Are optometrists really happy?

February 16, 2016

A colleague recently forwarded an editorial from our sister publication, Ophthalmology Times. “Are medical students happy?” was penned by Chief Medical Editor Peter J. McDonnell, MD (his opinion pieces are worth an OD’s read, by the way), and he took issue with an Los Angeles Times op-ed piece from Rich Joseph, a dual MD/MBA candidate at Stanford.

A colleague recently forwarded an editorial from our sister publication, Ophthalmology Times. “Are medical students happy?” was penned by Chief Medical Editor Peter J. McDonnell, MD (his opinion pieces are worth an OD’s read, by the way), and he took issue with an Los Angeles Times op-ed piece from Rich Joseph, a dual MD/MBA candidate at Stanford. In short, Mr. Joseph questions the long hours, grueling schedule, and poor working environs of residency training and contrasts that situation with the MBA candidates, who in his opinion live a very charmed existence. It is these brutal conditions that in his opinion has led to 32 percent of Stanford med school graduates to not pursue a clinical residency.1

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Dr. McDonnell felt that ophthalmology residents, by the fact they do not live and work at hospitals 24/7, have fewer problems and that “while many top residencies in other fields have trouble filling the match, ophthalmology training programs have to turn great applicants away every year.”2

Which got me thinking about our own profession. I see posts on social media lamenting the problems all ODs face, and I wonder: Are these doctors happy with their career choice?

I come from a generation where men didn’t discuss their “feelings,” and you never, ever gave voice to any doubts in fear of being seen as weak. You simply accepted your lot in life and trudged on. For many of the coal miners I worked with, plowing on meant early disability, black lung, and alcoholism. I never doubted my decision to become an optometrist. It is without question the best professional decision I’ve ever made in my life.

Yet it also probably skews my perception. After shoveling coal for the first 10 years of my working life, I haven’t worked a day since I came out of the shafts. So whatever concerns we face as a profession, and there are many, optometry beats the heck outta what I used to do. I’m certain if Mr. Joseph spoke to the tech geeks in Silicon Valley he thinks have it made, he would hear they, too, have their own set of gripes and complaints. The grass always looks greener on the other side, right?

Not only is it perspective, it is attitude. I think what we ODs are blessed to do makes for a pretty good gig, warts and all.


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References

1. Joseph R. A new balance sheet for doctors. Los Angeles Times. Available at: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-1223-joseph-med-school-brain-drain-20151223-story.html. Accessed 2/2/2016.

2. McDonnell PJ. Are medical students happy? Ophthalmology Times. Available at:  http://ophthalmologytimes.modernmedicine.com/ophthalmologytimes/news/are-medical-students-happy. Accessed 2/1/2016.