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.
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.
- For more information:
Agustin L. Gonzalez, OD, FAAO, ABCMO, practices at Eye and Vision’s North Texas Center for Dry Eye and Ocular Surface Disease. He also founded a dry eye clinic in the North Texas area and has a special interest in cornea and external disease. Gonzalez is a member of the Primary Care Optometry News Editorial Board. He can be reached at:firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclosure: Gonzalez reports no relevant financial disclosures.