My friend, L&T contributing editor Vicki Masliah, calls them “Golden Labs, the eyecare professional’s best friend.” No, she’s not talking about canines. She means optical labs.

Of course, Vicki’s partial to labs because she works for one—Hirsch Optical, one of the top wholesalers in the New York area. She’s alluding to the fact that a good lab is worth its weight in gold to an eyecare practice. I agree. Without the support of a good lab, most practices would suffer and many would probably go under. The best labs are not just sources of product, though, they’re problem solvers. Give them a dispensing problem or difficult prescription and they’ll attack it like a dog with bone until they get the answer. (Maybe there is a canine connection here.)

One of the most important functions labs provide is educating a practice’s staff about new products and dispensing techniques. This service has become even more essential as eyecare practices struggle to keep up with the ever-expanding range of lens products being introduced to the market.

In the past couple of years, I’ve attended several “university-style” events produced by labs in various parts of the country and have been impressed with the quality and variety of ABO- and COPE-approved courses offered. As a bonus, these events typically include manufacturers’ exhibits, so you’ll get to browse the latest merchandise too.

If you have the opportunity to attend such an event in your area, you owe it to yourself to go. For those of you who aren’t able to attend International Vision Expo East or West, this is an invaluable opportunity to update your knowledge, rub shoulders with professional colleagues and get to know your “golden lab” a little better.

—Andrew Karp