It’s the time of year when state legislatures convene to do the people’s business. Which means it is also the time optometry undertakes legislation to expand scope of practice to better care for our patients. For better or worse, we are a legislated profession.
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It’s the time of year when state legislatures convene to do the people’s business. Which means it is also the time optometry undertakes legislation to expand scope of practice to better care for our patients. For better or worse, we are a legislated profession. News abounds of the various states attempting to add this or that to their optometric scope of practice acts.
If you've never been involved in this process, I highly recommend you participate in your state’s efforts. It is an eye-opening experience. An old saying goes that there are two things you never want to see: sausage being made and laws being passed.
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That figurative pungent aroma emanating from your state capital is legislation being crafted. It is not an easy nor gentle process. I can recall years ago my blood boiling during an open floor hearing when the opposition stated how Georgia residents would die in the streets if optometrists were given the right to prescribe topical beta-blockers.
When optometrists go before their state governing body attempting to enact a piece of legislation to enhance patient care, it seems that every special interest group comes out of the woodwork against us. Ophthalmology, the general medical lobby, you name ‘em, they come out to lobby against us.
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Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle, who aligns with optometry? While we may garner occasional outside support, often it’s just us. We’re the ones advocating for our profession and for our patients’ care. As Dr. Ben Casella, president of the Georgia Optometric Association, said to me, “If you have never felt lonely in a crowd, then go to the Capitol as an optometrist!”
The next time you write a patient a medical prescription, take just a moment to think about that privilege. These days, we take it for granted. Yet, that privilege didn't always exist and didn’t just magically happen. It took a lot of our predecessors with the foresight and the willingness to spend their time and their treasure to win that privilege for our profession so you can better care for your patients. Those of us in practice today are standing on the shoulders of giants past and reaping the benefits of their efforts.
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The process for optometry continues every year. We need more young giants in our profession like Dr. Casella and Dr. Johndra McNeely, South Carolina Optometric Physician’s Association president-elect, to take up the mantle.
So, join or become active in your state association. Associations are our advocates in the political arena and always work for our best interests and the interests of the patients we serve. New and enthusiastic members are always welcome. Even if you’re not politically inclined, contribute to your state association’s political action committee (PAC).
It is entirely up to us. The only people who are going to ensure our ability to provide absolute state-of-the-art, cutting-edge patient care are optometrists. It’s just us.