Beginning in the 1970’s, a complacent profession and its educational institutions were awakened by bold leadership with innovative initiatives including:
- Rhode Island changed the Optometry practice law, and certified the first American Optometrists in the use of pharmaceuticals which led to all states eventually adopting and expanding their use.
- The VA Optometry Service was founded, the largest clinical training program in advanced practice for Optometry students, residents and fellows.
- Changed the way optometry students received clinical experience by expanding training to Community Health Centers, VA, Military and USPHS facilities and other health care facilities
- Recognized Specialties in Optometry
- Established academic MD/OD cooperative patient care/educational programs.
The Profession of Optometry now faces a major challenge as Traditional Refractive Practice is threatened by economics, technology, automation and expanded commercialization. There is a responsibility of the Professional and Academic leadership to again awaken the Profession and its Educational Institutions by addressing the threat with innovative initiatives. Postgraduate clinical training guided by Certification Boards is one of these critical initiatives.
Medically trained optometrists are needed to treat the high incidence of eye disease and other eye conditions in the growing elderly population. There are not enough ophthalmologists nor are there plans to significantly increase the number of ophthalmology residency positions.
Address the threat to Traditional Optometric Refractive Practice by (1) restructuring the curriculum to a three year OD program and re-designating the current 4th year as first year postgraduate residency. (2) A restricted Training Permit would be granted after earning OD degree and acceptance in a medical eye care residency program. (3) After completing all residency requirements and achieving Board Certification in the Specialty of Medical Eye Care by either the American Board of Certification in Medical Optometry (ABCMO) or the American Board of Ophthalmology (ABOP) an Expanded Optometric Practice State license would be granted.
Board Certification would entitle optometrists to practice Medical Eye Care in States with current and future optometric expanded practice laws (such as South Dakota and Montana which require physicians to complete residency training for license), qualify Board Certified optometrists for medical staff appointments and position optometry residency programs for inclusion in the multi-billion dollar Graduate Medical Education (GME) program. Board certification is recognized by State and Federal Legislatures, Governmental Agencies, Hospital Credentialing Committees and Insurance Companies as the “Gold Standard” for advanced competency and specialization. It demonstrates to the public that the optometrist’s clinical training is above and beyond minimum requirements.
New Certification Boards in Pediatric Optometry and Low Vision Rehabilitation
The American Board of Optometry Specialties (ABOS) has recommended the establishment of additional Specialty Boards in the Specialties of Pediatric Optometry and Low Vision Rehabilitation. Once the Boards are operational, optometrists can achieve Board Certification in these Specialties in addition to Medical Eye Care.
Also, Certification in Medical Eye Care Subspecialties recognizes additional advanced clinical training and fulfillment of additional requirements in six highly specialized areas: (1) Cornea and External Disease, (2) Emergency Eye Care, (3) Glaucoma, (4) Laser and Surgical Procedures, (5) Neuro-Ophthalmic Disorders and (6) Vitreo-Retinal Disease.