To say that Silicon Valley is saturated with ophthalmologists is an understatement.

There are 71 active anterior segment ophthalmologists within a 10 mile radius in Santa Clara County.   In terms of retina, it’s even worse, with over 20 of them in the area.

The 2008 American Community Survey estimated the population of Santa Clara County to be 1,764,500.  This ends up producing a ratio of 25,000 to 1, which is actually better than the recommended 20,000 to 1 figure!  However, there are close to 150 optometrists in the area as well.  Hence, I anticipate that you’ll need closer to 35,000 to 40,000 people to support one ophthalmologist in Silicon Valley.

Let’s break down the 71 ophthalmologists further.

Of the 71, 50 graduated from residency after 1980 and 21 graduated before 1980.  That means 21 ophthalmologists are over 60 years old, and should approach retirement in the next 5 to 10 years.  It’s still a saturated market, just not as bad.

What about the number of ophthalmologists in group practice versus solo?  41 are in group practice and 30 are in solo practice.  The solo practitioners tended to be older. Nevertheless, there isn’t a overpowering representation of group practice here, so a brand new solo practice might still have a shot.

If these were the only figures I had to go by, I probably would have moved on to the next target city.  Breaking into this area would have been too much of an uphill battle. However, what sealed the deal for me was the Korean-American population subanalysis.

In 2000, 21,600 Korean-Americans resided in Santa Clara County.  In 2008, the estimate grew to 33,400.  That’s 54% growth in 8 years.  During the same period, the total population grew from 1.68 million to 1.76 million, or 4.7%. Also, in 2008, there were approximately 73,900 Korean-Americans in the entire Bay Area.

When I looked for Korean-speaking ophthalmologists in Korean newspapers and Korean directories, I only found two.  One had just opened a practice in 2006 near Los Gatos, and another graduated from medical school in 1949, splitting time between San Francisco office and San Jose.  I also found one in Concord and another in Palo Alto. There were also a few more in the Kaiser system.  However, I discovered a void at the epicenter of the Korean-Community in Santa Clara/Sunnyvale near El Camino Real, where no Korean-speaking ophthalmologists existed.  Since patients generally prefer to drive as little as possible to see their doctors, I may have just found the spot!

The other interesting thing about this area was that there were 10 Korean-speaking primary care physicians and 10 Korean-speaking optometrists.  Most of them were affiliated with O’Connor Hospital.  The O’Connor Hospital directory indeed confirmed that there was no Korean ophthalmologist affiliated with this hospital.  Hence, I finally found where I needed to set up shop.

Nothing’s going to be easy still.  All this data mining could end up meaning nothing. Optometrists might not like me because I’m additional competition in the Korean community.  The primary care doctors, who are often creatures of habit, might not easily want to break their referral patterns.  I have no guarantees.  In the end though, it’s all going to be about word of mouth.  I just need to find a location that will give me the best opportunity to cast as many lines as possible.  I only need a few small bites get my practice started.  The rest will be up to me.

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