A few weeks ago, I had the honor of sitting in on a great meeting of the minds. A group of leading optometry educators gathered in Florida for two days to discuss the future of optometric education. Ironically, shortly after the meeting had been scheduled, word spread that the Association of Regulatory Boards of Optometry (ARBO) would soon be releasing its new standards for continuing education (CE).

Naturally, this provided even more fodder for the groups lively discussion.

Indeed, a week after the Florida Optometric Speakers Summit meeting, ARBO held a press conference at SECO, where it officially announced the new regulations.

The standards arent yet set in stone, but, if approved, they would prevent a company from having input into the content of a CE course. In fact, manufacturers will no longer be approved as COPE administrators. Commercial support may only be made in the form of an unrestricted educational grant. Also, lecturers cant be paid by industry and must disclose any company affiliation at the outset.

Jerry Richt, O.D., secretary-treasurer of ARBOthe organization that oversees the Council on Optometric Practitioner Education (COPE)says that the new standards are in response to requests by lecturers and optometric leaders, as well as by members of industry, to supplement existing guidelines in order to provide clear distinctions on commercial sponsorship.

The new regulations are clearly a move in the direction of those followed by medicine, which has some optometrists asking if they are also a good fit for optometry. Few would argue that commercial-free CE standards are a bad thing. Still, many are wary that too much restriction could limit industry funding of CE events, which could spell trouble for the profession.

ARBO President Christina Sorenson, O.D., says that the organization wishes to hear from all interested partieslecturers, attendees and industry leadersduring the open comment period, which runs from now until June, when the standards will be finalized.

All comments must be submitted in writing to ARBO, 1750 South Brentwood Blvd., Suite 503, St. Louis, MO 63144.

Review of Optometry will keep you posted as this story develops.

Vol. No: 145:03Issue: 3/14/2008