Often I’m asked two questions when I meet someone for the first time and tell them about my profession.
- What is the difference between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist?
- What made you decide to become an optometrist?
The first topic is one that I feel the public is still frequently confused about. I find myself educating most of my patients, even ones I’ve seen for several years. I could quote the American Optometric Definition as below:
Doctors of optometry (ODs) are the primary health care professionals for the eye. Optometrists examine, diagnose, treat, and manage diseases, injuries, and disorders of the visual system, the eye, and associated structures as well as identify related systemic conditions affecting the eye.
I think this statement well represents the profession but the public needs to know what it means to them. I simply state that we are your family eye doctor. Optometrists provide our patients with primary care of the eye, just as you would see you family physician. We have the training and the technology to diagnosis and treat conditions that affect your vision or the health of the eye. In the rare occurrence that a condition requires surgical intervention then we have a network of ophthalmologists that we work directly with to provide coordinated care.
I’m excited about the care we provide our patients. We often see patients before they encounter any other healthcare provider and therefore optometrists are positioned to uncover not only eye health problems but also address systemic healthcare concerns. As the population of our nation continues to grow and age we know there will continue to be a critical need for optometrists.
In addition to providing both well vision evaluations and medical eye care we also provide our patients with the latest eye care product. Not only do glasses or contact lenses help you see better but also can give you that great new look or style. It’s very exciting to hear all the complements a new pair of glasses will provide.
The second question I’ve never had a great answer for. I wish I had a life changing moment that I could recite that drove me into the field but truth be told I basically stumbled into the idea. I was a junior in college wondering what I was going to do for my career and I got a part time job with an optometrist. The idea grew, and after much dedication and determination I was able to call myself an optometrist. I love my profession and I can’t image doing anything else.
Jonathan Cargo, O.D.