Article Date: 8/1/2009

The Certification Debate Benefits Us
guest editorial

The Certification Debate Benefits Us

We become stronger when we take on issues that have national implications.

JAMES THIMONS, O.D., F.A.A.O.

As most of us are aware, the concept of board certification in optometry was passed at this year's House of Delegates session at the annual American Optometric Association meeting in Washington, D.C. In our nation's capitol, the symbol of democracy, our profession held an open and prolonged discussion on an issue that had been the most contentious subject that we have faced in decades.

From the opening comments through to the final decision by the delegates, we dissected, analyzed and reviewed the subject. The summation of six months of nationwide discussion — some of which was remarkably polarizing — came to a conclusion, and optometry decided to engage the process of board certification and take on a new challenge for the profession.

Nothing short of remarkable

While the outcome is something that many will disagree with, what happened in Washington was nothing short of remarkable. This is not because of the final decision, but because of what happened to get us there. For the first time in notable memory we, optometry, actually participated in a serious and important discussion that has national ramifications and career-long implications. We took on the task in an open and visible forum. We engaged each other in collegial debate. We agreed and disagreed. We argued, and we made up. We practiced the fine art of politics in the shadow of our nation's capitol and just like our representatives, cast a vote that was bound to please some and anger others.

But most importantly at the end of day, optometry was better for the process. regardless of the side taken when the process began. We signaled a paradigm shift to a new focus on our national needs, speaking as a single profession, acknowledging that much like a family, we can disagree at home but to the world outside, we speak with one voice.

The unanimous response of the delegates to the closing remarks from Dr. Peter Kehoe, outgoing president of the AOA, was emblematic of the closure that had been reached after months of exchange and days of open and challenging discussion.

Operating at a national level

For the longest time, optometry has localized its attention to issues at the state level that involve scope of practice, insurance concerns and other finite activities. While these are very important to our growth, they focus on the "micro" level, which de facto decreases our national impact. The pace of our personal and professional lives has accelerated. So too has the pace of healthcare reform at the national level. What happened in Washington was an important awakening of our national consciousness at just the right time.

The future of health care will be the most difficult path we walk in a very long time. It is going to require the type of leadership, communication and commitment that was evident from all sides through the last six months.

United we stand

But the vote just taken was not just about board certification. From my perspective, it was also about this profession and what we are able to do when we work together. Even when that starts from opposite sides of the aisle. OM


DR. THIMONS IS THE CLINICAL DIRECTOR OF OPTOMETRIC MANAGEMENT. HE IS MEDICAL DIRECTOR OF OPHTHALMIC CONSULTANTS OF CONNECTICUT AND SERVES ON THE FACULTIES OF THE PENNSYLVANIA COLLEGE OF OPTOMETRY AND THE NEW ENGLAND COLLEGE OF OPTOMETRY. CONTACT DR. THIMONS AT JTHIMONS@SBCGLOBAL.NET.

Optometric Management, Issue: August 2009