Through the eyes of students

December 5, 2023
Those who dwell in the past live in the past. Those who think and plan for the future will live that future.
Dr. Benner - From the President Image

I recently had a wonderful opportunity to meet and visit a group of students. I was delighted and mildly surprised at a few of the questions they asked. Generally, I get questions related to fear about the future. Are they investing in a profession that is in trouble? Is the sky falling? Will optometry be overtaken by large groups? How do we stop telehealth from ruining practice? And finally: Will they be able to find a job?

This time, they asked how I see our future changing what they are learning. Practice opportunities are everywhere; how do we choose? Which modality will let us practice the most freely? Why would legislatures consider “Not a Doctor” bills when we do so much for the health care system? I was prepared for those questions, but they were unexpected.

Something has changed in the mindset of students. While there has always been a hopeful optimism with students, in my experience, it has never been this positive about their (optometry’s) future.

Optometry’s Meeting® this past June was a big topic. The enthusiasm of 2,500 students coming to Washington to join the AOA family is still there.

They asked how to get involved at the state level. How do they help bring advanced scope to the states in which they wish to practice? And, surprisingly, what’s next for the profession after lasers and surgical procedures? What a change of attitude over the past years!

In almost every one-on-one conversation I have with students, I ask how they found their path to optometry. Unscientifically, about 80-90% say an optometrist recommended this profession and helped them find their path. I was shocked to hear only a few mention that inspiring optometric professional. Most told me they looked at medicine and other health professions and decided this was the best fit for them. I never heard “work-life balance.” I never heard “I want a career where I can work part-time and have a family.” I heard instead: Optometry combines medical and personal care that made me feel I could make a difference in people’s lives.

Discussions like this keep me charged and ready to do the work needed to offer a grand and glorious future for today’s students. However, I know that over the next few months I will be with many state leaders, their member doctors, industry and other optometric stakeholders, most of whom are so focused on today’s problems that they tend to overlook the advancements and opportunities for our future. I hope I’ll find that same positive energy in these encounters.

Take some time to talk to students. Catch their enthusiasm, and for the good of us all, don’t jade them with the problems you may be facing. Look at the issues of today in a new light—stop complaining and make the changes needed to remove those barriers. Invest your time, energy and money to help your state and national association do the necessary work to allow those behind us to have an opportunity to take this wonderful profession to new and glorious heights.

Scope Expansion Tools

The AOA has prepared resources to assist members and state associations in preparing to address scope expansion.

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