Archive for February, 2009


Global Optometry

February 25, 2009

Melissa and I are honored to have been invited to the Korean Optometric Association this week to discuss the globalization of optometry.
I’ll try to keep everyone updated on our travels. I’m typing this from Tokyo with one more leg to get us to Seoul.


Focus on the future

February 23, 2009

As my presidential year draws closer to the end, I will have had the honor and pleasure to have been an official visitor to every school and college of optometry in the United States throughout my tenure on the AOA Board. Long before my daughter decided that optometry would be her future (she finishes in 2011), I realized that the students and the faculty that mold them are critical to the future of our profession.

I’m pleased to report that the future of optometry is in good hands. Clearly, the last 40 years in our profession have delivered tremendous changes, all to provide better care to our patients. 

The next 40 years will present new and exciting opportunities for our profession. Growth and change is sometimes uncomfortable and history tells us that our shift to treatment of eye disease did not come without some push back. However, the focus was always on the patient, and ultimately the profession has grown to meet the needs of our patients.

With optometric board certification once again on the horizon for the profession, most doctors would agree on three points: 

  • #1 “I don’t want to take more CE,”
  • #2 “I don’t want to take a test,”  
  • #3 “I don’t want to spend a lot more money.”

However, if you ask your patients one question: Do you expect and want to know that your optometrist has the knowledge and is practicing in 2009 like an optometrist should in 2009? Their answer nearly 100 percent of the time would be: of course!

The leadership of your AOA and the other five organizations that make up the Joint Board Certification Project Team (JBCPT) believed, and still do, that with the emphasis on QUALITY and VALUE in health care as the focus in Washington, in every state capital and commercial insurance carrier, our profession cannot stand idle while health care changes could potentially create a new discrimination challenge for optometry.   Yes, optometry is different. However, we are currently participating in a health care system that claims 85 percent board-certified physicians at a time when agencies and payers recognize board certification as a measure of quality and value.

The discussion online and off-line about board certification for optometry will evoke many emotions. However, the important thing to remember throughout the process is that our profession has never stood idle and allowed others to dictate our future. Can we take that chance at this important crossroad in health care reform?
I urge you to visit to learn about the why, the what and the how of the model of optometric board certification that has been presented. Ask questions of your state association leadership, your AOA and the project team.

Once you’ve done your homework, I’m sure you’ll reach the same conclusion as your AOA leadership – that optometry has come too far to take the risk of not participating fully in the new health care system coming to America.
And speaking of health care reform for America, rest assured that your entire AOA staff and volunteers are working overtime and through many different channels to ensure that optometry is included fully in whatever system is developed for the future.
Our Washington, D.C., plate is very full:  Jan. 1, 2010, represents a potential 21 percent cut in Medicare fees for all physicians and we must be sure that optometry is included in any electronic health records, e-prescribing and quality measures that are adopted.
And of course we have the Vision Care for Kids Act of 2009 and optometric inclusion in the National Health Service Corps to help graduates with their debt obligations to name just a few of the important issues for optometry every day.
We need your help to focus on the future by:  investing in AOA-PAC by visiting; becoming an active state and/or federal keyperson for your elected officials; and planning to attend the AOA’s Congressional Conference June 22-24 and participating in “Optometry Takes Capitol Hill” on June 24 as one of many highlights during Optometry’s Meeting® in Washington, D.C.
And finally, we need your help in recruiting the doctors who benefit from all the state and federal wins for our patients and our profession, but who, unlike you, currently don’t pay dues.
As students, the focus is on the next test, National Boards or the first real patient. As practitioners, our focus is on our patients and our profession; let’s continue to look far into the future, and do what it takes to make sure the next 40 years is just as successful as the last 40 years!
Until next time, Pete


5 Nights 4 Schools

February 16, 2009

I have spent the week visiting the following optometry schools: SUNY in New York, PCO at Salus University in Philadelphia, NECO in Boston and tonight just finished a private practice club at IU in Bloomington, IN. In the morning I’ll be givng the 3rd year class of Dr. Steve Hitzeman an update on the AOA.
The future of our profession is in good hands. The students I’ve met this week are bright, inquisitive and most importantly – have passion for their profession and our future.
Soon I will have officially visited every US School or College of Optometry while serving on the AOA Board. This is an experience I wish every practicing optometrist could share. It gives you incentive to want to continue to push our forward ahead for our patients, our practices and our profession.
Until next time,



February 3, 2009
  • A new color, cut and hairstyle: $150
  • A trip to the dentist for teeth whitening: $499
  • The VALUE we as optometrists provide to our patients every day: PRICELESS!

Last week, as I retold the story of “Gracie” (you remember: her retinoblastoma was found through an InfantSEE® exam in 2006) to a room full of ophthalmic industry executives, I watched their body language as they leaned forward on their chairs, their eyes and ears intently listening to the story of how our program — InfantSEE® — literally saved the sight and potentially the life of Gracie.
 Their sincere interest and questions afterward reminded me of how proud I am to be the president of the AOA, representing the profession that changes and improves the lives of thousands of patients every day.

On the flip-side, their questions reminded me of how many people in America (including within our own industry) don’t fully understand what an optometrist in 2009 can do for our patients every day.

 Bottom line:  We are engaged, every day, in changing lives. Giving a mother the assurance of a normally developing baby through an InfantSEE® exam and taking the time to educate her about a lifetime of healthy vision for the entire family is a great beginning.
 We’ve all had the school-age child who returns to share that once he received his new glasses he can see the chalkboard or finally enjoys reading. Or the teenager who is now the captain of her softball team since being fit with contact lenses and completing a vision therapy program.

We offer patients immediate relief from a painful foreign body or help them achieve a life-changing experience by co-managing (or providing in Oklahoma) a successful refractive surgery. Presbyopes (me included) get their lives back when we implement Doctor-Driven-Dispensing and recommend from the exam room the very best spectacle or contact lens options for their lifestyle.

But — and here’s where I expect you to lean forward in your chair — we also have the opportunity, every day, to save people’s lives — just as an optometrist saved Gracie.    More and more adults are not controlling their diabetes, and every day optometrists take the opportunity to counsel diabetics (and work with primary care physicians) to improve diabetes control.  This additional counseling from their optometrist will not only improve their eye health, but potentially extend their lives.
Diabetes care is just one example. 

As our patients reach the “mature” years, we co-manage their cataract surgeries, treat their glaucoma, monitor their macular degeneration and provide (either directly or through referral to our low vision optometry colleagues) spectacles and optical aids to allow them to continue to see the pictures of their grandchildren.  Studies prove that if we keep our patients’ eyesight sharp, we can keep them from life-shortening stumbles and falls as well.

Because of our excellent education, our dedication to life-long learning and the uniqueness of our profession, optometrists can and do provide compassionate care throughout our patients’ lives.   Many of our patients recognize and tell us and others about how valuable the care we provide is to them. While only about 30 percent of Americans see their eye doctor each year, that’s almost twice as many people who see a physician.  You are very possibly the only primary health care provider an at-risk patient sees each year.  That truly puts you, me, and all of us on the frontline.
Meanwhile, we are faced with a huge opportunity.     There are 70 percent of Americans who don’t see any doctor in a typical year.  We need to get the message to those Americans on the value — beyond money — optometry can provide through a lifetime of healthy vision.
As the leader of the AOA, I believe there are two things that must drive all we do: one, ensure that all people have access to our services, whether through panels that pay fairly, government plans or by running our practices in a way that ensures patients seek us out. And two, we must always remember the value we provide – measurable and immeasurable – and ensure that we are treated fairly and compensated properly for these invaluable services. 

None of us should ever forget optometry’s value to our patients: PRICELESS!

Until next time,