CommentaryPerspective

Should optometry recognize specialties?

Is it time for optometry to formally recognize specialties? From an academic perspective, the answer is yes; stating otherwise diminishes many of our colleagues’ accomplishments, dismisses our postdoctoral educational process and denies health care the recognition of many optometric areas of expertise that are a benefit to society.

It is difficult to think that all optometrists are comfortable experts in all the optometric fields. I am hard-pressed to argue that all optometrists have the in-depth experience that a residency-trained individual has, especially in fields such as low vision, specialty lens fitting, vision therapy or disease management. These postdoctoral efforts have much value in our profession and are of great service to the public.

Agustin L. Gonzalez

The argument that recognizing specialties would be a disaster for the profession is not accurate. Claiming that peers who obtain segment-specific knowledge by furthering their academic achievements weaken our profession is educationally irresponsible and difficult to defend.

Accepting that optometrists cannot specialize discredits optometric knowledge by ignoring the unique clinical benefits some optometrists can contribute to our patients and specific areas of health care. The experience and skills that take many years of patient care can now be accelerated, under the supervision of experienced mentors, in a structured educational environment. This specialized training benefits optometry and impacts society as it extends the longevity of a professional with an area of expertise.

I would argue that having specialties complements our profession, validates referral patterns that exist today and would make optometry a stronger profession. It is time to recognize specialties in optometry. It may be a divisive issue if based on superficial arguments. Once we internalize the contribution to clinical knowledge and value to society, this step will make our profession stronger.

Disclosure: Gonzalez reports no relevant financial disclosures.

Is it time for optometry to formally recognize specialties? From an academic perspective, the answer is yes; stating otherwise diminishes many of our colleagues’ accomplishments, dismisses our postdoctoral educational process and denies health care the recognition of many optometric areas of expertise that are a benefit to society.

It is difficult to think that all optometrists are comfortable experts in all the optometric fields. I am hard-pressed to argue that all optometrists have the in-depth experience that a residency-trained individual has, especially in fields such as low vision, specialty lens fitting, vision therapy or disease management. These postdoctoral efforts have much value in our profession and are of great service to the public.

Agustin L. Gonzalez

The argument that recognizing specialties would be a disaster for the profession is not accurate. Claiming that peers who obtain segment-specific knowledge by furthering their academic achievements weaken our profession is educationally irresponsible and difficult to defend.

Accepting that optometrists cannot specialize discredits optometric knowledge by ignoring the unique clinical benefits some optometrists can contribute to our patients and specific areas of health care. The experience and skills that take many years of patient care can now be accelerated, under the supervision of experienced mentors, in a structured educational environment. This specialized training benefits optometry and impacts society as it extends the longevity of a professional with an area of expertise.

I would argue that having specialties complements our profession, validates referral patterns that exist today and would make optometry a stronger profession. It is time to recognize specialties in optometry. It may be a divisive issue if based on superficial arguments. Once we internalize the contribution to clinical knowledge and value to society, this step will make our profession stronger.

Disclosure: Gonzalez reports no relevant financial disclosures.

    Perspective

    ARBO looks at this from the perspective of protecting the public. We are always in favor of optometrists furthering their expertise and skills in order to provide the best possible care to their patients. However, regardless of whether the profession chooses to recognize specialties, the regulatory boards will still have rules in place about how optometrists are permitted to market themselves. Currently, many jurisdictions do not allow an optometrist to promote themselves as being better or more highly educated than others, so that may be something the licensing boards will have to take another look at if this endeavor continues to move forward.

    • – Association of Regulatory Boards of Optometry