Has the American Board of Optometry board certification model met its Waterloo?

January 1, 2011

The letter discusses a board certification program and alternatives.

I believe it was John McCall, OD, of Crockett, TX, who first proposed board certification (BC) for optometrists in the American Board of Optometric Practice model. Later, he was joined by Randolph Brooks, OD, and Jeffrey Weaver, OD, who convinced the American Optometric Association (AOA) to beat the drum on this issue with the well-intended idea to generate a significant amount of revenue for the AOA several years prior to President Obama's election.

Although I have never been opposed to a [BC] program for optometrists (see letters to the editor section of AOA News, April 27, 2009), I proposed a different model for testing, which was a more moderate approach to prove competency. Since the Sumerians invented the wheel in 4000 BC, I do not think zealotry needs to prevail in these times. Hence, I vigorously challenge the oppressive, reactionary nature of Dr. Brooks and his colleagues, which now also includes David Cockrell, OD, and others behind the scenes who wish anonymity.

I both bristled and laughed when I kept reading that this certification must be credible and defensible. Having read such a cogent statement makes me think that Dr. Brooks and his board members are apparently suffering from delusions of grandeur.

Giving a person such as Dr. Brooks this kind of power is one step this side of being dangerous. From the information disseminated by the AOA News, Primary Care Optometry News, and Optometry Times regarding the overzealous approach to the creation of the ABO model and the Joint Board Certification Project Team (JBCPT), I asked last year for this faction of optometrists to be recalled from their empowered positions because of a vote of no confidence. I further believe that their over-the-top position has significantly decreased the credibility of the AOA.

While writing letters to the AOA and California Optometric Association, as well as talking to optometrists about this issue, I was unaware that another group of optometrists had created an organization that opposed the ABO model. Apparently, the group is also opposed to the zealotry, experimental neurosis, and paranoia-as well as financial expense-that the JBCPT has created.

As a practicing optometrist for 40 years, who is a long standing AOA member and fellow of the American Academy of Optometry, member of neuro-ophthalmologic research associations, as well as a published author and senior member of the optometry staff at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, I have tried to express my position from within the AOA. However, I understand and agree with some of the platform of the newly formed American Optometric Society (AOS)-optometry school and National Board Examination do not have to be reinvented. Rest assured, I am still in the dark on topics and testing procedures of both organizations, as well as the method by which we would prepare for the examination.

I believe this "revolt" is merely a practical example of one of Newton's Laws in physics-"for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction." For all I know, maybe other factions of optometrists will evolve into additional organizations to protest the ABO model, especially, since it also has a Darwinian spin-only those optometrists who pass their examination will be able to provide service to patients who are enrolled in vision/medical insurance plans.

Please note, I do not want to see our profession become divisive. In these times more than ever, we need cohesion for credibility, legislation, and advancement.

I see four camps developing into polarity: 1) zealots led by Dr. Randy Brooks; 2) moderates led by the AOS; 3) "sheep" who are "asleep at the wheel" and don't want to get involved except by paying monthly dues for representation; and 4) "gravy train," free-lunch optometrists.

It is more than obvious that a compromise in the [BC] model is needed immediately before the AOA loses the bulk of its membership. Political ophthalmology and the American Medical Association, along with the pundits in Washington, DC, will undermine and ultimately phagocytize the profession if the course isn't altered soon.

-Gary M. Lazarus, OD, PhD, FAAOManhattan Beach, CA

Letters to the editor may be submitted to Mark L. Dlugoss, editor-in-chief, at mdlugoss@advanstar.com. Published letters may be edited for clarity and length.