Optovue recently announced that industry veteran John Hawley, senior vice president of global sales, will retire on July 1 and remain with the company in an advisory role.
Hawley joined Optovue in 2008 at the beginning of its entry into the ophthalmic and optometric OCT markets as vice president of business development. Within 6 months, he was heading the U.S. organization, according to a press release from Optovue. His accomplished career spans more than 35 years in ophthalmic diagnostic instrumentation, service, sales, marketing and strategic planning.
“Thirty years ago, I heard that optometry was going to be the gatekeeper in health care,” Hawley said in an interview with Primary Care Optometry News. “It’s taken time, but I see that happening now. When people talk about the epidemic of diabetes and the proliferation of age-related macular degeneration as people get older, they are being followed by doctors of optometry. What people thought 30 years ago is happening.”
Hawley discussed some of his career highlights and challenges with PCON.
PCON: What have been some of the biggest changes in the industry in your 35 years?
Hawley: In 1983 when I entered the industry, I was in diagnostic instrumentation. It was mostly for university settings and it wasn’t big in private offices. One of the first instruments to move into private offices was the Interzeag Octopus Visual Field.
Moving diagnostic instrumentation from where you needed to visit a private university or a hospital setting to the private office where every doctor can have decent instrumentation in-office [was a sea change for the industry].
With that came cameras and all the imaging systems, etc. When they first came out, they were all based in universities. Then, eventually prices came down and the average practitioner could afford them.
PCON: What would you say is the biggest accomplishment of your career? Biggest challenge?
Hawley: I’ve always been on the forefront, so in the beginning with Heidelberg, I was there in 1991 when the first widespread imaging device, HRT [Heidelberg Retina Tomograph], went into Robert Weinreb’s office at University of California, San Diego.
My biggest challenge was how to take these technologies and then first prove the clinical efficacy and then get the pricing down where the average clinic could afford them. It allowed patients the ability to have easier access.
My biggest accomplishment has been where we made the HRT2 affordable for every practitioner.
When I joined Optovue, they came out with the iVue and got the price down to the mid-40s – which really got OCTs selling in optometry because the doctors could afford to buy it.
That’s been the most rewarding thing. Seeing these technologies go from solely research and university settings to mainstream usability and adaptation.
Then the iVue iWellness Exam allowed doctors who were retail to move into a clinical practice, which was the goal of many doctors of optometry – to move from retail to more clinical practice.
PCON: What are you looking forward to seeing in eye care in the next 10 years?
Hawley: I think eye care is in a state of flux. In optometry, you’re having a lot of consolidation; a lot of practices are being bought. It will be interesting to see what that is going to do to private practice.
We don’t see newly graduated optometrists going into private practice. They might go to work for the chains, because they have debt to pay off. Also, at some optometry schools, 70% of students are women, and do they want to go out and buy a practice?
I think it’s going to be very interesting what happens in optometry within ownership. With manufacturers, how do you sell into these big groups?
The whole business might go through a bit of a flux. The way manufacturers distribute their products into these groups may change.
The models that we’ve used in the past are probably going to be different in 5 to 10 years.
As for the 1980s and 1990s going into this millennium, it’s been an exciting time for technology. I think with the advent of computers becoming smaller and more powerful it’s really helped diagnostic instrumentation. It’s given most doctors the ability to have instrumentation in the office that they wouldn’t have dreamed of while they were in school, especially with the older optometrists.
At the end of the day, it’s for the good of the patient. The scope of practice has certainly changed from just being in retail to a more medical practice, and I think instrumentation is helping. – Interviewed by Abigail Sutton
Disclosure: Hawley is an employee of Optovue and reported no relevant financial disclosures.