We hear the word advocacy thrown around quite a bit in optometry, but what does advocacy in optometry really mean?
There’s really a simple definition: if you advocate for something it means that you believe strongly in it. There are advocates all around us every day. Businesses advocating for their products and services, fans advocate for their favorite teams, and the American Optometric Association helping optometrists advocate for our patients.
Historically, advocacy in the optometric arena used to relate primarily to scope expansion and allowed eye care professionals to treat our patients thoroughly.
Today, there are much larger and more frightening concerns.
The unscrupulous activities of online companies that falsely claim to perform eye examinations and contact lens examinations via a website or app are placing the eye health of the public in jeopardy. These services undermine a critical part of healthcare delivery, the doctor-patient relationship. We know that these practices are extremely unsafe for our patients and a serious concern for public welfare, but our patients don’t know what they don’t know. We have a responsibility to be advocates for our patients and educate the public to ensure they understand the dangers of this technology.
We need to be more involved now than ever before.
Change is going to happen, that is one thing we can be sure of. The future of our industry depends on if we choose to advocate for positive change, or deal with the outcomes of negative change. The responsibility for the health of the public and the future of the profession is ours. Change will happen based on our action, or inaction. For new grad optometrists, this is even more critical. We are charged with managing these new challenges on the doctor-patient relationship and doing what is right.
I want to challenge every OD reading this to find your advocacy “why.” Why did you become an optometrist? What makes you care about the people you care for?
For me, it’s the health and safety of my patients and the admiration I have for my colleagues who practice optometry at the highest level.
These are the most important things that you can do to protect your patients and the profession.
- Be a member of the AOA and your state affiliation. – Organized optometry is fighting these battles for us on the front lines and behind the scenes, 24/7. For me, being a member is like paying for an insurance policy on our profession. It works hard for us all the time and makes sure that we can provide quality care to our patients.
- Advocate in your exam room – Remind patients of the importance of the exam you are providing. Talk about what you do in an exam and why it is important to monitor their eye health. As optometrists, we clearly understand why a yearly eye exam is important, but often our patients don’t. It is our duty to empower our patients to make the correct decisions for their health and safety.
About the Author: Erick Henderson, OD
Dr. Erick Henderson earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, IL. He completed optometry school at Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, TN. While at SCO Dr. Henderson served as the AOSA President and developed a passion for advancing and protecting the optometric profession. During his time at SCO he was awarded with many recognitions for his leadership and commitment to optometry. He practices in Pittsburgh, PA with a special emphasis in dry eye disease, contact lenses, and medical eye care. He is an active member of the Western Pennsylvania Optometric Society, the Pennsylvania Optometric Association, and the American Optometric Association. Dr. Henderson is also very passionate about service, serving as a volunteer and board member for the Lamu Center of Preventative Health in Lamu, Kenya and his local Lions Club.