Optometry: Back to the Future

By Daniel L. Mannen, OD, FAAO August 19, 2011

Think about it. We are now living smack dab in the middle of what used to be the future. When I graduated in 1980, who could have envisioned that optometry would elevate and become the fantastic patient care profession which we know today? We have come a long way. The faith and confidence patients place in us is both sobering and motivational. We do a great job for our patients, and as our professional scope of practice has expanded, we have become an essential part of the healthcare team.It has not been easy. Optometry today continues to be a legislated profession. Every expansion of our clinical privilege has been achieved via the blood, sweat, and tears of doctors on a mission to provide the best for their patients. Our patients recognize the benefits, we understand our capabilities, and yet, we must continue to demonstrate for legislators and policymakers our expertise. And perform, we have. Our practices are characterized by outstanding care, excellent outcomes, and loyal patients.

So where do we go from here? It seems to me that we have a choice. We can either roll up our sleeves and continue the work, or we can let others determine our fate. I believe we must continue on, for the benefit of our patients and for the enlightenment of other medical colleagues. We cannot drop our guard and assume that we will be given equal standing in the medical community just because it is fair. Let's not forget, it is a competitive world, and our success is an economic and professional challenge to others providing a similar service.

Our optometric schools are busy training the next generation of optometrists. The programs are rigorous and demanding. The quality of the graduates will be outstanding and will only get better. My own son and daughter are anticipating careers in optometry. So, I am optimistic about the future of optometry. I would challenge we old farts to stay engaged and help our younger colleagues continue the legacy.

I think the sky is the limit for optometry. We do a great job for our patients and should be given credit for excellence. Our challenge is to make certain that the world knows our story of cost effectiveness and quality. There are lots of sharks in the water: national healthcare reform, medical panel opportunity, and increasing online purchasing, to name a few. But if you ask me where the optometric profession is headed, the answer is clear: it's “Back to the Future.”

"Time circuits on…fluxing. Engine running." Marty McFly

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