The Council on Optometric Practitioner Education (COPE) was created by the Association of Association of Regulatory Boards of Optometry (ARBO) to help grow optometry through regulated oversight of the discipline’s education. Now, the council has invited the American Academy of Optometry (AAO) and the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) to join the cause. The group’s restructuring came after what Brett G. Bence, OD, past AAO president, called “several years of profession-wide discussions.”
COPE’s newly established governing committee will be comprised of representatives of the AAO, ASCO and ARBO. These new participants will weigh in on the setting of standards for continuing education programs, writing COPE policies and procedures, making accreditation determinations based on compliance with COPE criteria and creating an annual report to the ARBO House of Delegates.
The realignment doesn’t come as a surprise to those involved in organized optometric education—the issue’s been percolating for several years. COPE has, historically, been a review process for state boards to determine whether continuing education qualifies for relicensure credit. This new deal is a step toward a broadening away from a simple regulatory approach toward an educational emphasis, something commonly found across medical disciplines. The new accreditation approach strives to resemble that of medical groups such as the Accrediting Council for Continuing Medical Education, which feature multi-organizational oversight.
The “understanding between ARBO, AAO and ASCO to share in the governance of, and decisions on, the certification of continuing professional education marks an important step forward for our profession,” says ASCO President David Damari, OD. He added that this move is “a model that is much more common in medicine and other health professions.”