Your Story (March 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. Gregory Frazer, Ph.D., Au.D. Dr. Frazer entered the private practice of Audiology and Hearing Aid Dispensing in 1982. For 14 years, he owned and operated Hearing Care Associates, one of the largest audiology private practices in the U.S. In 1996, he founded Sonus-USA, Inc.which is now part of the largest corporate audiology chain in the world. In 2003, Dr. Frazer re-entered private practice in Brentwood, Califonia, as owner of Pacific Hearing, Inc. and Director of Audiology at Pacific Eye & Ear Specialists, Inc.

AP: Please describe your clinics (how long have you been in business and how many locations).
GF: I went into audiology private practice in 1982 providing comprehensive diagnostic audiological services, including ABR, ENG & tinnitus evaluations/treatment, hearing aid dispensing, and aural habilitation/rehabilitation. By 1996, I had 23 offices and staffed the offices of over 50 ENTs/medical groups. I contracted with HMOs and medical groups to provide services for over 2 million lives. In 1996, I merged my offices with a Canadian venture capitalist to start what is now Sonus-USA. In 2002 I left Sonus, and I now have 6 locations that provide comprehensive diagnostic audiologic services (including VNG and Rotational Chair) and hearing aid dispensing. I share some of the offices with ENT, Ophthalmology, and Plastic Surgery, and have a staff of 9 of the best audiologists in the country (as well as two great 4th years).

AP: What motivated you to open a private practice?
GF: I had worked in hospitals, ENT offices, otology offices, and medical group practices. I found that I couldn’t provide the level and quality of services I felt the patients needed in those settings. The physicians were more interested in diagnostic testing that would identify surgery cases. However, this left the other 90-95% of patients who needed hearing aids, tinnitus maskers, canalith repositioning, vestibular rehab, counseling, aural rehab, speech reading, etc. underserved. I also believed that if I provided the service, then I should directly benefit commensurately from my patient evaluation and management.

AP: What makes your practice one of the most respected in your area?
GF: Our staff provides diagnostic and rehabilitative care second to none. We employ a collaborative effort with ENT to determine the etiology or etiologies that are causing the patients hearing, balance or other medical problems. We work closely with other specialties such as neurology, ophthalmology and physical therapy to ensure the best outcome for the patient. I give all my patients my e-mail address and tell them to update me on their progress, and I also give many my cell phone number as well. I am in contact with my patients 24/7. I treat patients like family and friends, and give each one of them the time and attention they need to solve their problem.

AP: What does the term “best practices” mean to you?
GF: Best Practices is the way that our group practices audiology. We employ evidence based practice in determining how we evaluate, treat and manage patients.

AP: What has been your greatest lesson learned from your experiences as a business owner?
GF: I learned the hard way to never give up control of your private practice. Having a partner (person, manufacturer, consolidator, etc.) is like a marriage. When it goes bad, it is a nightmare, even if you have an ironclad contract.

AP: If you could advise a new graduate deciding on a professional setting, what advice would you give them?
AK: The most important thing is to do your 4th year in the city you want to live. Your family, friends, religion, and personal life style are the most important factors in living a happy life. Furthermore, during your 4th year you will make connections and start a reputation. Second, choose a practice setting that emulates the kind of practice that you want to work in or own in the future. Third, choose a setting that will give you a well-rounded 4th year, and not just hearing aid dispensing. This may be the one time you can get this experience. AP: What do you like best about being an audiologist?
GF: I love the profession of audiology and I’m passionate about being an audiologist. I like the fact that I can help people to hear better, or alleviate their dizziness/balance/vertigo problems. There are very few professions in which a person can improve another person’s quality of life in a short period of time. In addition, I like developing long term interpersonal relationships with my patients.

AP: Tell us about your most memorable patient.
GF: I have so many, but one is very memorable. A man with a moderate-to-severe SNHL was very angry and reluctant to get hearing aids. He came in for the fitting with his wife, and he had his arms crossed over his chest, and his left leg was crossed over his right leg. This was a strong signal that he was not open to what was about to transpire. Nevertheless, I put the hearing aids in his ears and turned them on. I then asked his wife to say something to her husband. He turned to look at his wife and she looked him in the eyes and said, “I love you”. He immediately uncrossed his arms and legs, got red in the face, and big crocodile tears started to run down his face. After a few seconds, he said, “I love you too”.

AP: Tell us about the 1-2 people in your life that were influential in your career choice/path? (Describe them and why they were influential)
GF: I was a pre-med student when my mother suggested that I look into the field of speechpathology and audiology. She worked in student placement at CSU Sacramento and helped me get a part time job at the post office. I ended up working with 20 deaf people, and decided to take a class in audiology and sign language to learn more about hearing loss and how to communicate with the deaf. My mother was a driving force in teaching me that you can accomplish anything you want, to be an optimist, to be a realist, to never give up, to treat all people the way you want to be treated, and that the most important thing in life is your family, friends and health.

AP: When you are not busy seeing patients or running your business, what are some things you like to do in your spare time?
GF: My wife, Dr. Carissa Bennett, is my partner in business and life. She is great at seeing patients, but spends half of her time managing the practice (training, payroll, AR, systems, etc.). However, we don’t work in the same office since I want to be the boss somewhere! We are fortunate to have two of the best children in the world, Erika and Mark. We used to travel the entire US as our kids competed in taekwondo and were US Jr National Champions. We now travel to watch my daughter compete in mock court trials for her University, and watch my son compete in high school soccer and track. In order to avoid burn-out, it is important to work hard and play hard. So, we allocate time for traveling, dinners with friends, live theater, movies, jogging, and a weekly date night with only the two of us.

AP: How do you envision the profession of audiology in the future?
GF: We are at a crossroads in audiology. We are seeing the proliferation of entities encroaching on our area of expertise, such as internet hearing aid sales, UHC, mail order hearing aids, big-box retailers, etc. We need to act immediately to define the future of audiology, or someone else will. We need ADA, AAA and ASHA to set aside their differences, and join together in a united front to lobby Congress to pass 18 X 18. This will require large sums of money on a consistent and continuous basis. Now all we need is for audiologists to unite and support this fundraising endeavor. As President Harry Truman said, “Doing the right thing is easy. Knowing the right thing to do is hard”. Supporting this audiology fundraising campaign is the right thing to do. I believe audiologists are ready, willing and able to make this happen now!