I received a very nice letter from optometrist J. Barry Remey, of Fort Smith, Ark., in which he offered his concern about the use of the word "prestigious" to describe, for example, an optometric practice. The thing that makes opto-metrists the most interesting health-care professionals is that only an optometrist would notice when a word such as "prestigious" becomes too easy for a colleague to throw out there. It"s our inquisitive nature.

But the important question is this: Is optometry prestigious?

Depends on what "is" is, right? Prestige is personal. When I think of prestige, I think of walking into a room and some lady comes over to ask me if I play in that band she heard at the honky-tonk last weekend. That"s MY kind of prestige!  The answer, straight from the rock-and-roll handbook, is always "yes" if a female asks, and "no" if a male asks. In the latter situation, he is probably angry with you for some real or imagined rock-and-roll offense (probably real and probably related to the above-mentioned female, for which he will now kill you).
But what about optometry? Is our profession prestigious? I choose to say, "Yes, it is." There, that was easy. Optometry IS prestigious. See you next month.
Money, Power and Toilets

You still here? What now? Oh, you want me to tell you why we should consider our profession as prestigious? OK, I can do that ...

First, optometry is prestigious because it is OUR profession. If I was a plumber, I would state unequivocally that plumbing is prestigious. One has to feel that way. If you don"t, you should go do something else. People do things other than optometry or plumbing every day, and they are often quite successful. In fact, my plumber can buy and sell any O.D. I know. There"s a lot of room for success in unstopping toilets.

Which brings us to number two. (And that"s not a cheap potty joke, either. Now pay attention.) Money. Optometrists make pretty good money. If that, in your mind, is related to prestige, then there"s your answer. When an O.D. runs a tight ship that"s located in a good area, and he or she makes good decisions that benefit patients, that O.D. also earns decent money. Almost all the optometrists I know drive a nice car and join a country club. That all takes a good steady income, and for some people, money can mean prestige.

What about power? Prestige can mean power, and power can mean prestige. This is where I believe that optometrists can have an inferiority complex. We sometimes feel disrespected by our ophthalmologist colleagues and by our legislators. We feel we have no power. This may be because our receptionists tell us to shut up when we start telling that same old story about some guy"s glasses for the 100th time. For some doctors, it can happen when the American Academy of Ophthal-mology and American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery bans us from their meetings. (I have been to optometry and ophthalmology meetings, and I can tell you that ours are about what is better for the patient, and that"s what matters, so they can kiss off.)

You see, prestige is personal. So, how can you decide for yourself about prestige?

Start with the root of the word and it all becomes clear. Webster"s New World Dictionary (by the way, mine lists Lyndon B. Johnson as the current president of the United States) states that the root of the word "prestige" comes from the French praestigiae and Latin praestringere. These mean delusion and to blindfold, respectively.

Then again, maybe we don"t need prestige, after all. Sounds like an M.D. kind of thing to me.

Vol. No: 141:10Issue: 10/23/04