AOA prompts USDA to correct flawed news release

UPDATE: AOA prompts USDA to correct flawed news release

A news release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regarding a new school in Pikeville, Kentucky, that contained inaccuracies about optometric workforce projections and an accreditation board, has been revised.

Published on Sept. 24, the announcement from USDA Rural Development Acting Under Secretary Doug O'Brien's office released information about a $40 million loan to the University of Pikeville for the new Kentucky College of Optometry.

The release originally contained inaccuracies regarding the projected growth of optometry through 2020, namely stating, "... the need for optometrists is expected to grow by 33 percent through 2020, adding more than 11,000 new positions." It also mistakenly referenced the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education (ACOE) as the "Accreditation Council of the American Optometric Association" and referred to a "selection" process for the new school.

News release countered by AOA president
There exists no "selection" process and no "Accreditation Council of the American Optometric Association." Rather, the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education (ACOE)—an autonomous panel composed of practitioners, regulators, academicians and representatives of the public—is the only accrediting body for professional optometric degree (O.D.) programs, optometric residency programs and optometric technician programs in the United States and Canada.

Aside from the erroneous attribution of ACOE decision making to the AOA, the projected growth statement runs counter to the conclusions drawn from the just-released National Eye Care Workforce Study.

The joint AOA-Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry workforce study group found an adequate supply of eye doctors—optometrists and ophthalmologists—inclusive of projections of new doctors, to meet demand for eye care through 2025.

These inaccuracies prompted AOA President David A. Cockrell, O.D., to issue an official request for retraction and update the release with corrections on Sept. 26. Dr. Cockrell disputed the growth figure cited by the USDA as neither accurate nor attributable to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as cited by the news release.

"In fact, the AOA believes [the figure] is completely without foundation and, as such, is misleading to the public, prospective students, private institutions and government officials," Dr. Cockrell writes. The retort also includes a copy of the Workforce Study for review and use in preparation for a correction.

Also disputing the mistaken identification of ACOE and a nonexistent "selection" process, Dr. Cockrell restated the autonomy of the accreditation council and reinforced the importance of correctly identifying ACOE to the public as a council that is not influenced by the AOA over accrediting decisions affecting degree programs or institutions.

"As is the case with other national medical and health care professional organizations with a similar mission, the AOA cannot and does not exercise any influence over accrediting decisions affecting degree programs or institutions," Dr. Cockrell said.

In addition to Dr. Cockrell's call for retraction and update, the AOA has also issued a correction to industry media to revise the published inaccuracies. Click here to read Dr. Cockrell's statement in full.

Read more about the National Eye Care Workforce Study in the September edition of AOA Focus, and find documents related to the workforce study at AOA Marketplace.

September 29, 2014

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