Dr. Art Epstein writes a weekly e-journal, Optometric Physician, always introduced by his “Off the Cuff” editorial comments. This week’s piece, The Pendulum, was so powerful I decided to reproduce it in its entirety here.
“There was a time when optometry was simple. Back then, most ODs performed refractions and sold glasses. Some intrepid souls fitted contact lenses and a few focused on binocular vision or low vision. The few of us who embraced medical eye care were outliers who secretly applied topical anesthetics as a “lubricant” on the tip of a MacKay Marg tonometer and dreamt of being able to use topical therapeutics. One day, we’d say. One day.
Ancient history, you’re probably thinking, and you would be right about that. Optometry has moved on and today, most of our education reflects a strong medical emphasis. But what about traditional optometry? Don’t many, if not most, of our patients come to us because of visual issues? What about contact lenses, vision therapy and low vision? Is this still the core of optometry, or have they now become specialty areas?
I receive frequent e-mails from contemporaries concerned about the quality and training of new graduates. More than a few bemoan the massive shift that’s taken the profession so far from its roots. As a medical outlier myself, I dismissed most of these remarks as unfounded. However, I’ve begun to wonder if the pendulum has indeed swung too far. Has the profession lost its focus on core competencies that not only define us, but also meet our patients’ needs? And what does that mean for our future?”
Dr. Epstein’s concerns aren’t new. Consider for example this editorial by Les Walls, O.D., M.D., in the journal Optometry and Vision Development from 2006. They are however a breath of fresh air when discussed openly in a forum of this nature, and when inviting commentary from thought leaders. So where will Dr. Epstein’s call for a closer inspection of our future take us?
Every pendulum operates within its own context of resistance and friction. Take a look at this blog by physicist Matt Francis and you’ll note something interesting about the picture that emerges from the phase plot of pendular movement.
Rather than going around in circles with the types of discussions I’ve heard over the past 37 years of my career, I hope that Dr. Epstein’s comments are a clarion call for our profession to pay more than lip service to these crucial issues in eye and vision care.