o.d. to o.d.
so many opportunities available, we might ask: In which modality does optometry have its most secure
WALTER D. WEST, O.D., F.A.A.O. Chief Optometric Editor
of my time is spent working with optometry students from across the United States,
Canada and Puerto Rico. In this diverse mix of soon to be practitioners, there are
many different personalities, many different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, many
different dreams of what their professional career in optometry will become, and
many different opinions of what their success in practice might look like.
Surveying the opportunities
There are many opportunities for optometrists
in today's eyecare industry. Many new graduates are on a quest for employment, perhaps
in industry or research and development. Others search for an associateship, and
still others see themselves owning their own businesses. Many opportunities exist
today that weren't available 20 years ago or even ten years ago laser centers,
co-management centers, referral centers, practices that combine optometry and ophthalmology,
optometry and opticianry, optometry and discount clubs, optometry and large retailers
and the list goes on and on.
One thing that all of these opportunities
have in common is that they rely on what has always been the life's blood of optometry:
the patient. That's right, the one thing that all of the varied modalities of practice
have in common is that they connect optometrists with patients. The optometrists
who would rather gain their patients through the name recognition and marketing
efforts of national, regional or local optical chains have that opportunity available,
as do others who would prefer that they be represented by the branding efforts of
retailers and discounters.
Still others, in smaller and smaller
numbers, will choose to brand themselves and grow their own business in local markets.
Which direction is right?
So which is the right way to practice? Which is
the "professional" way to practice? In which of these practice modalities does optometry
have it's most secure future? I believe that the correct answer is, all of the above.
All of the above, because in each and
every instance, optometrists are serving patients, and more patients than ever are
having their needs met in a broader scope of practice than ever before.
Does the "traditional" optometric
practice look different than many of us remember from the early years of our own
career? Sure it does. But the market and the consumers of healthcare services
in that market looks different as well. The practice modalities of today's
optometry look the way the consuming public desires: conveniently located, easily
accessible, highly visible and innovative.
The common thread
While optometry evolves to meet the needs of a
demanding consumer, optometrists themselves continue to seek products and services
that will help them improve, innovate and grow. Optometrists in all modalities of
practice seek national representation, resources for managing their practice, continuing
education and a sense that they belong to something larger in optometry than just
their specific mode of practice.
Every optometrist, regardless of practice
modality, also needs the sense that he or she belongs. And I don't mean that their
dues are paid, but rather that they are welcome and that they are part of optometry's
present as well as its future.
Optometric Management, Issue: December 2006