o.d. to o.d.
How to Respond to
Ophthalmology has banned us from their
meetings and has portrayed optometry in a negative light. But rather than
complain, it's optometry's turn to go on the offensive.
WALTER D. WEST, O.D., F.A.A.O., Chief Optometric Editor
Over the past several months, we've seen
ophthalmology ban us, as optometrists, from attending courses at the American
Academy of Ophthalmology's meeting. We've also seen the American Society of
Cataract and Refractive Surgeons ban us from its meeting. And we've seen
ophthalmologists present "studies" that seem to show optometry as
All of this posturing has spawned numerous
ophthalmologist-penned editorials that clearly show ophthalmology's true colors.
As these events developed, I have, for the most part, sat back and watched. I'm
surprised, amazed and bewildered, not by the ophthalmologists' actions, but by
the fact that optometrists were surprised by it all. Perhaps the recent
expansion of optometry's scope of practice gave many optometrists the sense that
things have changed. In many respects they have, but it's clear that
ophthalmologists continue to view optometrists more as a threat than as
Actions speak louder
So what's the appropriate response? I suggest
that we not idly sit back and complain about how inappropriate ophthalmology's
actions have been, how misguided its positions might be or how inaccurate its
perceptions of our prescribing habits appear.
Rather, I suggest that now is the time for us to
go on the offensive -- not by misrepresenting allegations about what optometry
is, has been or could be -- but by continuing to move optometry in the direction
that we've chosen. We should continue to expand the scope of optometric practice
through education. We must improve, to an even greater degree, our ability to
provide primary care in addition to the core competencies that we possess in the
areas of comprehensive eye exams, the prescribing of spectacles and contact
Addition, not replacement
It's important to recognize that I say "in
addition to" rather than "instead of." It has been shown time and
time again that the patient who depends on our core services today will
ultimately become the patient who depends on our primary care services tomorrow.
In fact, most patients don't really use primary care services (or to any great
degree, medically related eye care) until the age of 40 and beyond.
Our ability to gain new patients and educate them
as to our ability to provide comprehensive eye care, even on vision-related
patient visits, will prove to be seeds well-planted and from them we will reap
great benefits in the future of our practices.
Contribute to your success
Simultaneously, we must all --that is, every one
of us -- do our share in contributing to state and national optometric political
action funds. These funds put ourselves in a posture to defend what we have
already gained in scope of practice. Just as important, optometric organizations
use the funds to advance our scope of practice even further.
So if you're wishing that someone would do
something about ophthalmology, then realizes that it starts with you and me, in
our own offices with our own patients and with our own checkbooks. Are you
willing to do something?
Optometric Management, Issue: October 2004