Your Story (December 2013)

Peer-to-peer exchanges provide exceptional opportunities for knowledge transfer but more importantly for the discovery or rediscovery of camaraderie and common purpose within our profession. For this reason, ADA facilitates the sharing of member experiences through “Your Story”. This month we feature Dr. Peter Marincovich, Au.D.

AP: Please describe your practice (how long have you been in business and how many locations).

PM: Hello, I am Dr. Peter Marincovich. I returned to my home town, Santa Rosa, California to open a private practice. I started the practice in 1984 and 2014 will mark our 30th year in business. We have 4 offices with the main location being in Santa Rosa.

AP: What motivated you to open a private practice?

PM: I need to give you a little history because my interest actually dates back to when I was an undergraduate. I was a biology major at UC Santa Barbara and didn’t enjoy being in the lab all day. It turned out that the communications disorders department was on my way to the biology department and I just happened to walk through one day. The Communications program was very busy. I saw individuals working on computers, patients being evaluated and hearing aids being tested. I met with a few individuals and something just clicked at that point. Somehow, I saw this as an opportunity to help patients, to continue to work with computers through hearing aids and the ability to have my own business. When I started working with hearing aids, I never thought of them as hearing aids. I always looked at them as tiny electronic devices that could help someone communicate more effectively. I had some friends who were audiophiles and had pretty sophisticated equalizers for their stereo systems. I couldn’t help believe that at some point hearing aids would no longer have trim pot screw type controls but eventually would enable me to tune hearing aid parameters individually to match a hearing loss with a patient’s needs. Granted this was 1974 and there were not many private practice models out there. But I knew from that point that I wanted to have my own practice. I focused on that through my masters and doctorate programs and knew that this would be a dynamic profession.

AP: What makes your practice one of the most respected in your area?

PM: I First of all, I feel what differentiates us from our competition is our focus on education and consistency. We continually add value to others, whether it is each patient, each referral source or each office; it is every day. In fact that is our Mission.

Second, our practice has three focuses that are intertwined. One third of our practice is focused on preventative audiology, from hearing conservation test services to providing hearing protection. One third is focused on diagnostics, pediatric through adult including vestibular and tinnitus evaluations and newborn hearing screening follow up. The final one third of our practice is devoted to rehabilitative audiology. This not only includes a unique hearing aid prescriptive method, the (MA5P) Method, but includes an adaptive fitting process, lip reading and listening skills training, assistive device solutions and a unique focus on aftercare services. Finally, I have always felt that in order to truly understand how to prescribe a hearing aid, you have to understand all there is to know about hearing. In the same respect, in order to truly assess a patients hearing loss, you have to truly understand how a hearing loss affects an individual. As a result, I have always included comprehensive diagnostic services with comprehensive rehabilitative services.

AP: What does the term “pillar of community” mean to you?

PM: A few years ago, we did an exercise in the office. The staff went around to each other and asked a question about work. When I was asked this question, “What do you feel has been your biggest accomplishment?” by one of my staff, I thought for a minute. Almost as surprising to me as the answer was how quickly I came up with it. There are various things that I have done to grow the practice, and I could have discussed those, but, really the first thing that came to my mind was my ability to help one of my staff members achieve her goals. This was an individual that deep down inside wanted to grow and had all the tools, she just needed someone to give her a path.

What I am saying, is having the foresight to continually develop myself, which ultimately allows me to give back and help others.

AP: What has been your greatest lesson learned from your experiences as a business owner?

PM: There have been three actually.
  1. Understanding and learning that everything is based on leadership and being intentional about it.
  2. Identifying my strengths and weaknesses and most importantly, focusing on my strengths.
  3. Accepting failure, and in fact embracing it, but learning how to fail fast.
AP: If you could advise a new graduate deciding on a professional setting, what advice would you give them?

PM: 1. Do the best they can to identify their strengths (and weaknesses) while in school and find a position that allows them to focus on their strengths. If they are not sure what their strengths and weaknesses are I would either stay in school or find a position that provides exposure to many different areas.

2. The setting should have systems and processes in place, along with clearly defined expectations so the graduate has absolute clarity as to what is expected. The systems should include clear key performance metrics, which facilitate and foster open communication about what is working and what is not working and lend them to moving forward in the right direction.

3. I would ask what the Mission, Vision, Culture and Values of the organization are and make sure they are aligned with the graduate.

4. Finally, if possible, find a setting where the owner brings in the right people (you) mentors them and provides all the tools necessary for their success and then trusts them to move forward and gets out of their way.

AP: What do you like best about being an audiologist?

PM: I I like the autonomy of being able to provide the best. I enjoy being in charge of a patient’s communication needs. I enjoy the diversity of prevention, diagnostics, and rehabilitation.

And I especially enjoy working with tiny electronic devices that can help someone communicate at least 80% better within 6 weeks, 97% of the time.

AP: I know you have many, but could you tell us about one of your memorable patients?

PM: Yes, I remember it like yesterday. It was Christmas time, shortly after I started my practice. An audiologist with me suggested I look at this new equipment that was available. It was one of the very first commercial Real Ear systems available by Rastronics. I couldn’t believe it when I first tested it. To be able to actually “see” what the patient was hearing at the eardrum. I was like a kid in a candy store. One of my first patients with this new system was a 12 year old boy with a moderate bilateral symmetrical “saucer shaped” congenital hearing loss pattern. At that time, there was a hearing aid company that allowed me to order hearing aid circuits off of their matrix grid. I could order frequency response, gain, response slope, MPO and several other factors. He came in with his mom and I fit the hearing aids. I was able to adjust the low frequencies and high frequencies just enough to provide what I considered to be a perfect real ear response. I couldn’t believe it, I took the probe out and I remember him immediately getting up and going to the mirror in the bathroom. All of a sudden his mom and I both heard him, he started singing a Christmas song. I will never forget it!

AP: Tell us about the 1-2 people in your life that were influential in your career path?

PM: Sanford Gerber, Ph.D.: As I walked through the communication disorders program on my way to biology lab at UCSB, in addition to seeing patients being evaluated, and the computers and hearing aids being tested, I saw a professor’s office, Dr. Sanford Gerber, and he was sitting at a long folding table mentoring a student. I guess he saw me standing there for a second and asked if I wanted to come in. I thought, wow, this is pretty nice. I sat down at the table and listened as he reviewed part of his book on psychoacoustics, which I still reference, with the student. After the student left he asked if I had some questions. We talked about all the different facets of Audiology and he showed me Katz’s Handbook of Clinical Audiology that he also used in one of his classes. I was hooked. I think he saw my interest because he became my advisor and mentor through the program and he guided me on to my graduate program at LSU.

John H Payne: I mentioned I always had an interest in private practice. After receiving my master’s degree, I needed to find a clinical fellowship site to obtain, at that time, my Certificate of Clinical Competence in Audiology (CCC-A). I had heard about a hearing aid dispenser in Indianapolis who had several offices and also had audiologists working for him who were providing vestibular evaluations, auditory brainstem evoke response studies for an ENT group and hearing aid dispensing services. I thought that this was an interesting model since I had been planning on just the opposite. I was fortunate to be accepted to train for 9 months and actually stayed on for a couple of years before going back to school.

I learned more about hearing aid dispensing and private practice in those two years than the preceding years combined. In fact, some of the principles and counseling Mr. Payne used, I still use and are as applicable today as they were then.

AP: Where would you like to see the profession of Audiology in 10 years?

PM: I would like to see the profession more autonomous. But it will not just happen. Audiologists need become more proactive and accountable.

The good news is that we have a tremendous window of opportunity right now.

The ACA (Affordable Care Act) is a perfect opportunity for audiologists. However, audiologist’s need to do their homework, identify opportunities, show how they can help reduce costs to the system and improve patient outcomes and basically sell themselves.

The question, in growing as a profession, is asking ourselves right now, “Do we want to help one person at a time, or do we want to help thousands. If the answer is thousands, then learn leadership, embrace current trends, and make them work for you now and in the future.

Demonstrate our value to patients, referral sources, and practices every day, starting today.