The theme of last month’s SECO conference in Atlanta was, “The Big Picture: Widen Your Perspective.” The big picture I came away with? That a broad swath of the medical community finally recognizes the legitimacy of optometric primary eye care. 

SECO again featured many of the best and brightest in optometry. To see so many expert optometric clinicians advancing the profession in a collaborative spirit always feels great. But this year’s SECO also featured ophthalmologists and other non-OD experts delivering high-profile lectures on cutting-edge topics. Unlike some conferences that tout a single big-name MD as a bit of stunt casting, this was less showy and more truly cooperative.

Eye surgeon John Berdahl, MD, updated attendees on the mechanisms of glaucoma. Oculoplastics specialist Byron Wilkes, MD, gave an overview of lesions and other conditions treatable with eyelid and orbital surgery. Pediatrician Christina Master, MD, partnered with vision therapy guru Michael Gallaway, OD, to lecture on concussion injuries. Infectious disease specialist Robert Kalayjian, MD, addressed global healthcare crises like Ebola, HIV, malaria and the Zika virus. 

Reaching beyond the traditional field of clinicians, Columbia University’s Don Hood, PhD, who has been studying the physiology of the visual system for decades, gave a fascinating two-hour talk on the pathophysiology of macular damage in glaucoma and how it manifests in OCT scans and visual field tests. His talk was both a high-level discussion of the frontiers in visual science and a didactic lecture on day-to-day clinical practice concerns. Bravo to Dr. Hood for sharing his expertise with the optometric community (and SECO for making it happen).

How refreshing that these interdisciplinary efforts came off without drama. This was, after all, a conference that pushed at the edges of scope-of-practice battles—trailblazer and frequent Review contributor Nathan Lighthizer, OD, gave talks on how ODs can perform laser procedures and injections, for instance. 

Not long ago, the thought of an ophthalmologist lecturing at an optometric meeting—aside from self-serving ones aimed at boosting referrals of surgical patients—was controversial. For an MD to attend an OD conference is to tacitly condone it. But to educate is to enable. Thankfully, outreach to optometry is no longer the third rail it once was. There will always be friction at the borders, but even the most stalwart ophthalmology traditionalists can’t deny that optometrists are central to the delivery of primary eye care. 

Meanwhile, up north in Massachusetts, ODs may finally get the right to prescribe glaucoma drugs.  “Unwarranted restrictions may be reducing patient access, raising costs, and foreclosing opportunities for early treatment,” wrote the Federal Trade Commission to the legislature in late February. It’s good to hear such restrictions called unwarranted by the FTC. Optometric primary care is now considered the norm, not an anomaly. It’s about time.