A man suffering from a miserable cold went to see his doctor. The doctor prescribed some pills, but they didn"t help.

So, the man went back to the doctor for another visit. The doctor gave him a shot, but the shot didn"t do any good.

On his third visit, the doctor told the man, "Go home and take a hot bath. As soon as you get out of the bath, throw open all of the windows and stand in the draft."

"But, Doc," the patient said. "If I do that, I"ll get pneumonia."

"I know," said the doctor. "I can treat pneumonia."

Are you ever tempted to treat a patient this way?

All too often, when we can"t fix one problem, we turn to something we"re sure we can fix, even if it"s not really broken. It helps us feel as if we have things under control, but it doesn"t solve the problem at hand. And, as in the case of the patient above, it can make the situation worse.

Currently, the optometric community is up in arms over what appears to be a big problem: The University of North Carolina Pembroke (UNCP) has a new school of optometry on the drawing board.

Many O.D.s are enraged at the idea. The online optometric chatrooms are buzzing. One optometrist has posted a petition on the Internet to oppose the new school.
These O.D.s say that a school of optometry would make the oversupply of eye doctors that much worse. Incomes would drop. And, some O.D.s say, schools are graduating more students just to make a profit, not to better the profession.

In response, UNCP says its aim is to graduate doctors to fill the need for eye care in underserved rural areas. The school also hopes to boost the numbers of minorities in optometry.

People on either side of this argument are entrenched. They make it sound like a life or death issue.

But is a new school of optometry truly that much of a problem? Will a few extra doctors in the profession significantly affect your practice?

Yeah, ophthalmologists try to cap the numbers of their graduates. So, you want to be like them?

I can tell you, in my profession, there"s no one putting a stop to graduates in journalism or writing. Jobs in the publishing field are scarce, yet we still have a heck or a time finding a good editor when we need one.

Likewise, there"s no one stopping teachers from entering the workforce. And we just can"t get enough good teachers.

In the same vein, we can never have enough good optometrists. A good O.D. raises the level of the profession for everyone.

Take a step back. Is the number of doctors in the profession really an issue for you? Are we trying to fix a problem that we think we can wrap our hands around? We point a finger and say, "Stop that!"

Meanwhile, have we turned a blind eye to problems right in front of us that are more nebulous and harder to grapple with?

If you hear yourself telling someone to go stand in a draft, then you know the answer.

Vol. No: 142:2Issue: 2/15/05