Article Date: 9/1/2006

Tech Connection
Four Easy Pieces That Define Our Profession

Understand these important components to practice optometry to the fullest.

By Louis J. Catania, O.D., F.A.A.O

CONGRATULATIONS! YOU ARE NOW — or will soon be — a Doctor of Optometry. You've worked hard to achieve this professional distinction and the new role and responsibilities it carries. It's worth taking a moment to look ahead (and back a bit) to fully understand the fundamental elements — I call them "four easy pieces" — that define this new station in your life.

Those who understand and embrace these dissimilar yet converging pieces usually become the great doctors and leaders in our profession. Those who never quite get the picture never really appreciate or enjoy their careers to the fullest. Let's discuss these elements to see who you'd like to be in optometry.


You've already completed part of the first piece — your education. We are defined by the educational process. Where this piece differs from one O.D. to the next is how we proceed after our formal education. That's why they call it "commencement." The day you graduate optometry school is the first day of the rest of your educational process. And, indeed, that's the real education that ultimately defines you and our profession.


The second piece that defines your new professional role and responsibilities isn't as laudable as education, but it's just as real and sometimes poorly understood or embraced by doctors of optometry. It's the enabling legislation under which we practice, which defines exactly what optometry is and what O.D.s can do. This piece sometimes seems at odds with our education when it prevents us from providing all the services we've been taught to provide. It's unfortunate when politics, with all its frailties, dictates what you are. But that's life, and we have to deal with it.

As a matter of fact, as members of a minority profession in healthcare and as part of such a vulnerable group, O.D.s must understand the political process and actively participate in it. To abdicate this responsibility jeopardizes everything else that defines us. Deny it or avoid it and you (and your patients) may never be able to enjoy your professional life and contributions to their fullest.


The third element that defines optometry is technology. As much as our formal and continuing education prepares us and helps us maintain our competencies, technologies past, present and future are of equal importance. They are our tools. And just as skilled craftsmen are defined by their tools, professions are defined in large part by their technologies. Understanding them, mastering them and using them to their fullest will always define the essence of your professional care.


The last element that defines you and your profession is significantly different from the others, yet it makes them all worthwhile. It's how you care for and care about your patients and your profession. You have chosen optometry to allow you to provide care to patients in need. Your passion and the way you feel about that care, yourself and your profession will ultimately and truly define you as a doctor.

Dr. Catania is with Nicolitz Eye Consultants in Jacksonville, Fla. He does clinical research; consults for ophthalmic companies and professional journals; and writes and lecture worldwide. You can reach him at

Optometric Management, Issue: September 2006