A day in the life of Tom Babu, OD ’93, and Vasvi Babu, OD ’93, includes family time, salsa dancing, margaritas… but that wasn’t always the case. They describe their first practice as a shoebox with a broken elevator. Their first company holiday party had three attendees, including themselves. Today, they manage 50 employees across 5 locations. “We work on the practice and not in it,” says Dr. Vasvi. “We work whenever we want to.”
It has been a climb to the good life, and the Babus feel ICO played “a huge part.” The pair met while studying at ICO. Once they settled on Arizona, an ICO grad introduced them to alumni in the area. One even sold them their first practice.
The Babus acquired more sites and more patients. The volume of cases never intimidated them, however, thanks to the clinical expertise gained at ICO. “The clinic part was easy for us,” Dr. Vasvi explains. “We had so much awesome training that we could just handle anything. I would absolutely pick ICO again.”
One evening, Dr. Tom was rushing from clinic to his son’s soccer game. The stress of balancing business with his growing family inspired him to make a change. He asked his wife if they could hire an extra doctor and remove themselves from patient care.
“When we stopped seeing patients on a regular basis, that is when things really propelled for us,” says Dr. Vasvi. “We had the time and energy to spend on creating systems, manuals, training guides… things we would never have been able to implement had we been seeing patients for 8 hours a day.”
In turn, their employed doctors feel a greater sense of ownership; the patients and staff are truly their own. “A lot of our associates say they can’t imagine not seeing patients,” Dr. Tom says proudly. “We want those kinds of doctors working for us.”.
If I had to hire another doctor right now, I would make sure it’s an ICO grad.
When it comes to finding new talent, the Babus see a clear trend: excellent candidates graduating from their alma mater. ICO alumni come in the door of a practice “knowing disease, knowing meds.” Says Dr. Vasvi, “If I had to hire another doctor right now, I would make sure it’s an ICO grad.”
ICO also offers the Babus a vibrant social circle. The pair regularly spends time with alumni at happy hours, parties, and in a kickball league. “It is a blast,” Dr. Tom laughs. “We’ve haven’t won a game yet, but we have the most fun.”
Dr. Vasvi agrees. “Our ICO friendships- we just find them high quality, high-caliber people. They’re a fun, intellectual group.”
“They’ve got great practices,” Dr. Tom adds. “They’re very dynamic.”
The Babus also stay connected to ICO in other ways. Dr. Vasvi has served for 4 years on the Board of Trustees. “Great people run the school,” she smiles. Her favorite program is ICO’s partnership with CPS. It introduces students to a high-volume setting, but also serves the city of Chicago.
Drs. Tom and Vasvi have each spoken at ICO’s Practice Opportunities Symposium multiple times. They believe in offering current students “realistic expectations” about starting a practice. Dr. Tom, in particular, is looking forward to ICO’s upcoming practice management curriculum improvements. “I love how they are always thinking ahead of the game.”
“Success equals happiness,” says Dr. Vasvi. “If you’re happy in what you’re doing, and your day to day is just fun, that’s success.” She hopes future optometrists will find their own happiness, as well, by naming their goals. “You should actually write it down on paper,” she encourages. “Everything you do from that day forward is to help you achieve that endgame.”
For Dr. Tom, happiness is autonomy over his own time. He can use that time to visit his son’s school lunchroom, fight for better online healthcare standards, or simply go to the gym. “Don’t put a dollar amount on it,” he advises. “Don’t chase something that doesn’t achieve that happiness factor.”
The Babus combined their own determination and ambition with skills learned at ICO. Now, every Monday feels like a Friday. “You’re looking at quality of life,” Dr. Tom says. “That’s it.”