary entry point into the health care system within the U.S. is a vital message not being delivered on a consistent basis.

6. Anything else you would like to say?

I would like to quote from my mentor Dr. Richard Hopping, OD, DOS, FAAO.  His mantra is “If it is not right for the profession don’t do it” . Remembering this helps me make clear decisions and is applicable to all of us within the independent eye care provider segment of the medical community.