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optometry

optometry (meaning measurement of sight) is the science of measuring visual acuity to determine refractive errors of the eyes, and prescribing and fitting appropriate corrective lenses (in spectacles or as contact lenses). The term ‘optometrist’, imported from the US, has virtually displaced the original word ‘optician’ in the UK.

Optometrists also have to deal with patients who have poor vision for whatever reason, prescribing special lenses or low-vision aids, which help them to lead independent lives. This is essential work in a world increasingly dominated by the visual image in television, films, advertising, and the Internet.

Certain occupations require legally-defined minimum acuity levels, particularly those concerned with flying, or driving trains, cars, heavy goods vehicles, buses — or any public service vehicle. In some cases, public service drivers with refractive errors are obliged to wear glasses, not contact lenses, so that an inspector can tell at once if corrective lenses are in use.

When the National Health Service (NHS) was inaugurated in Britain in 1948, the Supplementary Ophthalmic Service (SOS) was also started, with the intention that eventually all the sight testing would be done in hospitals. In 1958 the Opticians Act established the General Optical Council (GOC), which included a few doctors but was not part of the NHS. The GOC is the statutory body for opticians/ optometrists, with regulatory functions concerning approval of training courses, qualifications, registration, and discipline, similar to those of the General Medical Council for doctors. By 1968 it was apparent that the SOS would never be integrated with the NHS as previously hoped, and the General Ophthalmic Service (GOS) replaced the SOS. Family doctor committees now control the provision of relevant services by dentists, pharmacists, local general practitioners, and the GOS.

Optometry courses lasting three years are taught in eight university departments and schools in the UK. Subjects taught for the BSc degree include anatomy, physiology, visual optics and perception, binocular vision, occupational optics and lighting, clinical practice, pharmacology, microbiology, ocular disease, communication skills, and professional and legal matters. After a pre-registration year and pre-qualifying examination, the student must become a member of the College of Optometrists, the professional body, to start in practice.

The vast majority of sight tests are performed by optometrists. These include measurement of visual acuity and refraction, visual field screening, measuring intra-ocular pressure, and ophthalmoscopy (viewing the interior of the eye with an ophthalmoscope), as and when required. It is a matter of political decision as to which groups of patients may be entitled to a free sight test.

In some areas of the UK, special, shared care clinics to deal with the visual problems of diabetes and glaucoma have been set up to provide the optometric expertise required for hospitals and general practices. Simple consideration of the fact that there are approximately ten times as many optometrists as consultant ophthalmologists in this country, combined with increasing prevalence of these diseases, confirms the need.

Finally, a small but growing number of optometrists forsake the commercial world and work in university departments of visual science, gaining higher degrees and doing valuable research on vision, the optics of the eye, contact lens design, and related topics.

Peter Fells


See also eyes; refractive errors.

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optometry

optometry (ŏptŏm´ətrē), eye-care specialty concerned with eye examination, determination of visual abilities, diagnosis of eye diseases and conditions, and the prescription of lenses and other corrective measures. In most states optometrists may prescribe drugs for the treatment of eye diseases. The principal concern of early optometrists was the prescription of corrective lenses for defects of vision due to refractive error. Modern optometry also includes the fitting of contact lenses and of telescopic eyeglasses as an aid to the near-blind, as well as the field of orthoptics, i.e., the practice of strengthening the eye muscles and improving their coordination by eye exercises. Prescriptions for corrective lenses provided by an optometrist are often brought to an optician, who grinds and fits the lenses.

The word optometry came into use in 1904 with the organization of the American Optometric Association. Until this time people bought eyeglasses from traveling vendors whose activities were not supervised. With the passage of optometry laws, this method of dispensing glasses was prohibited. Optometrists must now fulfill certain educational requirements and be examined and licensed by the state. Some of the schools of optometry in the United States are affiliated with colleges or universities. Optometry is a specialty requiring a four-year postgraduate professional degree. See also ophthalmology).

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optometry

op·tom·e·try / äpˈtämitrē/ • n. the practice or profession of examining the eyes for visual defects and prescribing corrective lenses. DERIVATIVES: op·to·met·ric / ˌäptəˈmetrik/ adj.

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optometry

optometry Testing of vision in order to prescribe corrective eyewear, such as spectacles or contact lenses. It is distinct from ophthalmology.

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optometry

optometry (op-tom-itri) n. the practice of testing the visual acuity of eyes and prescribing lenses to correct defects of vision.

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optometry

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Optometry

Optometry

Definition

Optometry is the profession of examining the eye for defects, diseases or faults of refraction, and prescribing pharmaceuticals, corrective lenses or exercises to treat these conditions. Doctors of optometry (O.D.s) are trained and licensed to detect and treat ocular symptoms and diseases.

Description

Doctors of optometry are primary health care professionals who examine, diagnose, treat, and manage diseases and disorders of the visual system, the eye, and associated structures, as well as diagnose related systemic conditions. They prescribe glasses, contact lenses, low vision rehabilitation, vision therapy, and medications, as well as perform certain surgical procedures. O.D.s need eight to 10 years of preparation for their profession—four years to earn the doctor of optometry degree, and one to two years of residency in training. Oklahoma, as of 2001, was the only state where O.D.s were allowed by law to perform laser refractive surgery. Other states also were considering similar measures.

The profession of optometry also routinely includes diagnosing and treating the ocular complications of diseases such as diabetes and hypertension; rehabilitating patients with brain injury or stroke; providing low vision services for the partially sighted. This includes vision therapy for patients with amblyopia and strabismus (crossed eyes). O.D.s also take an active co-management role with ophthalmologists (M.D.s) in the pre- and post-operative treatment of patients after laser refractive surgery and cataract surgery.

Primary care

All O.D.s treat diseases and dispense corrective lenses for astigmatism, hyperopia, and presbyopia. They monitor the patient's depth perception and ability to focus and see color. Many optometrists choose primary care or family practice because it gives them the biggest diversity of patients.

Some of these primary care O.D.s specialize in contact lens fittings. Recent advances have allowed patients previously restricted from wearing contact lenses to wear a number of types of lenses. Astigmatic and presbyopic patients require more specialized contact lens fitting which these specialists can provide. Sometimes other O.D.s or ophthalmologists will refer their patients to these contact lens specialists. These O.D.s also are more familiar with infections and irritants caused by contact lenses and how best to treat them.

Some O.D.s specialize in certain other areas of optometry, as well as in contact lenses. These specialties include:

Low vision/vision rehabilitation

Some O.D.s focus mainly on low vision services and work in tandem with ophthalmologists, rehabilitation specialists, and government and private agencies. They sometimes work together to determine the best optical devices that improve the quality of life for patients with limited vision. These patients are referred to these optometric specialists usually after a colleague has performed an initial evaluation. The O.D. and members of the specialized team take the routine exam one step further by utilizing magnifiers, specialized charts, telescopes, colored filters, lenses, prisms, computerized devices, lights, and closed-circuit televisions designed to maximize vision. The low vision specialist is up-to-date on the latest vision aids and treatments so that his patients can lead more productive lives.

Vision therapy (developmental vision)

Vision therapy is a specialty where O.D.s concentrate on how eyesight affects human behavior. Vision therapy specialists work with physicians, psychologists, educators and parents to treat learning disorders, for example, dyslexia, by helping patients with hand-eye and other motor coordination. These specialists also treat patients suffering from amblyopia and strabismus. Some of these patients are adults; many are school-age children.

Pediatric optometry

This is a popular optometric specialty. Common vision problems in children include myopia, amblyopia and strabismus. These specialists work with parents and children, and school systems, counseling them on proper treatment as well as nutrition.

Geriatric optometry

As patients age, the frequency of ocular disease increases. Specialists can detect and treat macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic eye conditions. They also can detect cataracts and co-manage these patients post-operatively with an ophthalmologist.

With the geriatric population expected to increase dramatically due to aging baby boomers, more optometrists will find an expanding need to serve this population, and possibly increase the number of O.D.s who might decide to choose this specialty.

Some O.D.s focus on these patients in an existing practice, while others serve patients in nursing homes or clinics with large numbers of elderly patients.

Research and consulting

Some vision companies, especially contact lens manufacturers, seek out optometrists to help them with new product development or to refine existing products. Other optometrists conduct research in a clinical or educational setting.

Work settings

O.D.s may have private, group, or partnership practices in hospitals and eye clinics. There are also commissioned posts for optometrists in the military. Government agencies seek advice from O.D.s for health advisory committees, and corporations rely on optometrists for consultation on new products.

Optometrists practice mainly in solo private practices or in a group private practice with other O.D.s. Their offices are located in office buildings, medical parks, storefronts and shopping malls. Some O.D.s opt for working for or franchising chain "superstores" that offer a big selection of frames and quick-turn-around for patients.

With the rise of laser refractive surgery, O.D.s are increasingly becoming a part of ophthalmologists' group practices. In these instances, the O.D. is usually not a co-owner of the practice, but an employee instead. Some refractive laser centers keep O.D.s on staff strictly for co-managing the large volume of refractive surgery patients.

Education and training

O.D.s must complete high school and a bachelor's degree before admission to a four-year optometry school. The pre-optometry student's courses should include physics, organic chemistry, biology or zoology, physiology, statistics, geometry and calculus. These students also need to score in the top percentages of the Optometric Admissions Test before being accepted to an optometry program. Admission to these accredited programs is limited, so it is important for students to maintain a high undergraduate grade point average and achieve a high score on the admissions test to earn a slot at these schools.

The four-year programs focus mainly on clinical and practical teachings. In recent years a few programs have added practice management courses to help optometrists cope with managed care paperwork and increased competition from retail chains. First-year students study human anatomy and physiology and the basic principles of optics. Optometric sciences, ocular physiology and pathology, vision anomalies, and instruments of clinical practice are studied in the second year. Third-year students take those same topics to a higher level and begin studying contact lens fitting and general clinical practice. The student's last year of study includes treating patients under the guidance of teaching optometrists, usually at optometry-school run clinics. Student O.D.s during the fourth year prescribe and fit contact lenses, and diagnose and treat visual system conditions.

During the four years, optometry students also are offered a number of electives that include epidemiology, environmental vision, microbiology, and biostatistics.

Optometry schools usually operate clinics where patients need them most—in inner-city neighborhoods, nursing homes or correctional facilities. This enables care for patients in need while offering fourth-year students an opportunity to detect and treat a number of ocular conditions.

After optometry students complete a four year program but before they can begin practice, they must complete a series of written examinations—at least three written and one practical—for a license in order to practice. These licenses are granted by state boards of optometry. Each state has different requirements. While they are similar, graduating optometry students must check with each licensing board for specific requirements.

Advanced education and training

Recent optometry school graduates sometimes complete master's or doctorate degrees in related medical specialties such as physiological optics, visual sciences or public health. Some of these doctors enter research or education.

Optometrists who want to specialize in certain areas complete a one-year residency after graduation at educational institutions or hospitals. These internships could include pediatric or geriatric optometry, low-vision rehabilitation or vision therapy.

State boards of optometry require a certain number of continuing education credits for practicing optometrists. This training is completed through specialized courses at meetings, optometry schools, optometric journals and the Internet. Continuing education credits must meet specific requirements of each state. The O.D. must check with the state licensing board for specific details.

Future outlook

More women are becoming optometrists than in years previous. About 25% of practicing optometrists are women. That number should rise since 50% of optometry students are women.

A comprehensive study by the American Optometric Association completed in 1997 predicted that there will be at least 4,000 more optometrists than needed by the year 2015. Several factors could affect that prediction.

  • Geriatric population. The increasing number of elderly patients could mean a highly increased number of office visits for optometrists. These elderly patients need more frequent examinations for myriad eye diseases and conditions.
  • Vision plans. Managed care has brought more patients into optometrists' offices in recent years. Before managed care, many patients delayed regular eye exams because of cost. Because comprehensive vision plans routinely pay for regular eye exams, and in some cases contact lenses and eyeglasses, more patients routinely are being seen by O.D.s at a higher rate of frequency.
  • Retail chains. More eye care patients are utilizing the convenience of these large "superstores" to fulfill their vision needs. These chains sometimes have several optometrists on staff. The need for "corporate optometrists" is expected to grow in the coming years. These positions do not pay as competitively as private practice; but they also do not incur the large debt that opening or purchasing a practice does.

KEY TERMS

Amblyopia— Decreased visual acuity, usually in one eye, in the absence of any structural abnormality in the eye.

Astigmatism— Asymmetric vision defects due to irregularities in the cornea.

Cataract— A cataract is a cloudiness or opacity in the normally transparent crystalline lens of the eye. This cloudiness can cause a decrease in vision and may lead to eventual blindness.

Glaucoma— Disease of the eye characterized by increased pressure of the fluid inside the eye. Untreated, glaucoma can lead to blindness.

Presbyopia— A condition affecting people over the age of 40 where the system of accommodation that allows focusing of near objects fails to work because of age-related hardening of the lens of the eye.

Refraction— Method of determining the optical status of the eyes. Lenses are placed before the patient's eyes while reading from an eye chart. The result is the eyeglass or contact lens prescription.

Resources

BOOKS

Belikoff, Kathleen, M. Opportunities in Eye Care Careers, 2nd ed. Lincolnwood, IL: Contemporary Publishing Company, 1998.

ORGANIZATIONS

American Academy of Optometry. 6110 Executive Boulevard, Suite 506 Rockville, MD 20852. (301) 984-1441. Fax: (301) 984-4737. [email protected] 〈http://www.opt.org〉.

American Optometric Association. 2420 North Lindbergh Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63141. (800) 365-2219. 〈http://www.aoanet.org/〉.

Council on Optometric Practitioner Education. 4401 East West Highway, Suite 205 Bethesda, MD 20814-4521. (800) 758-COPE (2673) (301) 913-0641 Fax (301) 913-2034. [email protected] 〈http://www.copeopt.org〉.

National Board of Examiners in Optometry. 4340 East West Highway, Suite 1010, Bethesda, MD 20814. (301) 652-5192. [email protected] 〈http://www.optometry.org〉.

OTHER

"Career Guidance." American Optometric Association Online. 〈http://www.aoanet.org/x2664.xml〉.

McClure, Lawrence H., Ph.D. "The Evolution of Optometry." Optometric Management Online. 〈http://www.optometric.com/article.aspx?article=&loc=articles/2001/march/newod/nod0301006.htm〉.

"Optometry: The Primary Eye Care Profession." Massachusetts Society of Optometrists Online. 〈http://www.massoptom.org/publiceye/optometrypecp.htm〉.

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Optometry

Optometry

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Web Site: http://alaskaadvantage.state.ak.us/page/256
To provide educational loans to Alaska residents who attend out-of-state professional schools in specified fields through the Professional Student Exchange Program (PSEP) of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE).
Title of Award: Alaska Professional Student Exchange Loan Program Area, Field, or Subject: Dentistry; Medical assisting; Occupational therapy; Optometry; Pharmaceutical sciences; Physical therapy; Podiatry Level of Education for which Award is Granted: Undergraduate Number Awarded: Varies each year. Funds Available: Loans up to the annual support fee are available, to a maximum of $17,200. No origination fee is charged. The interest rate is 6%. Duration: 1 year; may be renewed.
Eligibility Requirements: This program is open to residents of Alaska who are attending a professional school in another state as part of the PSEP of WICHE. The fields of study currently available are dentistry, occupational therapy, optometry, physician assistant, podiatry, pharmacy, and physical therapy. In most cases, PSEP students pay resident tuition (or reduced tuition at private institutions) and their home state pays an additional support fee to the institution. Alaska requires PSEP students to pay the tuition and support fee, and provides these loans to enable them to do so.

2956 ■ CANADIAN INSTITUTES OF HEALTH RESEARCH

Attn: Grants and Awards
160 Elgin Street, Ninth Floor
Address Locator 4809A
Ottawa, ON, Canada K1A 0W9
Tel: (613)954-1968; 888-603-4178
Fax: (613)954-1800
E-mail: [email protected]
Web Site: http://www.cihr-irsc.gc.ca
To provide research funding to undergraduate and graduate students interested in preparing for a career in health-related fields in Canada.
Title of Award: Health Professional Students Research Awards of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Area, Field, or Subject: Dentistry; Medicine; Nursing; Optometry; Pharmaceutical sciences Level of Education for which Award is Granted: Graduate, Undergraduate Number Awarded: Varies each year. Funds Available: The stipend for students registered in a health professional school is $C1,417 per month. The stipend for students enrolled in a combined degree program is $C1,987 per month. Duration: Up to 3 months.
Eligibility Requirements: This program is open to 1) undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at Canadian schools offered programs leading to licensure in medicine, dentistry, nursing, physiotherapy, or related fields; and 2) medical students working on a combined degree (e.g., M.D./M.Sc., M.D./Ph.D.). Applicants must have completed their first year of study and be interested in participating in a health research project. They must be citizens or permanent residents of Canada. Deadline for Receipt: February Additional Information: The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) was formerly the Medical Research Council (MRC) of Canada. This program was formerly designated the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Student Research Awards.

2957 ■ CONNECTICUT ASSOCIATION OF OPTOMETRISTS

342 North Main Street
West Hartford, CT 06117
Tel: (860)586-7508
Fax: (860)586-7550
E-mail: [email protected]
Web Site: http://www.cao.org
To provide financial assistance to undergraduate students from Connecticut who are enrolled in accredited colleges of optometry.
Title of Award: George Comstock Scholarship Fund Area, Field, or Subject: Optometry Level of Education for which Award is Granted: Undergraduate Number Awarded: 6 to 8 each year. Funds Available: The stipend ranges from $400 to $1,000 per year. The exact amount depends upon the recipient's scholastic performance and financial need. Duration: 1 year; may be renewed.
Eligibility Requirements: Applicants must be Connecticut residents enrolled in accredited colleges of optometry in the United States. Selection is based on scholarship, character, and financial need. Deadline for Receipt: June of each year. Additional Information: Information is also available from Clinton McLean, O.D., Vision Center Ltd., 880 Bridgeport Avenue, Shelton, CT 06484-4661, (203) 929-4030, Fax: (203) 929-9662, E-mail: [email protected]

2958 ■ INDIAN HEALTH SERVICE

Attn: Scholarship Program
801 Thompson Avenue, Suite 120
Rockville, MD 20852
Tel: (301)443-6197
Fax: (301)443-6048
E-mail: [email protected]
Web Site: http://www.ihs.gov
To provide loans-for-service to American Indian and Alaska Native students enrolled in health professions and allied health professions programs.
Title of Award: Health Professions Scholarship Program Area, Field, or Subject: Counseling/Guidance; Dental hygiene; Dentistry; Health care services; Medical assisting; Medical technology; Medicine; Medicine, Osteopathic; Nursing; Nutrition; Optometry; Pharmaceutical sciences; Physical therapy; Podiatry; Psychology; Public health; Radiology; Respiratory therapy; Social work; Level of Education for which Award is Granted: Graduate, Undergraduate Number Awarded: Varies each year. Funds Available: Awards provide a payment directly to the school for tuition and required fees; a stipend for living expenses of approximately $1,160 per month for 12 months; a lump sum to cover the costs of books, travel, and other necessary educational expenses; and up to $400 for approved tutorial costs. Upon completion of their program of study, recipients are required to provide payback service of 1 year for each year of scholarship support at the Indian Health Service, a tribal health programs, an urban Indian health program, or in private practice in a designated health professional shortage area serving a substantial number of Indians. Recipients who fail to complete their service obligation must repay all funds received (although no interest is charged). Duration: 1 year; may be renewed for up to 3 additional years.
Eligibility Requirements: This program is open to American Indians and Alaska Natives who are at least high school graduates and enrolled in a full-time study program leading to a degree in a health-related professions school within the United States. Priority is given to upper-division and graduate students. Qualifying fields of study include chemical dependency counseling (bachelor's or master's degree), clinical psychology (Ph.D. only), coding specialist (certificate), counseling psychology (Ph.D. only), dental hygiene (B.S.), dentistry (D.D.S.), diagnostic radiology technology (certificate, associate, or B.S.), dietitian (B.S.), civil or environmental engineering (B.S.), environmental health (B.S.), health care administration (B.S. or M.S.), health education (B.S. or M.S.), health records (R.H.I.T. or R.H.I.A.), injury prevention specialist (certificate), medical technology (B.S.), allopathic and osteopathic medicine, nursing (A.D.N., B.S.N., or C.R.N.A), optometry, pharmacy (B.S. or Pharm.D.), physician assistant (B.S.), physical therapy (M.S. or D.P.T.), podiatry (D.P.M.), public health (M.P.H. only), public health nutrition (master's only), social work (master's only), respiratory therapy (associate), and ultrasonography. Deadline for Receipt: February of each year.

2959 ■ KOSTER INSURANCE AGENCY

Attn: Scholarship
500 Victory Road
Quincy, MA 02171
Tel: (617)770-9889
Free: 800-457-5599
Fax: (617)479-0860
E-mail: [email protected]
Web Site: http://www.kosterweb.com/about/scholarship_main.php
To provide financial assistance to undergraduate students working on a degree in a health-related field.
Title of Award: Koster Insurance Health Careers Scholarship Program Area, Field, or Subject: Biological and clinical sciences; Chemistry; Dentistry; Health care services; Nursing; Occupational therapy; Optometry; Pharmaceutical sciences; Physical therapy; Physiology; Public health; Social work Level of Education for which Award is Granted: Undergraduate Number Awarded: 5 each year. Funds Available: The stipend is $3,000 per year. Duration: 1 year; may be renewed 1 additional year.
Eligibility Requirements: This program is open to full-time undergraduates entering their second-to-last or final year of study in a health-related field, including (but not limited to) pre-medicine, nursing, public and community health, physical therapy, occupational therapy, pharmacy, biology, chemistry, physiology, social work, dentistry, and optometry. Applicants must have a GPA of 3.0 or higher and be able to demonstrate financial need. Along with their application, they must submit a 1-page essay describing their personal goals, including their reasons for preparing for a career in health care. Selection is based on motivation to pursue a career in health care, academic excellence, dedication to community service, and financial need. Deadline for Receipt: April of each year. Additional Information: This program began in 2001.

2960 ■ NORTH CAROLINA STATE EDUCATION ASSISTANCE AUTHORITY

Attn: Scholarship and Grant Services
10 T.W. Alexander Drive
P.O. Box 14223
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709-4223
Tel: (919)549-8614
Free: 800-700-1775
Fax: (919)549-8481
E-mail: [email protected]
Web Site: http://www.ncseaa.edu
To provide loans and loans-for-service to North Carolina residents who are interested in preparing for a career in health, science, or mathematics.
Title of Award: North Carolina Student Loan Program for Health, Science, and Mathematics Area, Field, or Subject: Allied health; Dentistry; Medicine; Nursing; Optometry; Public health; Social work Level of Education for which Award is Granted: Graduate, Undergraduate Number Awarded: Varies each year; recently, a total of 497 students were receiving $3,238,569 in support through this program. Funds Available: Maximum loans are $3,000 per year for associate degree and certificate programs, $5,000 per year for baccalaureate degree/certificate programs, $6,500 per year for master's degree programs, or $8,500 per year for health/professional doctoral programs. The maximum amount that any student can borrow through this program is $58,000. The interest rate is 4% while the borrowers are attending school and from 10 to 15% after they leave school. Cash repayments must begin 90 days or less after completion of course work and training. Under specified conditions, certain loan recipients in qualifying disciplines may have their loans canceled through service in North Carolina. Duration: 1 year; renewable for 1 additional year for diploma, associate, certificate, and master's degree programs, for 2 additional years for baccalaureate degree programs, or for 3 additional years for doctoral programs.
Eligibility Requirements: North Carolina residents are eligible to apply for this program if they have been accepted as full-time students in an accredited associate, baccalaureate, master's, or doctoral program leading to a degree in 1 of the following areas: allied health (including audiology/communications assistant, cytotechnology, dental hygiene, diagnostic medical sonographer, imaging technologist, medical technology, nuclear medicine technologist, occupational therapy/assistant, physician assistant, physical therapy/assistant, radiation therapist, radiography, respiratory therapy, and speech language pathology); clinical psychology (Ph.D. level only); dentistry; dietetics and nutrition (graduate level only); mathematics education; medicine (including chiropractic medicine, emergency medicine, family medicine, geriatrics, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, osteopathic medicine, pediatrics, podiatry, primary care medicine, and psychiatry); nursing (including anesthetist, family nurse practitioner, nursing administration, general nursing, and midwifery); optometry; pharmacy; public health (graduate level only); science education (including biology, chemistry, communications and technologies, computer and information sciences, engineering, and physical science); social work (graduate level only); and veterinary medicine. U.S. citizenship is required. Selection is based on academic progress, financial ability of sureties to repay all loans and accrued interest in case of applicant's default, applicant's willingness to work in underserved areas of the state or in disciplines for which there is a shortage of professionals, applicant's willingness to comply with all program regulations, and financial need. Deadline for Receipt: May of each year. Additional Information: Recipients may attend a North Carolina postsecondary institution or an eligible out-of-state institution. This program was formerly known as the North Carolina Medical Student Loan Program.

2961 ■ TEXAS HIGHER EDUCATION COORDINATING BOARD

Attn: Hinson-Hazlewood College Student Loan Program
1200 East Anderson Lane
P.O. Box 12788, Capitol Station
Austin, TX 78711-2788
Tel: (512)427-6340
Free: 800-242-3062
Fax: (512)427-6423
E-mail: [email protected]
Web Site: http://www.hhloans.com
To provide educational loans to students in Texas in health-related degree programs.
Title of Award: Hinson-Hazlewood Health Education Loan Program Area, Field, or Subject: Dentistry; Health care services; Medicine; Medicine, Osteopathic; Nursing; Optometry; Pharmaceutical sciences; Podiatry; Public health; Veterinary science and medicine Level of Education for which Award is Granted: Four Year College, Graduate Number Awarded: Varies each year. Funds Available: The maximum annual loan is $12,500 for pharmacy, nursing, allied health, and public health students; or $20,000 for medicine, dentistry, optometry, osteopathy, podiatry, or veterinary medicine students. The origination fee is 3%. After a grace period of 9 months, repayment must be completed within 25 years at a minimum monthly payment of $50. The current interest rate is 5.25% which begins to accrue immediately, even while the student is in school. Duration: 1 year; may be renewed up to 3 additional years. The maximum total loan is $50,000 for pharmacy, nursing, allied health, and public health students or $80,000 for medicine, dentistry, optometry, osteopathy, podiatry, or veterinary medicine students.
Eligibility Requirements: This program is open to students who qualify as Texas residents and meet the academic requirements of a public or private college or university in the state. Applicants must be enrolled at least half time in a course of study leading to 1) a doctoral degree in medicine, dentistry, optometry, osteopathy, podiatry, or veterinary medicine; 2) a bachelor's or master's degree in pharmacy; 3) a graduate or equivalent degree in public health; or 4) an associate, bachelor's, or graduate degree in nursing or allied health fields. They must be able to demonstrate financial need and enroll full time. U.S. citizenship is required. Additional Information: Applications must be submitted through the financial aid office at the college or university attended. This program is part of the Hinton-Hazelwood College Student Loan Program (HHCSLP).

2962 ■ U.S. AIR FORCE

Attn: Headquarters AFROTC/RRUC
551 East Maxwell Boulevard
Maxwell AFB, AL 36112-5917
Tel: (334)953-2091; (866)423-7682
Fax: (334)953-6167
Web Site: http://www.afrotc.com/admissions/professional/biomed.php
To provide financial assistance to students who are interested in joining Air Force ROTC in college and preparing for a career as a physical therapist, optometrist, or pharmacist.
Title of Award: Air Force ROTC Biomedical Sciences Corps Area, Field, or Subject: Optometry; Pharmaceutical sciences; Physical therapy Level of Education for which Award is Granted: Undergraduate Funds Available: Awards are type 2 AFROTC scholarships that provide for payment of tuition and fees, to a maximum of $15,000 per year, plus an annual book allowance of $600. All recipients are also awarded a tax-free subsistence allowance for 10 months of each year that is $300 per month during their sophomore year, $350 during their junior year, and $400 during their senior year. Duration: 2 or 3 years, provided the recipient maintains a GPA of 2.0 or higher.
Eligibility Requirements: This program is open to U.S. citizens who are freshmen or sophomores in college and interested in a career as a physical therapist, optometrist, or pharmacist. Applicants must have a GPA of 2.0 or higher and meet all other academic and physical requirements for participation in AFROTC. At the time of their Air Force commissioning, they may be no more than 31 years of age. They must agree to serve for at least 4 years as nonline active-duty Air Force officers following graduation from college. Deadline for Receipt: June of each year. Additional Information: Recipients must also complete 4 years of aerospace studies courses at 1 of the 144 colleges and universities that have an Air Force ROTC unit on campus or 1 of the approximately 900 colleges that have cross-enrollment agreements with those institutions. They must also attend a 4-week summer training camp at an Air Force base, usually between their sophomore and junior years. Following completion of their bachelor's degree, scholarship recipients earn a commission as a second lieutenant in the Air Force and serve at least 4 years.

2963 ■ WALMAN OPTICAL COMPANY

c/o Scholarship America
Attn: Scholarship Management Services
One Scholarship Way
P.O. Box 297
St. Peter, MN 56082
Tel: (507)931-1682
Free: 800-537-4180
Fax: (507)931-9168 E-mail: [email protected]
Web Site: http://www.walman.com
To provide financial assistance to students enrolled at designated schools and colleges of optometry.
Title of Award: Walman Optical Company Scholarship Area, Field, or Subject: Optometry Level of Education for which Award is Granted: Four Year College, Doctorate Number Awarded: Varies each year. Funds Available: The stipend ranges from $500 to $3,000 per year, depending on the need of the recipient. Duration: 1 year; nonrenewable, although recipients may reapply.
Eligibility Requirements: This program is open to students currently enrolled in the second or third year of a full-time 4-year program leading to a Doctor of Optometry degree at a school selected by Walman Optical Company. Selection is based on academic record, demonstrated leadership and participation in school and community activities, honors, work experience, a statement of goals and aspirations, unusual personal or family circumstances, and an outside appraisal. Deadline for Receipt: April of each year. Additional Information: The designated schools are University of Alabama at Birmingham, School of Optometry (Birmingham, Alabama); University of California at Berkeley, School of Optometry (Berkeley, California); Southern California College of Optometry (Fullerton, California); Nova Southeastern University, Health Professions Division, College of Optometry (Ft. Lauderdale, Florida); Illinois College of Optometry (Chicago, Illinois); Indiana University, School of Optometry (Bloomington, Indiana); New England College of Optometry (Boston, Massachusetts); Michigan College of Optometry, Ferris State University (Big Rapids, Michigan); University of Missouri at St. Louis, School of Optometry (St. Louis, Missouri); State University of New York, State College of Optometry (New York, New York); Ohio State University, College of Optometry (Columbus, Ohio); Northeastern State University, College of Optometry (Tahlequah, Oklahoma); Pacific University, College of Optometry (Forest Grove, Oregon); Pennsylvania College of Optometry (Elkins Park, Pennsylvania); Inter American University of Puerto Rico, School of Optometry (San Juan, Puerto Rico); Southern College of Optometry (Memphis, Tennessee); and University of Houston, College of Optometry (Houston, Texas).

2964 ■ WESTERN INTERSTATE COMMISSION FOR HIGHER EDUCATION

Attn: Student Exchange Programs
3035 Center Green Drive
P.O. Box 9752
Boulder, CO 80301-9752
Tel: (303)541-0210
Fax: (303)541-0291
E-mail: [email protected]
Web Site: http://www.wiche.edu/sep/psep
To underwrite some of the cost of out-of-state professional schooling for students in selected western states.
Title of Award: Professional Student Exchange Program Area, Field, or Subject: Architecture; Dentistry; Library and archival sciences; Medical assisting; Medicine; Medicine, Osteopathic; Nursing; Occupational therapy; Optometry; Pharmaceutical sciences; Physical therapy; Podiatry; Public health; Veterinary science and medicine Level of Education for which Award is Granted: Graduate, Undergraduate Number Awarded: Varies each year. Funds Available: The assistance consists of reduced levels of tuition, usually resident tuition in public institutions or reduced standard tuition at private schools. The home state pays a support fee to the admitting school to help cover the cost of the recipient's education. Duration: 1 year; may be renewed.
Eligibility Requirements: This program is open to residents of 13 western states who are interested in pursuing professional study at selected out-of-state institutions, usually because those fields of study are not available in their home states. The eligible programs, and the states whose residents are eligible, presently include: 1) architecture (master's degree), for residents of Wyoming, to study at designated institutions in Arizona. California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, or Washington); 2) dentistry, for residents of Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Wyoming, to study at designated institutions in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, or Washington; 3) library studies (master's degree), for residents of New Mexico and Wyoming, to study at designated institutions in Arizona, California, Hawaii, or Washington; 4) medicine, for residents of Montana and Wyoming, to study at designated institutions in Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, or Utah; 5) nursing (graduate degree), for residents of Wyoming, to study at designated institutions in California, Hawaii, North Dakota, or Oregon; 6) occupational therapy (bachelors' or master's degree), for residents of Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Montana, and Wyoming, to study at designated institutions in Arizona, California, Idaho, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, or Washington; 7) optometry, for residents of Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming, to study at designated institutions in California or Oregon; 8) osteopathic medicine, for residents of Arizona, Montana, New Mexico, Washington, and Wyoming, to study at designated institutions in Arizona or California; 9) pharmacy, for residents of Alaska, Hawaii, and Nevada, to study at designated institutions in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, Washington, or Wyoming; 10) physical therapy (master's or doctoral degree), for residents of Alaska, Hawaii, and Wyoming, to study at designated institutions in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, or Washington; 11) physician assistant, for residents of Alaska, Arizona, Nevada, and Wyoming, to study at designated institutions in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, or Washington; 12) podiatry, for residents of Alaska, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming, to study at a designated institution in California; 13) public health, for residents of Montana and New Mexico, to study at designated institutions in California, Colorado, or Washington; and 14) veterinary medicine, for residents of Arizona, Hawaii, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming, to study at designated institutions in California, Colorado, Oregon, or Washington. The financial status of the applicants is not considered. Interested students must apply for admission and for PSEP assistance directly from the institution of their choice. They
must be certified by their state of residence to become an exchange student and be seeking enrollment at the first professional degree level. Deadline for Receipt: In most states, the deadline for receiving completed applications for certification is in October. After obtaining certification, students must still apply to the school of their choice, which also sets its own deadline.

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Optometry

Optometry

Definition

Optometry is the profession of examining the eye for defects, diseases or faults of refraction, and prescribing pharmaceuticals, corrective lenses or exercises to treat these conditions. Doctors of Optometry (O.D.s) are trained and licensed to detect and treat ocular symptoms and diseases.

Description

Doctors of optometry are primary health care professionals who examine, diagnose, treat, and manage diseases and disorders of the visual system, the eye, and associated structures, as well as diagnose related systemic conditions. They prescribe glasses, contact lenses , low vision rehabilitation, vision therapy, and medications, as well as perform certain surgical procedures. O.D.s need eight to 10 years of preparation for their profession—four years to earn the doctor of optometry degree, and one to two years of residency in training. Oklahoma, as of 2001, was the only state where O.D.s were allowed by law to perform laser refractive surgery. Other states also were considering similar measures.

The profession of optometry also routinely includes diagnosing and treating the ocular complications of diseases such as diabetes and hypertension ; rehabilitating patients with brain injury or stroke ; providing low vision services for the partially sighted. This includes vision therapy for patients with amblyopia and strabismus (crossed eyes). O.D.s also take an active co-management role with ophthalmologists (M. D.s) in the pre- and post-operative treatment of patients after laser refractive surgery and cataract surgery.

Primary care

All O.D.s treat diseases and dispense corrective lenses for astigmatism, hyperopia, and presbyopia . They monitor the patient's depth perception and ability to focus and see color. Many optometrists choose primary care or family practice because it gives them the biggest diversity of patients.

Some of these primary care O.D.s specialize in contact lens fittings. Recent advances have allowed patients previously restricted from wearing contact lenses to wear a number of types of lenses. Astigmatic and presbyopic patients require more specialized contact lens fitting which these specialists can provide. Sometimes other O.D.s or ophthalmologists will refer their patients to these contact lens specialists. These O.D.s also are more familiar with infections and irritants caused by contact lenses and how best to treat them.

Some O.D.s specialize in certain other areas of optometry, as well as in contact lenses. These specialties include:

Low vision/vision rehabilitation

Some O.D.s focus mainly on low vision services and work in tandem with ophthalmologists, rehabilitation specialists, and government and private agencies. They sometimes work together to determine the best optical devices that improve the quality of life for patients with limited vision. These patients are referred to these optometric specialists usually after a colleague has performed an initial evaluation. The O.D. and members of the specialized team take the routine exam one step further by utilizing magnifiers, specialized charts, telescopes, colored filters, lenses, prisms, computerized devices, lights, and closed-circuit televisions designed to maximize vision. The low vision specialist is up-to-date on the latest vision aids and treatments so that his patients can lead more productive lives.

Vision therapy (developmental vision)

Vision therapy is a specialty where O.D.s concentrate on how eyesight affects human behavior. Vision therapy specialists work with physicians, psychologists, educators and parents to treat learning disorders, for example, dyslexia, by helping patients with hand-eye and other motor coordination. These specialists also treat patients suffering from amblyopia and strabismus. Some of these patients are adults; many are school-age children.

Pediatric optometry

This is a popular optometric specialty. Common vision problems in children include myopia, amblyopia and strabismus. These specialists work with parents and children, and school systems, counseling them on proper treatment as well as nutrition . Geriatric optometry As patients age, the frequency of ocular disease increases. Specialists can detect and treat macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic eye conditions. They also can detect cataracts and co-manage these patients post-operatively with an ophthalmologist.

With the geriatric population expected to increase dramatically due to aging baby boomers, more optometrists will find an expanding need to serve this population, and possibly increase the number of O.D. s who might decide to choose this specialty.

Some O.D.s focus on these patients in an existing practice, while others serve patients in nursing homes or clinics with large numbers of elderly patients.

Research and consulting

Some vision companies, especially contact lens manufacturers, seek out optometrists to help them with new product development or to refine existing products. Other optometrists conduct research in a clinical or educational setting.

Work settings

O.D.s may have private, group, or partnership practices in hospitals and eye clinics. There are also commissioned posts for optometrists in the military. Government agencies seek advice from O.D.s for health advisory committees, and corporations rely on optometrists for consultation on new products.

Optometrists practice mainly in solo private practices or in a group private practice with other O. D.s. Their offices are located in office buildings, medical parks, storefronts and shopping malls. Some O.D.s opt for working for or franchising chain “superstores” that offer a big selection of frames and quick-turnaround for patients.

With the rise of laser refractive surgery, O.D.s are increasingly becoming a part of ophthalmologists' group practices. In these instances, the O.D. is usually not a co-owner of the practice, but an employee instead. Some refractive laser centers keep O.D.s on staff strictly for co-managing the large volume of refractive surgery patients.

Education and training

O.D.s must complete high school and a bachelor's degree before admission to a four-year optometry school. The pre-optometry student's courses should include physics, organic chemistry, biology or zoology, physiology, statistics, geometry and calculus. These students also need to score in the top percentages of the Optometric Admissions Test before being accepted to an optometry program. Admission to these accredited programs is limited, so it is important for students to maintain a high undergraduate grade point average and achieve a high score on the admissions test to earn a slot at these schools.

The four-year programs focus mainly on clinical and practical teachings. In recent years a few programs have added practice management courses to help optometrists cope with managed care paperwork and increased competition from retail chains. First-year students study human anatomy and physiology and the basic principles of optics. Optometric sciences, ocular physiology and pathology, vision anomalies, and instruments of clinical practice are studied in the second year. Third-year students take those same topics to a higher level and begin studying contact lens fitting and general clinical practice. The student's last year of study includes treating patients under the guidance of teaching optometrists, usually at optometry-school run clinics. Student O.D.s during the fourth year prescribe and fit contact lenses, and diagnose and treat visual system conditions.

During the four years, optometry students also are offered a number of electives that include epidemiology, environmental vision, microbiology, and biostatistics.

Optometry schools usually operate clinics where patients need them most—in inner-city neighborhoods, nursing homes or correctional facilities. This enables care for patients in need while offering fourth-year students an opportunity to detect and treat a number of ocular conditions.

After optometry students complete a four year program but before they can begin practice, they must complete a series of written examinations—at least three written and one practical—for a license in order to practice. These licenses are granted by state boards of optometry. Each state has different requirements. While they are similar, graduating optometry students must check with each licensing board for specific requirements.

Advanced education and training

Recent optometry school graduates sometimes complete master's or doctorate degrees in related medical specialties such as physiological optics, visual sciences or public health. Some of these doctors enter research or education.

Optometrists who want to specialize in certain areas complete a one-year residency after graduation at educational institutions or hospitals. These internships could include pediatric or geriatric optometry, low-vision rehabilitation or vision therapy.

State boards of optometry require a certain number of continuing education credits for practicing optometrists. This training is completed through specialized courses at meetings, optometry schools, optometric journals and the Internet. Continuing education credits must meet specific requirements of each state. The O.D. must check with the state licensing board for specific details.

Future outlook

More women are becoming optometrists than in years previous. About 25% of practicing optometrists are women. That number should rise since 50% of optometry students are women.

A comprehensive study by the American Optometric Association completed in 1997 predicted that there will be at least 4,000 more optometrists than needed by the year 2015. Several factors could affect that prediction.

  • Geriatric population. The increasing number of elderly patients could mean a highly increased number of office visits for optometrists. These elderly patients need more frequent examinations for myriad eye diseases and conditions.
  • Vision plans. Managed care has brought more patients into optometrists' offices in recent years. Before managed care, many patients delayed regular eye exams because of cost. Because comprehensive vision plans routinely pay for regular eye exams, and in some cases contact lenses and eyeglasses, more patients routinely are being seen by O.D.s at a higher rate of frequency.
  • Retail chains. More eye care patients are utilizing the convenience of these large “superstores” to fulfill their vision needs. These chains sometimes have several optometrists on staff. The need for “corporate optometrists” is expected to grow in the coming years. These positions do not pay as competitively as private practice; but they also do not incur the large debt that opening or purchasing a practice does.

KEY TERMS

Amblyopia —Decreased visual acuity, usually in one eye, in the absence of any structural abnormality in the eye.

Astigmatism —Asymmetric vision defects due to irregularities in the cornea.

Cataract —A cataract is a cloudiness or opacity in the normally transparent crystalline lens of the eye. This cloudiness can cause a decrease in vision and may lead to eventual blindness.

Glaucoma —Disease of the eye characterized by increased pressure of the fluid inside the eye. Untreated, glaucoma can lead to blindness.

Presbyopia —A condition affecting people over the age of 40 where the system of accommodation that allows focusing of near objects fails to work because of age-related hardening of the lens of the eye.

Refraction —Method of determining the optical status of the eyes. Lenses are placed before the patient's eyes while reading from an eye chart. The result is the eyeglass or contact lens prescription.

Resources

BOOKS

Belikoff, Kathleen, M. Opportunities in Eye Care Careers, 2nd ed. Lincolnwood, IL: Contemporary Publishing Company, 1998.

ORGANIZATIONS

American Academy of Optometry. 6110 Executive Boulevard, Suite 506 Rockville, MD 20852. (301) 984-1441. Fax: (301) 984-4737. [email protected] http://www.opt.org.

American Optometric Association. 2420 North Lindbergh Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63141. (800) 365-2219. http://www.aoanet.org/.

Council on Optometric Practitioner Education. 4401 East West Highway, Suite 205 Bethesda, MD 20814-4521. (800) 758-COPE (2673) (301) 913-0641 Fax (301) 913-2034. [email protected] http://www.copeopt.org.

National Board of Examiners in Optometry. 4340 East West Highway, Suite 1010, Bethesda, MD 20814. (301) 652-5192. [email protected] http://www.optometry.org.

OTHER

“Career Guidance.” American Optometric Association Online. http://www.aoanet.org/x2664.xml.

McClure, Lawrence H., Ph.D. “The Evolution of Optometry.” Optometric Management Online. http://www.optometric.com/article.aspx?article=&loc=articles/2001/march/newod/nod0301006.htm.

“Optometry: The Primary Eye Care Profession.” Massachusetts Society of Optometrists Online. http://www.massoptom.org/publiceye/optometrypecp.htm.

Mary Bekker

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Optometry

Optometry

Definition

Optometry is the profession of examining the eye for defects, diseases or faults of refraction, and prescribing pharmaceuticals, corrective lenses or exercises to treat these conditions. Doctors of optometry (O.D.s) are trained and licensed to detect and treat ocular symptoms and diseases.

Description

Doctors of optometry are primary health care professionals who examine, diagnose, treat, and manage diseases and disorders of the visual system, the eye, and associated structures, as well as diagnose related systemic conditions. They prescribe glasses, contact lenses , low vision rehabilitation, vision therapy, and medications, as well as perform certain surgical procedures.O.D.s need eight to 10 years of preparation for their profession—four years to earn the doctor of optometry

degree, and one to two years of residency in training. Oklahoma, as of 2001, was the only state where O.D.s were allowed by law to perform laser refractive surgery. Other states also were considering similar measures.

The profession of optometry also routinely includes diagnosing and treating the ocular complications of diseases such as diabetes and hypertension ; rehabilitating patients with brain injury or stroke; providing low vision services for the partially sighted. This includes vision therapy for patients with amblyopia and strabismus (crossed eyes). O.D.s also take an active co-management role with ophthalmologists (M.D.s) in the pre- and post-operative treatment of patients after laser refractive surgery and cataract surgery.

Primary care

All O.D.s treat diseases and dispense corrective lenses for astigmatism , hyperopia , and presbyopia . They monitor the patient's depth perception and ability to focus and see color. Many optometrists choose primary care or "family practice" because it gives them the biggest diversity of patients.

Some of these primary care O.D.s specialize in contact lens fittings. Recent advances have allowed patients previously restricted from wearing contact lenses to wear a number of types of lenses. Astigmatic and presbyopic patients require more specialized contact lens fitting which these specialists can provide. Sometimes otherO.D.s or ophthalmologists will refer their patients to these contact lens specialists. These O.D.s also are more familiar with infections and irritants caused by contact lenses and how best to treat them.

Some O.D.s specialize in certain other areas of optometry, as well as in contact lenses. These specialties include:

Low vision/vision rehabilitation

Some O.D.s focus mainly on low vision services and work in tandem with ophthalmologists, rehabilitation specialists, and government and private agencies. They sometimes work together to determine the best optical devices that improve the quality of life for patients with limited vision. These patients are referred to these optometric specialists usually after a colleague has performed an initial evaluation. The O.D. and members of the specialized

team take the routine exam one step further by utilizing magnifiers, specialized charts, telescopes, colored filters, lenses, prisms, computerized devices, lights, and closed-circuit televisions designed to maximize vision. The low vision specialist is up-to-date on the latest vision aids and treatments so that his patients can lead more productive lives.

Vision therapy (developmental vision)

Vision therapy is a specialty where O.D.s concentrate on how eyesight affects human behavior. Vision therapy specialists work with physicians, psychologists, educators and parents to treat learning disorders, for example, dyslexia, by helping patients with hand-eye and other motor coordination. These specialists also treat patients suffering from amblyopia and strabismus. Some of these patients are adults; many are school-age children.

Pediatric optometry

This is a popular optometric specialty. Common vision problems in children include myopia , amblyopia and strabismus. These specialists work with parents and children, and school systems, counseling them on proper treatment as well as nutrition .

Geriatric optometry

As patients age, the frequency of ocular disease increases. Specialists can detect and treat macular degeneration , glaucoma and diabetic eye conditions. They also can detect cataracts and co-manage these patients post-operatively with an ophthalmologist.

With the geriatric population expected to increase dramatically due to aging baby boomers, more optometrists will find an expanding need to serve this population, and possibly increase the number of O.D.s who might decide to choose this specialty.

Some O.D.s focus on these patients in an existing practice, while others serve patients in nursing homes or clinics with large numbers of elderly patients.

Research and consulting

Some vision companies, especially contact lens manufacturers, seek out optometrists to help them with new product development or to refine existing products. Other optometrists conduct research in a clinical or educational setting.

Work settings

O.D.s may have private, group or partnership practices in hospitals and eye clinics. There are also commissioned posts for optometrists in the military. Government agencies seek advice from O.D.s for health advisory committees, and corporations rely on optometrists for consultation on new products.

Optometrists practice mainly in solo private practices or in a group private practice with other O.D.s. Their offices are located in office buildings, medical parks, storefronts and shopping malls. Some O.D.s opt for working for or franchising chain "superstores" that offer a big selection of frames and quick-turnaround for patients.

With the rise of laser refractive surgery, O.D.s are increasingly becoming a part of ophthalmologists' group practices. In these instances, the O.D. is usually not a coowner of the practice, but an employee instead. Some refractive laser centers keep O.D.s on staff strictly for comanaging the large volume of refractive surgery patients.

Education and training

O.D.s must complete high school and a bachelor's degree before admission to a four-year optometry school. The pre-optometry student's courses should include physics, organic chemistry, biology or zoology, physiology, statistics, geometry and calculus. These students also need to score in the top percentages of the Optometric Admissions Test before being accepted to an optometry program. Admission to these accredited programs is limited, so it is important for students to maintain a high undergraduate grade point average and achieve a high score on the admissions test to earn a slot at these schools.

The four-year programs focus mainly on clinical and practical teachings. In recent years a few programs have added practice management courses to help optometrists cope with managed care paperwork and increased competition from retail chains. First-year students study human anatomy and physiology and the basic principles of optics. Optometric sciences, ocular physiology and pathology, vision anomalies, and instruments of clinical practice are studied in the second year. Third-year students take those same topics to a higher level and begin studying contact lens fitting and general clinical practice. The student's last year of study includes treating patients under the guidance of teaching optometrists, usually at optometry-school run clinics. Student O.D.s during the fourth year prescribe and fit contact lenses, and diagnose and treat visual system conditions.

During the four years, optometry students also are offered a number of electives that include epidemiology, environmental vision, microbiology, and biostatistics.

Optometry schools usually operate clinics where patients need them most—in inner-city neighborhoods, nursing homes or correctional facilities. This enables care for patients in need while offering fourth-year students an opportunity to detect and treat a number of ocular conditions.

After optometry students complete a four year program but before they can begin practice, they must complete a series of written examinations—at least three written and one practical—for a license in order to practice. These licenses are granted by state boards of optometry. Each state has different requirements. While they are similar, graduating optometry students must check with each licensing board for specific requirements.

Advanced education and training

Recent optometry school graduates sometimes complete master's or doctorate degrees in related medical specialties such as physiological optics, visual sciences or public health . Some of these doctors enter research or education.

Optometrists who want to specialize in certain areas complete a one-year residency after graduation at educational institutions or hospitals. These internships could include pediatric or geriatric optometry, low-vision rehabilitation or vision therapy.

State boards of optometry require a certain number of continuing education credits for practicing optometrists. This training is completed through specialized courses at meetings, optometry schools, optometric journals and the Internet. Continuing education credits must meet specific requirements of each state. The O.D. must check with the state licensing board for specific details.

Future outlook

More women are becoming optometrists than in years previous. As of 2001, about 25% of practicing optometrists were women. That number should rise since 50% of optometry students as of 2001 are women.

A comprehensive study by the American Optometric Association completed in 1997 predicted that there will be at least 4,000 more optometrists than needed by the year 2015. Several factors could affect that prediction.

  • Geriatric population. The increasing number of elderly patients could mean a highly-increased number of office visits for optometrists. These elderly patients need more frequent examinations for myriad eye diseases and conditions.
  • Vision plans. Managed care has brought more patients into optometrists' offices in recent years. Before managed care, many patients delayed regular eye exams because of cost. Because comprehensive vision plans routinely pay for regular eye exams, and in some cases contact lenses and eyeglasses, more patients routinely are being seen by O.D.s at a higher rate of frequency.
  • Retail chains. More eye care patients are utilizing the convenience of these large "superstores" to fulfill their vision needs. These chains sometimes have several optometrists on staff. The need for "corporate optometrists" is expected to grow in the coming years. These positions do not pay as competitively as private practice; but they also do not incur the large debt that opening or purchasing a practice does.

KEY TERMS


Amblyopia —Decreased visual acuity, usually in one eye, in the absence of any structural abnormality in the eye.

Astigmatism —Asymmetric vision defects due to irregularities in the cornea.

Cataract —A cataract is a cloudiness or opacity in the normally transparent crystalline lens of the eye. This cloudiness can cause a decrease in vision and may lead to eventual blindness.

Glaucoma —Disease of the eye characterized by increased pressure of the fluid inside the eye. Untreated, glaucoma can lead to blindness.

Presbyopia —A condition affecting people over the age of 40 where the system of accommodation that allows focusing of near objects fails to work because of age-related hardening of the lens of the eye.

Refraction —Method of determining the optical status of the eyes. Lenses are placed before the patient's eyes while reading from an eye chart. The result is the eyeglass or contact lens prescription.


Resources

BOOKS

Belikoff, Kathleen, M. Opportunities in Eye Care Careers, 2nd ed. Lincolnwood, IL: Contemporary Publishing Company, 1998.

ORGANIZATIONS

American Academy of Optometry 6110 Executive Boulevard, Suite 506 Rockville, MD 20852. (301) 984-1441 Fax(301) 984-4737 [email protected] htttp://www.opt.org.

American Optometric Association. 2420 North Lindbergh Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63141. (800) 365-2219. <http://www.aoanet.org/>.

Council on Optometric Practitioner Education 4401 East West Highway, Suite 205 Bethesda, MD 20814-4521. (800) 758-COPE (2673) (301) 913-0641 Fax (301) 913-2034. [email protected] <http://www.copeopt.org>.

National Board of Examiners in Optometry. 4340 East West Highway, Suite 1010, Bethesda, MD 20814. (301)652-5192. [email protected] <http://www.optometry.org>.

OTHER

McClure, Lawrence H., Ph.D. "The Evolution of Optometry." Optometric Management Online. <http://www.optometric.com/archive_results.asp?loc=article=70066&sub=1146>.

"Optometry: The Primary Eye Care Profession." Massachusetts Society of Optometrists Online. <http://www.massoptom.org/optometry.htm>.

"So You Want to Be an Optometrist." American Optometric Association Online.<http://www.aoanet.org/career-guidance.html>.

Mary Bekker

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Notes:
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  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.