Article Date: 5/1/2004

o.d. to o.d.
Banned From the Big Easy
What does it mean when ophthalmologists prohibit optometrists from attending their annual meeting?
BY WALTER D. WEST, O.D., F.A.A.O., Chief Optometric Editor

As many optometrists are now aware, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) distributed a "Member Alert" in which it banned optometrists from attending any educational activities at its annual meeting in New Orleans. To quote:

The American Academy of Ophthalmology does not permit attendance or participation by optom etrists at any educational activity at its Annual Meeting.

This ban was the result of a resolution passed by the Board of Trustees of the AAO, acting on what they referred to as "the resolute will of its Council."

The Alert continues, "Unfortunately, non-members have attended these courses and then used their attendance as arguments to legislatures to expand their scope of practice. The Academy Board believes that using these educational events in such a manner is not in the interest of the public or good patient care."

Members only

That pretty well sums it up. It seems that the AAO believes that their meeting exists not to provide for the advancement of science and knowledge in eye care, but to provide science and knowledge in eye care to only their members.

The AAO also points out that "The Academy's educational programs are developed for ophthalmologists who have the educational basis of medical school, internship, and residency as a background for understanding the knowledge that is presented during the Annual Meeting."

It amazes me that in 2004 the AAO continues to operate under the misconception that theirs is the one and only path to enlightenment and providing eye health and vision care in the United States.

You know too much

When I first read the Alert, I was stunned and puzzled. As I read it again, I became more reflective. I thought of the optometrists around the country who teach ophthalmology residents and the optometrists that have presented at the AAO's Annual Meeting on a regular basis. Then it dawned on me -- the AAO with their "ban" on optometrists attending educational activities at their annual meeting has nothing to do with our background and our understanding the knowledge that's presented, it's that we understand it all too well.

This resolution by the Board of Trustees of the AAO has nothing to do with the public or ensuring better patient care, it's about optometry seeking, understanding and using our knowledge to expand the scope of our practice, and in so doing, providing a higher level of care that is in fact in the best interest of the public and good patient care.

Another AAO, another choice

Lucky for us, there is another academy, the American Academy of Optometry. The American Academy of Optometry is not "the other" academy -- it's our academy. It's an academy meeting where those interested in the science of eye care can come together to teach as well as to learn from any source of knowledge. I encourage optometrists to attend the American Academy of Optometry and invite ophthalmologists as eyecare colleagues to attend this important meeting.

Where the AAO has chosen to be exclusive, I believe that optometry, our M.D. colleagues and the American Academy of Optometry have far more to gain by being inclusive. Certainly our patients do.


Optometric Management, Issue: May 2004