The fruit salad tree of optometry-the many options of one profession

February 5, 2015
Mark J. Uhler, OD

Dr. Mark J. Uhler, a native of Pittsburgh, PA, graduated from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry, Salus University, in 1992 with a Clinical Excellence Citation from The Eye Institute. In addition to working in both private optometric and ophthalmologic

Optometry offers a challenging, interesting, and rewarding career path. Optometrists can choose to practice in many different locales, to specialize in diverse areas of patient care, and to work in a myriad of different practice situations.

Have you every heard of a fruit salad tree? If you haven’t, don’t feel bad-I hadn’t either. Imagine my wonderment to realize that fruit salad trees actually exist! In my mind, I conjured up the idea of a magician waving his wand to create such a tree. I discovered that through the science of grafting, a single tree can be created to grow several different kinds of fruit at the same time. 

A fruit salad tree, developed in 1990 by the West Family in in New South Wales, Australia, bears up to six different fruits of the same family all growing on the one tree. One type of fruit salad tree produces apricots, nectarines, plums, and peaches, while another bears grapefruits, lemons, oranges, limes, and tangelos. All fruits retain their own individuality, with staggered ripening times.  What a wondrous thing to imagine all your favorite citrus fruits on one tree.

Two-way communication is essential to patient care

The most common method of propagating fruit salad trees is grafting onto rootstocks. This, in essence, involves physically joining part of a shoot of one plant onto the roots of a different but closely related plant species, so that the two parts grow together as one plant. Grafting is the preferred method. Grafting not only propagates a new plant of the desired type, but it also adds extra advantages by combining the characteristics of multiple rootstocks.

As I ponder this amazing revelation, I’m reminded of the diverse and multidisciplinary nature of optometry. Let’s look at the metaphorical version of a fruit salad tree in optometry.

One profession, varied career options

Optometry offers a challenging, interesting, and rewarding career path. Optometrists can choose to practice in many different locales, to specialize in diverse areas of patient care, and to work in a myriad of different practice situations. The scope of optometry continues to grow with the development of new technologies and treatments for eye diseases. As primary eyecare professionals, optometrists are uniquely positioned to improve the quality of life and health for their patients by providing quality comprehensive eye care. The fruits, if you will, are varied, yet stem from the same rootstock of optometry.

Optometrists have diverse options for practice locations. They can be found in rural as well as urban community settings. Options for optometrists include participation in solo or group private practices, while others choose to work in an HMO or outpatient clinic setting. Optometrists care for patients in refractive laser centers and surgery centers. Other opportunities include the military, the U.S. government, research, and educational or teaching institutions.

Next: Collaboration and comanagement

 

Collaboration and comanagement

Ideally, multidisciplinary collaboration is the key to our success. Working together in a cooperative manner, sharing knowledge, learning with and supporting fellow colleagues in multiple disciplines, allows all to attain our professional goals of providing superior patient care. In addition, collaboration with leadership can foster greater access to resources, problem solving, recognition, and reward when faced with competing for finite resources (namely patients).

The multidisciplinary nature of optometry encourages comanagement and continuity of care, provides convenient consultation and communication, and is cost effective. It stimulates learning, helps to consolidate management strategies, and results in improved quality of care.

The first doctor is often the smartest

Like the owner of a fruit salad tree, optometrists can sample a variety of career options all from the same profession. Some optometrists have the added benefit of having several fruits or career instances over the course of their career, first practicing in a private setting, followed by a corporate setting, and then teaching. The possibilities and combinations are endless.

In your optometric career, what fruits will you enjoy on your own metaphorical version of a fruit salad tree? The key to making the most of this unique career path is to give some thought to your own path. So, many of us allow chance or fate to be our guide and yet, given the choices, you might consider actually planning your next career within optometry.