Charles Dickens’s words, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,”
could also describe my first year out of optometry school.
I was finally a Doctor of Optometry, but I was not out of the woods yet.
Every summer I think about the most recent brigade of freshly minted ODs who have survived four years of optometric boot camp and a challenging gauntlet of National Board Exams. I picture students charging forth across the “no-man’s land” of changing healthcare landscape, lugging their backpacks full of six-figure student debt.
As if that frontal assault was not treacherous enough, students are also required to serve as cannon fodder for state board examiners.
Previously from Dr. Brown: Death of the pressure patch has been slightly exaggerated
My “tale of two state boards” is dedicated to these young comrades in arms.
Seeking state licenses
That first summer I settled into my residency and easily obtained a license in State A where I was located. A simple written test covering a few clinical topics and state laws was all it took.
I then decided to seek a license in nearby State B to improve my post-residency job prospects. It had a good therapeutics law and plenty of opportunities for young ODs—or so I heard.
State B’s test included a face-to-face interview with board members. Apparently, it was designed to ascertain the character and intentions of a candidate and protect the good citizens of their state from any optometric riff-raff.
When I entered the room, I looked up and saw a group of mostly middle-aged males sitting on a dais. There was a single folding chair in front of the stage that was apparently the “hot seat.”
I assumed the position and peered up at the line of men who, for that time and place, were essentially a pantheon of gods. In the middle sat a large good ol’ boy who I took to be Zeus.
They asked me a lot of “clinical” questions like:
Where are you from?
What are you doing?
Why are you here?
I explained my educational bona fides, that I was doing a residency in ocular disease in a nearby state, and that I would like to pursue opportunities in their state during that year.
Then Zeus said, “Ya mean to tell me ya don’t already have a private practice lined up? That ya really don’t know whatcha’ll be doin’?”
“No, sir,” I said.
He said, “And what about this place where ya are now? Ain’t that one of them thar chains?”
A younger board member leaned Zeus’s way and explained to him that, no, it was a comanagement center, and the name was the corporate brand of the company that owned the practice.
Zeus scowled, seemingly unconvinced.
I left the interrogation chamber a little shaken. I worried aloud to my wife that the fix might be in.
I needed to be at my best for the practical exam the next day, so I tried to shake it off and think positive thoughts.