Transition to a new paradigm for optometric education began 50 years ago with the expanded scope of optometric practice in Rhode Island, and the introduction of optometric postgraduate clinical training. All states now authorize some form of expanded scope of practice, and there has been an increase in the number of postgraduate/residency positions. The creation of the Specialty Certification Board (ABCMO) in Medical Optometry was the first attempt at ensuring adequate and uniform preparation for expanded scope of medical practice.
Optometry is on the same path followed by medicine for specialty training and Board Certification; however, there is an important difference between optometry and medicine regarding postgraduate clinical training and licensure. Medicine requires postgraduate clinical training for licensure while optometry does not, although most States require additional education and/or clinical experience to meet requirements of expanded optometric scope of practice laws. These additional requirements are simply not adequate preparation for the expanded responsibilities of modern, expanded scope optometric practice.
Expansion of practice capabilities for optometrists requires formal postgraduate clinical training in Medical Optometry. Mandating postgraduate training in Medical Optometry for licensure would:
- Facilitate adequate and uniform preparation of optometrists for expanded scope of practice
- Initiate the process for Specialty Board Certification
- Position optometry for inclusion in the multi-billion dollar Graduate Medical Education Program (GME) and
- Enhance the prestige of the profession of optometry.
By converting the current 4th year in the optometry school curriculum to the first year of postgraduate clinical training with emphasis in Medical Optometry, the immediate need for a significant increase in Medical Residencies could be met while simultaneously expanding the current network of optometric medical residencies.