o.d. to o.d.
Optometry Fallen Victim to its Own Success?
the qualities that we gained in past legislative battles strength, unity
and sense of purpose beginning to fade?
WALTER D. WEST, O.D., F.A.A.O, Chief Optometric Editor
I reflect on the efforts of organized ophthalmology today to limit the scope of
optometry, I think back to 1987. Optometrists in the state of Tennessee celebrated
the passing of legislation that allowed those certified to begin using an unlimited
formulary to treat our patients medically. Similar celebrations have taken place
in all 50 states.
Optometrists have the privilege to practice at
a higher level than ever before. I remember the day I received the word that our
state's legislation had passed and began to think about how strong we had collectively
become with the guidance of our executive director, Gary Odom.
Assessing our strength
Looking back at the days before our legislation
passed, I'll never forget the time spent meeting with legislators and writing checks
to the Political Action Committee (PAC). And it made me wonder: Was the day our
legislation passed the day that optometry in Tennessee became its strongest? Or
was it actually the day that our strength first began to fade?
I refer to my experience and observations
in Tennessee not to single out my home state, but rather to identify a pattern that
seems to have manifested itself in all of the 50 states, as well as on a national
level. Did the strength, unity, influence and sense of purpose the qualities
that we gained in those days of legislative battles fall victim to the success
that we all shared?
Misperceptions of success
Perhaps the problem is rooted in the misperception
that success was defined by our accomplishment rather than by the "accomplishing."
Or perhaps optometrists perceived that the expansion of our scope of practice was
the end goal that relieved us of further action.
I would argue that expanding the scope
of practice and the individual certification were merely intermediate goals on the
path to providing our patients the scope of care that we knew we were capable of
providing as healthcare professionals.
In that regard, our time for action
is not over. One of the current challenges that all optometrists face is finding
patients to serve with our expanded scope and certification. On an offensive front,
we must work to eliminate our exclusion from provider panels so that we have access
to patients. The mounting efforts by ophthalmology to legislatively reduce our existing
scope of practice seems to be our constant challenge on a defensive front.
Does optometry have the continued resources
to meet these challenges? If support of lobbying efforts is any indication, then
unfortunately, the answer is not as positive as it should be. PAC contributions
have fallen dramatically over the years while at the same time, earnings by individual
optometrists have continued to rise.
These offensive and defensive challenges
are realities that we must deal with optometrists must come together, shoulder
to shoulder once again in an effort to move our profession forward. I don't believe
this is bad for optometry but rather good. Once again we as optometrists are required
to focus on accomplishing rather than what we have accomplished.
Optometric Management, Issue: October 2005