AOA task force leads evolution of education for future of optometric practice

February 21, 2019
The AOA is taking the next steps to ensure the profession’s educators and leaders work together to advance and standardize optometric education opportunities.
AOA task force leads evolution of education for future of optometric practice

The future is here for doctors of optometry, as the AOA is taking the next steps to ensure the profession's educators and leaders work together to advance and standardize optometric education opportunities.

The AOA's newly launched work group—Advanced Procedure and Future Practice Education Task Force—will develop 21st-century educational opportunities to help doctors of optometry to practice at their fullest scope. And it builds on the AOA's Future Practice Initiative, which was announced in 2018 and will equip doctors for what lies ahead for the profession through scope expansion efforts and education opportunities, amid a changing health care landscape.

The co-chairs are Rich Castillo, O.D., D.O., assistant dean for surgical training and education at Northeastern State University Oklahoma College of Optometry, and Ronald L. Benner, O.D., AOA Board of Trustees member, who practices in Montana. In a Q&A, both doctors of optometry talk about the task force's aims.

What are the goals of the task force?

Dr. Benner: Among the task force's goals are to better help our members understand the potential of contemporary optometric practice for their individual office and patients. This task force will position the profession to build leading-edge, advanced procedures education through AOA's Education Center and enhance the EyeLearn platform (AOA's online learning resource) and the extensive continuing education offerings of Optometry's Meeting®. The task force will bring expert knowledge to maximize the optometric education process.

Dr. Castillo: We'd like to function as a conduit between the AOA and those stakeholders in the evolution and advancement of procedural optometry, such as educators and trainers both inside and outside of academia, and practitioner groups or individuals seeking to develop and refine procedural (office surgical/laser) skills. We will actively look to identify needs and potential resources within the realm of procedural optometry, to aid in the development of advanced optometric training programs nationwide both inside and outside of academia and to help coordinate available resources among all stakeholders nationwide with respect to procedural training and its availability at local, state and national levels.

How will doctors of optometry benefit from the task force's deliverables?

Dr. Castillo: By looking, listening and helping to grow procedural and advanced practice optometry, particularly in the post-graduate arena, the task force will facilitate opportunities for doctors of optometry across the nation, as well as assure that our communities and our patients are in a position to benefit from the efficient, economical and quality care that an advanced scope of optometric practice brings.

Dr. Benner: The AOA, along with this group of leaders and educators from across the country, is taking the lead in advancing optometric education and, ultimately, the profession and practice of optometric care. The contemporary practice of optometry requires a new, 'fresh' look at clinical professional development and especially at delivering advanced procedures education for our doctors and their staffs.

Although it's early, does the task force have a timetable?

Dr. Benner: We have embarked on a journey together that, once on track, will move very quickly. Our doctors have been asking for advanced procedure programs that will assist them and their staffs to fully care for their patients. Over the next few months, the task force will be engaged and working. With the leadership of the task force and the resources that AOA can provide, our programs will get up to speed quickly.

Dr. Castillo: These issues of advanced procedural training and future practice education are dynamic and ongoing. As such, while short-term goals may be identified, which would be served by specific timetables, the work of the task force is as time-sensitive and open-ended as the evolution of the profession itself.

How does the task force's work fit in with the overall push by the AOA to expand scope?

Dr. Castillo: As scope expansion progresses nationwide, the infrastructure that supports specialized educational opportunities and technical training needs to continue to grow and evolve. It needs to support the resulting expansion of services and knowledge and skill sets needed to effectively provide these services in optometric practice. The primary eye care space, along with the primary health care space, is expanding to include more technical services, which were once limited to the domain of specialists. This de-centralization of traditional health care models is a consequence of the ever-expanding scientific and medical knowledge base, advancement and innovation in technology, and the continued growth and evolution of the individual health care professions. Optometry, as the primary eye care provider across the nation, is well positioned to serve its communities within this new health care paradigm.

Dr. Benner: AOA's Future Practice Initiative is our push to help state affiliates advance optometric scope into a service and procedures model. Contemporary optometry is not the same as practiced 20 years ago. Health care delivery and optometric scope have changed and so should our education process and delivery. Our doctors must have advanced training—designed by experts—for them to shift fully to a services and procedures-based model. The task force dovetails with that mission by developing unique opportunities to create true professional development programs that will keep our doctors and educators at the peak of the profession.

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