Serving the Profession

Serving the Profession

Excerpted from page 18 of the January/February 2015 edition of AOA Focus.

When it comes to the profession, Leland Carr III, O.D., is truly at your service.

In fact, through the continuing education courses he's taught and technical assistance he's provided, he's worked on scope of practice issues in more than 40 of the 50 states. This level of work is what earned him AOA's 2015 Distinguished Service Award.

"I was contacted by individuals who I wanted to help, about causes I was interested in helping to further," Dr. Carr says. "All of a sudden the years had gone by, and the 42 states had been touched. It was great to realize that."

In addition to the scope work he's provided in states across the country, he has been a full-time professor of optometry for more than 30 years, serving on the faculty of Northeastern State University Oklahoma's College of Optometry (NSUOCO) and then Pacific University, where he became dean of the College of Optometry. While dean, Dr. Carr had to give up his clinical work with students, and found himself missing it. In 2006, Dr. Carr returned to NSUOCO as assistant dean and professor of optometry, happy to be back in the clinic helping students realize the real difference they can make in patients' lives.

In an excerpt from an interview with AOA Focus, Dr. Carr shares his thoughts on how doctors of optometry can get more involved in scope of practice issues and where he'd like to see optometry head in the future.

What advice can you offer aspiring doctors interested in academia?
They need to enter the profession with a completely open mind and a willingness to be flexible. You can never really predict what direction a profession or the legislative opportunities are going to take you. I'd like to see the educational enterprise be more proactive, like when the Oklahoma College of Optometry decided to push the envelope with regard to ophthalmic laser procedures and optometric surgical procedures. That was true leading edge, and it started within an academic institution.

How can doctors of optometry become involved in scope of practice issues in their states?
They just have to hook up with their state associations. Every state has at least some level of effective political action and an opportunity to connect with a group of like-minded people who are really dedicated to the cause. Don't sit on the sidelines and expect that somebody else can do the work for you. No initiative that I've ever had success with has been anything that I've conceptualized or pursued on my own. It's always with another doctor or state executive or committee. And it isn't just about giving money to the political action committee. That's certainly important, but you need to put your thoughts and energy into it.

What would you like to see happen in the profession in the coming years?
The biggest public health need is going to be in primary care delivery. My dream would be to see doctors delivering primary-level health care where it is needed-administering vaccines, diagnosing and managing routine illnesses, participating in the complex management of diabetes and autoimmune disorders. The MD and DO communities have been so driven to specialize that the real hole going forward in public health is primary care medicine. I'd like us to think about whether that's the right path for our profession.

Photograph by Adam Murphy

February 16, 2016

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