By the time you read this, only nine shopping days remain until the holidays. As you fret about finding that perfect gift for your spouse, children ... whomever, take stock of this fact: As a member of the optometric profession, you have already demonstrated the spirit of giving since well before Black Friday.

Indeed, some of the best gifts you can give, especially to your patients, arent at the mall or online but in the everyday practice of your profession. (Sure beats the long checkout lines.) Among them:

Accessibility. How can you provide all patients with access to care and make them feel comfortable? Consider how Ivette Lopez, who is originally from Puerto Rico, felt when she came to the United States and faced a language barrier. You become afraid to try and communicate because oftentimes, the people you try to communicate with look at you like youre from outer space, she says.

Optometrist Allan Tocker offered this gift to Ms. Lopez and the growing Spanish-speaking population in his community: He has learned and continues to learn how to speak Spanish to make patients feel comfortable (see See, Yo Hablo Espaol). Hes also translated his history form into Spanish, posted Spanish signs in his office and, most recently, hired a staff member who is fluent in Spanish.

Flexibility and persistence. The ability to meet patients visual needs is not always straightforward, but its what set optometry apart from other professions long before TPA laws. And, it affects how patients function every day.

That means youll need to try different options. For some presbyopic patients, for example, youll need to think beyond progressive addition lenses or multifocal contact lenses, especially if other conditions exist (see Four Solutions for Problematic Presbyopes). The same principle holds true for your keratoconus patients (see Find the Finest Fit for Keratoconus Patients), who can be among your most challenging contact lens fits but who rely on you to accomplish this.

Information for a healthy lifestyle. Nearly two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, which puts them at risk for AMD, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, etc. (And thats before this years round of holiday parties.)

As a primary health-care provider, you can help put your patients on track to improved overall health. In this months cover story (see Put Your Patients on the New Food Pyramid"), Stuart Richer, O.D., Ph.D., gives you information to guide patients on weight loss/maintenance, nutrition and exercise.

Independence and improved quality of life. For visually impaired patients, low vision optometry goes well beyond trying different magnifiers and telescopes, as optometrist Marc J. Gannon points out (see The Low Vision Cases Ill Never Forget). It can mean giving patients their lives back. Just ask the 36-year-old patient who, with the help of low-vision devices, finished his high-school education and is now working on his masters degree. Or, the patients who were able to resume their occupations. And, dont forget about the 70-year-old patient who simply wanted to go bowling.

While youre in the spirit of giving, dont forget those who are especially vital to your practice: your employees. As Bill Nolan points out (see Reward Your Staff to Build Your Practice), 70% of the typical patients visit is spent with your staff. If your employees are not happy, chances are your patients wont be either.

Were talking more than Christmas gifts, though. Mr. Nolans advice: Share your goals with your staff. In any organization, people will always support what they help create, he says. Then, reward them for meeting those goals. Chances are your employees will offer you some gifts as well, namely motivation and improved financial health for your practice.

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, or no holiday at all, we at Review of Optometry wish you and yours a season filled with health, happiness, peace and prosperity.

The editorial staff of Review of Optometry

Vol. No: 142:12Issue: 12/15/2005