Article Date: 1/1/2005

o.d. to o.d.
Does Breadth Beat Depth in the New Societies and Academies?
It's great that optometrists come together to support common causes, but consolidation -- not expansion -- is the answer.

BY WALTER D. WEST, O.D., F.A.A.O., Chief Optometric Editor

With the beginning of the new year, optometrists will have an abundance of newly formed societies and academies to attend, if they so desire. It's interesting that all of these new organizations seem tied to a special interest group -- or I guess I should say, a group that has a special interest.

We have societies for the retina, societies for the cornea, societies for dry eye, societies for the reshaping of the cornea surgically and societies for the reshaping of the cornea without surgery. In fact, in many areas, more than one society or academy exists. In any area, the organizations are all interested in the same disease entity, the same anatomical structure or the same method of doing this or that to some part of the eye.

The list goes on and on. I wonder whether developing all of these societies and academies is a good thing. I wonder if it's a smart thing or even an efficient thing.

Defining the "thing"

A good thing, a smart thing, an efficient thing? The more meetings scheduled in addition to those already in existence, the more divided optometry becomes in many ways. I realize that expanding our in-depth knowledge of anything relative to eye and vision care is a good thing, but there's only so much time for optometrists to attend meetings.

Another issue we must consider is that there's only so much funding available for meetings from industry. And it's not only about the direct financial contributions that they make to those meetings, but in addition it's the indirect investment in logistics, travel and man hours that often goes unrecognized.

It would seem that someone could find some room within the existing organizations and their respective meetings to include the special interest topics that capture the interest of so many optometrists. Imagine how much more efficient it would be (less travel for the optometrists and the industry representatives, and fewer man hours of preparation time for everyone concerned).

Wouldn't having all of those groups with special interests and the vendors that support them at the same place and the same time be
advantageous from the standpoint
of creating a larger and more formidable group with more common interests and purposes when it comes time to support optometry's future expansion? Wouldn't optometry be best served by allowing the diverse interests of optometrists to be viewed as a synergistic strength rather than as a dividing weakness?

For the New Year

In 2005, I really don't want to attend the inaugural meeting of The Society for the Prevention of Chalazia, The Brotherhood of Blepharitis, The Society for Cylinders Over Four Diopters or The Academy for the Determination of Toric Lens Rotation. As important as any of these eyecare issues might be, they won't benefit from segregation.

I hope that in 2005, we as optometrists can focus on consolidating our efforts in moving our profession into the future together. I'd suggest that at this point, increasing optometry's depth is perhaps more sound than continuing to increase its breadth.


Optometric Management, Issue: January 2005