Tips4EyeDocs Daily – 01/03/2012 – No.16 – If I was a student (in optometry) Part II


Since Part I, I have answered by private mail student inquiries on strategizing their course of study for maximum efficiency and for maximum flexibility for the next 5-10 years of practice. That’s a bit of a stretch since prognosticating the future of economics, social trends and demographics is a “tall order”.

But it is likely that trying to understand your own personality and your own goals in combination with the realities of the optometric job market is required. I had mentioned previously the importance of multiple state board licenses and a residency. Some have argued with me on these two, but I have found that graduates who I have talked with 20 years later were almost universally glad they held more than one state license.

The next big step in optometry is to imagine more than independent private practice. With the trend in employment and the market place slowly shifting away from private practice, imagining a career elsewhere may not be encouraged in the predoctoral years, but there is wisdom in exploring it.

For example, if a career in industry (for a contact lens, eye medical device or an eye drug maker) is envisioned, then course work and experience such as a residency in contact lenses or a certificate or course work in regulatory affairs would be helpful. I am mindful in my own experience how helpful it was to have direct experience. In my own predoctoral years, I did work for a large agricultural chemical company in evaluating the effects of certain chemicals on eye tissues, something that was invaluable to me now.

Working in a retail eye health care environment is no longer the scourge that it once was. Practically all corporate eye centers either employ or contract with an optometrist for their stores. These centers provide a good beginning income and are ideal for graduates who don’t want the significant headaches of private practice. It’s a different kind of work, but most state optometry laws preserve the clinical independence of the optometrist although the general work rules resemble those of any other kind of corporate employment.

Hospital, ophthalmology or optometric referral centers will all require an ocular disease, pediatric or low vision residency. Think and plan ahead because there is only space for a third of each year’s graduates for residencies.

In summary, it may not be the same kind of optometry of the 1960’s or 1970’s, but there are many more avenues that are available to today’s graduates. While there is talk of an oversupply, there is always an available position for the candidate with the right kind of experience, the right kind of credentials and the right kind of people skills no matter how many graduates there are in the marketplace.

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About Richard Hom OD, MPA

Dr. Hom holds Doctor of Optometry and Masters in Public Administration degrees and practices family eye care and consults on public policy, health information technology and program evaluation.
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