Continuing education is a cornerstone of optometry. Optometrists take pride in building upon their knowledge base, seeking scope of practice privileges in the treatment of glaucoma or the use of oral drugs, for example. Many also go above and beyond, acquiring many more credits than their states require.

Why do they do this? Because improving the quality of care that they deliver to their patients is their first priority. Remember this when you consider the recent move by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) to exclude optometrists from its educational events (see American Academy of Ophthalmology Bans O.D.s from Meetings,).

Criticisms of the policy have taken many forms. Some make a political argument; others are just plain angry and respond accordingly. But the bottom line is this: The Academy has chosen to suppress learning. This deprives not only you, as optometrists, but also the millions of Americans who turn to you to seek care. I strongly recommend that you fight this battle on those terms, and set aside unproductive, argumentative rhetoric. Rise above it.

For Review of Optometry, it is certainly ironic that this policy comes just as we are wrapping up an issue that is devoted to the Association for Research in Vision
and Ophthalmology, or ARVO (an educational meeting geared toward M.D.s), and features a report on ethics (see Test Yourself on These Ethical Challenges,).

We could not have foreseen the Academys recent move when we selected these topics for the present issue; but its certainly made our staff and contributors think a little harder about the marriage of these two ideas. Hopefully, it will also inspire the AAO to reconsider its own so-called ethical arguments, as well as prevent other ophthalmologic organizations from becoming infected with the same fear-based response to well-educated colleagues.

As Arthur B. Epstein, O.D., noted in a recent edition of Optometric Physician, its actually quite sad to see the wedge between the two professions grow.

Optometrists and ophthalmologists work side by side every day in hospitals, universities, clinicsand even in private practice. Why the AAO does not respect those relationships, I cant say. But, at the end of the day, if you look at the big picture, it doesnt really matter because these relationships exist, with or without admittance to one meeting among many. Optometry doesnt really need the AAO.
There is a plethora of quality educational events available to optometrists. In fact, to further add to the irony surrounding this issue, I am attending one right now, as I type this (outside the lecture hall, of course).

Not to mention optometrys own large-scale meetings, in the past two weeks alone I have heard outstanding lectures at smaller educational venues: The Optometric Retina Society in Boston and Reviews own ForeSight East in Hilton Head, S.C. Both are receiving high marks from attendees and will heighten the profession by advancing patient care.

Without a doubt, restrictive policies will hurt the AAO much more than they will hurt optometry. There is no shortage of education for optometrists or ophthalmologists. Whats more, I imagine that many of the AAOs members are ashamed of the views espoused by their leaders, and believe that its unethical to bar O.D.swith whom they comanage patientsfrom educational events.  

Vol. No: 141:05Issue: 5/15/04