We at Review of Optometry began 2016 by reflecting on what had come before—in this publication and in the profession as a whole—as part of our retrospective to honor the 125th anniversary of our debut. Back then, this journal was called The Optician, and optometry itself didn’t even have a name. Though its founders had a clear vision of what they hoped to accomplish, anything was possible.
It seems fitting that we end 2016 with this month’s focus on surgical comanagement-. That’s about as far away as you can imagine from what optometry’s early pioneers aspired to back in the mid to late 19th century. Most, in fact, might have been incredulous if a time traveler from today showed up at the optical shops and jewelry stores where “refracting opticians” began to separate from traditional opticianry and create the early origins of what we now call optometry.
Younger ODs may not fully realize just how hard it was to get from there to here. It started with the profession’s forefathers staking a claim to expertise in vision assessment and correction, raising the bar above the often dubious, or at least well-intentioned but imprecise, methods that came before. But even that seemingly uncontroversial goal required enormous effort; a bitter legislative slog took 23 years to pass optometry licensure laws in every US state. Toss in a few more decades’ worth of toil for the passage of DPA and TPA laws (roughly 1968 to 1998) and you begin to see that optometry’s advance has met stiff resistance at every turn. Even today, Massachusetts optometrists are still prevented from prescribing glaucoma drugs, a battle long finished in the rest of the country.
Despite a century of successes for optometry, modern threats and potential disruptors require ongoing vigilance. The recent FTC proposal on contact lens prescription release seems positively gift-wrapped for the likes of 1-800-CONTACTS. Online refraction and dispensing services have the potential to completely upend a traditional pillar of practice. And with the Affordable Care Act vulnerable and likely to be rebooted, optometry’s role in the broader healthcare landscape could be subject to seismic shifts in response.
The mantra in the early years—“organization, education, legislation”—bears repeating. Optometry won more battles than it lost but never took success for granted. Everyone with a stake in its future needs to participate, especially today. A chaotic political environment underscores the importance of organization and legislation. And as this month’s special supplement on 2017 optometric CE events makes plain, professional education has never been stronger, with more than 220 meetings planned next year and an increasingly global footprint.Optometry on the edge of ’17 may not be what founding fathers Charles Prentice and Andrew Cross expected, but its success is a testament to the adventurous spirit they imbued in it. And its future looks bright.