Medical Education leads the Medical Profession by developing the educational structure and clinical training programs in advance of new patient care initiatives. In contrast, State Optometric societies lead the Optometric Profession with Optometric Education reacting to the States’ expanded scope of practice initiatives with specific educational programs. Consequently, there is not a comprehensive educational structure nor a uniform indicator of an optometrist’s knowledge and clinical skills to support all of the States’ expanded scope of practice initiatives. These are the three missing components that need to be developed:
1) Necessary Capacity for Advanced Clinical Training in Medical Eye Care
- In 1931 Medicine acknowledged that clerkships contained within the four year medical school curriculum were inadequate preparation for rapidly changing medical practice, and instituted mandatory postgraduate clinical training.
- Even though optometric practice has dramatically and rapidly expanded encompassing medical eye care, clerkships within the four year optometry curriculum remain the only required clinical training component.
- The current four year curriculum does not provide optometry graduates with the types and quantity of clinical teaching encounters necessary to practice expanded scope of practice in all States.
- Postgraduate clinical training in medical eye care is now essential preparation for advanced optometric practice.
2) Federal Funding to Support Advanced Clinical Training
- Optometry is not included in the $18 Billion Graduate Medical Education Program (GME) because clinical education takes place primarily within the four year curriculum, and not in postgraduate residencies.
- Inclusion in GME, the educational component of Medicare, would not only encourage the development of new residency positions in Medical Eye Care by providing funding to host facilities, but also by providing funding to directly support advanced clinical training.
- Optometric Education needs to change from providing clinical education within the current four year curriculum to a Postgraduate Clinical Training Model to qualify for GME.
- Like medicine, clinical clerkships or rotations would take place within the final years of the curriculum.
3) Nationally Recognized Certification Board to Provide a Uniform Indicator of an Optometrist’s Advanced Knowledge and Skills to Practice Expanded Scope of Practice Optometry
- The American Board for Certification in Medical Optometry (ABCMO) is a well-established Board that meets GME expectations. However, ABCMO serves mostly Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) optometrists, and needs to be recognized by the entire Optometric Profession.