Joseph Mallinger, OD, MBA, FAAO, senior vice president of professional relations for Healthy Eyes Advantage, received the American Optometric Association’s Distinguished Service Award last month at Optometry’s Meeting in Denver. He has served as president of the San Diego County Optometric Society, president of the California Optometric Association (COA), and president of the COA’s Public Vision League. He currently serves as secretary-treasurer of Marshall B. Ketchum University board of trustees and president of Optometry Cares, the AOA’s charitable foundation.
Jeffrey Eisenberg: Congratulations on receiving this award. You have a long list of service to the optometric profession.
Joseph Mallinger, OD, MBA, FAAO: I think it’s important for those of us who can give back to the profession to take the time to volunteer. There are quite a number of individuals who inspired me to give back when I could, mentor when I could, and do what I could to help grow the profession.
JE: Who are some of the people that inspired you?
JM: The ones that stand out are some past AOA presidents. Richard Hopping, OD (1971-1972), gave me a little mantra that I used through my volunteer time and in business dealings: “If it’s not right for the profession of optometry, just don’t do it.” If you, as a volunteer, live by something as simple as that and apply it to all the decisions that you make to help the profession, it’s pretty hard to go wrong.
W. David Sullins, OD (1989-1990), who was an admiral in the Navy, was the true leader who started the InfantSEE program. And others in that era were certainly ones that inspired me to see if I couldn’t give back.
After I retired and sold my practice in the late 1990s, I was fortunate enough to go back to business school and over time to become the president and CEO of Vision West, a group purchasing organization.
Past AOA president, Mitchell Munson, OD (2013-2014), gave me the opportunity by an appointment to the Optometry Cares board. We oversee the InfantSEE program along with Healthy Children’s programs. This year and next, I am lucky enough to be the president of Optometry Cares. I’m also the secretary-treasurer of the Marshall B. Ketchum University board of trustees. In those roles, I find my ability to give back to the profession somewhat different but certainly as rewarding as any volunteer could ask for.
JE: What are the priorities for the profession to address?
JM: From my perspective, I can’t think of a higher priority than our profession not being recognized by a number of the major medical plans. Another volunteer priority for us is making sure that all the ODs who are willing to participate in the InfantSEE program and provide free vision care for infants do so.
JE: Can you talk about Healthy Eyes Advantage?
JM: Healthy Eyes Advantage was created by the acquisition by Nautic Partners, a private equity entity that acquired C&E Vision Services, HMI Buying Group, Red Tray Network, Club Zero, Block Buying Group and Vision West in November 2017. Nautic combined those entities to create Healthy Eyes Advantage, which now has 10,000 active members. Purchasing products through one entity creates an entirely different capability for the corporation to be able to bring additional professional management products and services to our member accounts. My role focuses on acting as a liaison between corporations and organized optometry. It fits into my volunteerism. It’s something that I have a passion about doing; keeping the profession of optometry at the forefront of everything that HEA does.
JE: How does HEA work?
JM: Members of Healthy Eyes Advantage have immediate, single-source access to industry-best product discounts and rebates from leading and niche vendors in all product categories — frames, labs and contact lenses — as well as our strategic solutions partners. The HEA team is committed to, and focused on, delivering simplified solutions to independents nationwide in five areas: savings, technology, education, patient management and payment solutions. We will begin making these offerings available to our members and the community at large in the next few weeks.