Female ODs Can Thrive in Private Practice

As a female optometrist in private practice, I’d like to share my perspective on the topic of underrepresentation of women in this employment setting, as described in the June editorial, “Profit and Loss,” and the July article, “Optometry at Work: The How, When and Where of Who Delivers Care.”

On Instagram, I follow numerous ODs, many of whom are great, young influencers. Some female optometrists have posted about how women in our field make much less than our male counterparts, and I cannot help but wonder if it’s because so few of us ladies are in private practice—or is it truly that males in commercial or ophthalmology practices simply earn more than females? Do women in private practice make less than men in private practice? This wasn’t discussed in your article, and it’s worth exploring. The overall trend in compensation for optometrists, and the wider workforce of the entire country, suggests this is likely.

Regarding the notion that the added burden of childcare makes self employment a harder proposition for us as female business owners, I think this is where we (as women) can be our own worst enemy if we aren’t careful. I feel like I live somewhere between the woman who shouts, “I am woman, hear me roar—you can have it all!” and the woman who worries, “As a mother, your children should come first.” I have embraced the realization that to be a mother and an optometry practice owner, both of those types of women can exist in me at the same time. Some days, one speaks louder in my head than the other.

Balancing family and professional obligations does not have to make self employment a harder proposition for us as women. In many ways, practice ownership puts me in charge of my schedule and thus allows me to be present at school events and volunteer opportunities, which only increases my patient load because I am known in my community thanks to parental participation. In another sense, this gig requires superior creativity—creating a school room in my practice, for example, for “virtual school” during Covid.

Do I have days where I have to take off due to my child being sick? Yes, if I cannot turn to a family member for their help. Do I sometimes have to bring my kids to work? Yes, which makes for interesting patient conversations when my two-year-old comes out of her make-shift office playroom into my crowded lobby and yells, “I just pooped in the potty!” 

The hustle of it all is incredibly rewarding, and I am not sorry that I am doing it.

—Haley A. Perry, OD, Elite Eye Care

Asheville, NC

Optometry is Losing its Vision Care Touch

As a very experienced optometrist with decades of time in clinical practice (I just received acknowledgement from the AOA regarding 60 years of AOA membership) and a history of a multitude of optometric certifications, I am sad to say that it seems that the essence of optometry—our depth of knowledge of visual care—is being lost, with too many graduates entering into a profession which now looks like non-surgical ophthalmology, and only vaguely like optometry.

I recently retired from a practice that included behavioral optometry, developmental vision, adult and pediatric vision therapy, neuro-optometric rehabilitation, low vision care, contact lens care, ortho-K and full-scope medical optometry.

During my long career, I have had myriad young associates pass through my practice, virtually all of whom were vague about visual analysis, unsure about the binocular vision system and not interested in the relevance of the interaction of accommodation and convergence. They tended to ignore near-point retinoscopy, were clueless about PRA/NRA findings, were not really sure how to interpret blur/break/recovery binocular vision testing at distance or near and were also relatively clueless about when vision therapy vs. prism eyeglasses can help binocular vision issues, and they performed only perfunctory refractions.

I can picture the long-deceased Drs. Skeffington, the father of behavioral vision care, and Feinbloom, the pioneer of low vision optics, being upset at the loss of the visual essence of optometry.

An actively practicing colleague of mine recently joked that he hired a well-trained new graduate who knows lots about ocular pathology diagnosis and treatment, but who seemed to view a phoropter near-point rod “mostly as an effective back scratcher.”

We are doing well as a profession with regard to ocular pathology diagnosis and treatment, but we need to recover the important thing that separates us from ophthalmology: our in-depth knowledge and treatment of the visual system.

—Errol Rummel, OD, FAAO, FIALVS, Fellow Emeritus NORA and COVD

Jackson, NJ