In 1996, I accepted the position of president, Illinois College of Optometry (ICO) and brought with me nearly thirty years of experience in collaborative relationships between optometry and ophthalmology. My conviction of the importance of cooperation between the two professions began at the New England College of Optometry in Boston’s community health centers, was carried forward at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry with the affiliation with Hahnemann University’s Department of Ophthalmology. It was tempered by my federal government experience as the director of optometry service at the VA and was fully realized with the signing of a comprehensive patient care, education and research affiliation between ICO and the University of Chicago (UofC).
Thus, October 16, 1997 was my best day in optometric education and reinforced my conviction that cooperation between the two disciplines presents numerous opportunities for enhancing patient care and clinical training for students and residents, and for fostering a better understanding and respect between the two professions, while reinforcing their natural synergism. The affiliation continues to this day, as a vibrant patient care and clinical education collaboration.
Although I remain convinced that affiliation with academic medicine will significantly enhance both clinical education and patient care for both optometry and ophthalmology, there are other challenges that also need to be addressed before optometric clinical education can reach its full potential. Some schools and colleges of optometry have addressed several of these challenges, but much still needs to be done. With continued support from the American Optometric Association (AOA) and the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO), many of these objectives can be achieved within the next five years.
- Include optometry in the federal programs of Graduate Medical Education (GME) and the National Health Service Corps (NHSC).
- Increase collaboration with community health care programs and increase commitment to public health responsibilities.
- Downsize large single purpose and costly campus-based clinics and replace with smaller referral centers and community-based training sites.
- Achieve Joint Commission for the Accreditation of Health Care Organizations (JCAHO) accreditation for campus-based and college-operated clinical facilities.
- Reorganize the colleges’ clinical programs into separate legal entities with their own administrations and governing boards.
- Implement incentive-based compensation (IBC) plans for faculty that integrate student and resident training.
- Develop and operate ophthalmic surgi-centers in partnership with medical school affiliates.
- Establish a national clearinghouse and placement service for optometric externships.
- Fund the Regional Centers of Eye Care Excellence (RCEE) within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and expand the Vision Impairment Centers to Optimize Remaining Sight (VICTORS).
Dr. Mullen was president of the Illinois College of Optometry from 1996 to 2002. He is currently on the Board of Trustees at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry and on the Board of Directors of the New England Eye Institute.
Journal of Optometric Education, 2006