Scott A. Edmonds, OD, FAAO, focuses his blog on the role of the optometrist in health care reform – moving from primary eye care to primary health care. He is the chief medical officer of MARCH Vision Care, the co-director of the Low Vision/Contact Lens Service at Wills Eye Institute in Philadelphia and a member of the Primary Care Optometry News Editorial Board. 

Disclosure: Edmonds is a consultant for March Vision.

BLOG: Should the optometric curriculum include public health?

The Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece by Dr. Stanley Goldfarb on Sept. 12, “Take two aspirin and call me by my pronouns.”

In this piece, Dr. Goldfarb makes a case that the medical education has made a “left turn” into political issues by teaching medical students about social justice issues such as gun control and climate change. He believes that traditional American medical education that emphasizes a scientific approach to treatment of disease is being squeezed by the political agenda of many of the young progressive faculty members.

This article has generated a firestorm of criticism from doctors and medical educators and prompted a disclaimer by the dean of the University of Pennsylvania – Perelman School of Medicine. The letter from the dean noted that as a medical school, they “...deeply value inclusion and diversity as fundamental to effective health care delivery, creativity, discovery and lifelong learning.”

This controversy raises the question of the role of public health in optometric education. As a former member of the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education, I can attest to the compliance of the schools and colleges to the rigorous Standard of Accreditation. These standards include, in Standard II, Curriculum: 2.9.6, “The graduate must be able to apply knowledge of professional, ethical, legal and public health principles to the delivery of optometric care.” As an adjunct faculty member at Salus University, providing annual lectures in the public health curriculum, I can also attest to the importance that our course plays in teaching the students about our role as primary care optometrists in the American health care system.

To prepare for this work, I am an active member of the American Public Health Association. This organization takes a very strong position on social issues such as gun violence, climate change and the social determinants of health. They also advocate for public safety issues such as seat belts, infant restraints and bicycle helmets. They support prohibitions on smoking, drug and alcohol abuse, and sugary beverages. And, of course, they are big on wellness and prevention.

It is hard to consider issues of public health and safely without supporting socialization. Clean water, clean air, waste disposal, and road building, repair and maintenance are all examples of public programs that are best handled at the governmental level. The issue of health care and the degree of socialization continues to be a hot topic. Although the government-sponsored health care programs for the elderly and the poor, Medicare and Medicaid, are widely accepted, any consideration of government involvement in universal health care makes one a Socialist.