August 17, 2012
A few years ago, a small group of optometrists, unhappy that the profession created a board certification program, formed the American Optometric Society (AOS). They brought a lawsuit against the American Board of Optometry, stating that board certification was confusing, deceptive and misleading to the public. On August 2, 2012, after only a few days of trial, Federal District Court Judge A. Howard Matz granted our motion for entry of a judgment in the ABO’s favor.
Sadly, the vitriol against board certification and the ABO continues, even in the face of discussions about healing our beloved profession. As leaders of the ABO, we feel we must respond.
While no one can claim to be clairvoyant, the leaders of the AAO, AOA, ASCO and AOSA have looked at the direction health care is heading and determined that, in order to retain parity with medicine, it is necessary that a board certification process be put into place. ABO board certification is entirely voluntary. And it is evolving. We are all proud to be serving optometry in this way, and we are committed to making the ABO Board Certification and Maintenance of Certification processes meaningful representations of the commitment to lifelong learning that we feel they represent.
Many of us are old enough to have been in practice when optometrists were not allowed to dilate pupils, much less treat glaucoma. It was the leaders of our profession who fought legislative battles to get the laws changed so that we could practice to the level we do today. Those battles were as controversial in optometry in the 1970’s and 80’s as board certification is today.
Is there anyone currently in practice who would want to go back to the days when non- contact tonometry and direct ophthalmoscopy were our best diagnostic tools? Or when we had to send anyone with new floaters to an ophthalmologist because we could not do a dilated exam? Or when it was great that we could call a friendly M.D. to write a prescription for bacitracin ointment for a patient with blepharitis? We didn’t think so.
But 30 years ago, a small group of optometrists (who did not want to go to the trouble or expense of obtaining the additional training and certifications) were concerned that their practices would be harmed by their colleagues with a broader scope of practice. Sound familiar? The only difference is that without the Internet, they were not able to organize into a bully pulpit that could reach 30,000 optometrists with one click of a mouse.