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ODs look to what 2021 will bring

Optometry Times JournalJanuary digital edition 2021
Volume 13
Issue 1

Cautious optimism for the coming year, according to practitioners

After a non-year for optometry in 2020, many ODs think there is nowhere to go but up in 2021.

The Optometry Times® team asked what ODs can look forward to in the coming year and how 2021 will look different for them.

Find out what they said.

Joseph P. Shovlin, OD, FAAO

Optometry Times Editorial Advisory Board member

Scranton, PA

Not sure what is in store for next year. I hope we get back to normal which includes in-person continuing education (CE) meetings, at least some lessening in the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) and social distancing in and out of the office, and an economy that recovers from the consequences of this pandemic.

Our practice has always had a heavy emphasis on medical eye care because we are a multidisciplinary practice, and I think this has served us well during the pandemic. So, I think this may not alter much of what we do in 2021. But, we shall see and will continue to remain flexible.

Chris Wroten, OD

Optometry Times Editorial Advisory Board member

Hammond, LA

The first 6 months of 2021 may be very similar to the last 6 months of 2020, but by staying plugged in with the American Optometric Association (AOA), state optometry associations, professional friends (both inside and outside of optometry), and trusted resources like Optometry Times, I know we can overcome the remaining challenges that lie ahead.

The patients in our practice have come to appreciate the care and the services we provide more than ever before, and I am certain that on the other side of this pandemic we will see great professional satisfaction and personal reward for those who remain resilient, so don’t give up!

Dori Carlson, OD

Optometry Times Editorial Advisory Board member

Park River, ND

For 2021 we will continue to re-evaluate all business practices to become more efficient with patient flow as well as business expenses.

The pandemic isn’t going to be over any time soon. I think we need to take a collective breath, pause, be patient and be kind. People are mentally all over the board in their response to the pandemic. It is incumbent upon us, as providers, to keep a sense of calm for our patients.

We can look forward to the fact this won’t last forever.

Sherry Bass, OD, FAAO

Optometry Times Editorial Advisory Board member

New York City

In 2021, ODs can look forward to:

• Development of a COVID vaccine

• Return to a more normal patient schedule

• Development of new technologies for the detection of ocular disease

• New therapies for ocular disease that ODs can administer

Jeff Anshel, OD, FAAO

Optometry Times Editorial Advisory Board member

Encinitas, CA

In 2021, I am expecting to expand my “retirement business: of selling authentic Hawaiian old-school shave ice from my converted school bus! It is more work than expected, but it is fun to see the kids light up when we drive to a party or work a street fair (which will hopefully return in 2021).

Leo Semes, OD, FAAO

Optometry Times Editorial Advisory Board member

Ponte Verde Beach, FL

Observing my optometrist’s office, efficiencies that have been put in place have been adapted to and are working.

Michael Brown, OD, FAAO

Optometry Times Editorial Advisory Board member

Huntsville, AL

In 2021, we will obviously still be dealing with COVID-19. Indeed, we may have not seen the worst of it. Whatever happens, I don’t think eye care will be completely shut down again like it was before. Good vision and eye health cannot wait on the advance of a virus to be halted.

Besides, we now have gained our COVID “legs.” We know how to walk the slippery deck of a tossing ship and still get the job done.

James F. Hill, III, OD, FAAO

Optometry Times Editorial Advisory Board member

Charleston, SC

In 2021 and beyond, the optometric profession will see an increase in telehealth and technology in general. We will embrace it and use it to continue to foster better relationships with our patients.

There will be changes to our traditional continuing education model, but change will be good and more opportunities to learn that didn’t exist before.

Luckily, every OD I know is as busy now as they were before the pandemic, and it proves we truly are essential to those we care for, and that will continue into the future and beyond.

Stuart Richer, OD, FAAO

Optometry Times Editorial Advisory Board member


More dedication, to primary car—we are continuing to test all high-risk category patients (nursing home patients and people of color), for vitamin D deficiency.

Marta Fabrykowski, OD, FAAO

Optometry Times Editorial Advisory Board member

New York City

I hope that the inevitable slowdown wehave all been experiencing in 2020 will garner thoughtful returns in 2021: More time for empathetic patient care? More access to remote patients via telemedicine? More time to have dinner with our families?

Diana Canto-Sims, OD

Optometry Times Editorial Advisory Board member


I am optimistic that we can look back in 2021 and know that it can’t get any worse. The year 2021 is the beginning of my empty nesting. I look forward to starting many new hobbies once my younger of two sons heads to college.

Milton Hom, OD, FAAO

Optometry Times Editorial Advisory Board member

Azusa, CA

As an OD, I am excited about the future, 2021 and beyond. In development are new drug classes for the chronic diseases that have plagued us: Presbyopia, myopia, meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), and demodex. We will soon have an answer.

David Geffen, OD, FAAO

Optometry Times Editorial Advisory Board member

San Diego

Although I am typically not the pessimist, I believe the first half of 2021 is going to be more of the same. Restrictions on volume as increased sterilization procedures. But we are leaning how to become more efficient and work in this environment.

My concern is the number of businesses on the brink of collapse and increased unemployment is going to cut more patients from our care as they lose their vision care benefits.

Providing exceptional patient experiences will be more important than ever. Keeping up with technology will be critical in this environment. Hopefully the latter part of the year will allow us to loosen some of these standards and get back to a more normal routine. I advise to be mindful of possible decreases and budget appropriately.

Jim Owen, OD, FAAO

Optometry Times Editorial Advisory Board member

Encinitas, CA

Going forward into 2021 there is a place for telemedicine in optometry. It may not be for everyone, and it certainly does not apply for many conditions, but the skill necessary for success in inherent in most optometrists, the ability to listen.

Ben Gaddie, OD, FAAO

Optometry Times Editorial Advisory Board member

Lexington, KY

Looking ahead to 2021 and beyond, I see a new landscape for us all. Some of the protective measures could survive the COVID virus itself, such as personal space distancing (I am all for this one, especially when traveling or in a line, I like my personal space!), carryout/curbside dining will continue to be a thing, and I will never stop hoarding paper towels and toilet paper.

In addition, I can see the protocols in our office being sustained post COVID. For example, altered patient schedules for social distancing have actually improved my clinical flow, allowing me to spend more quality time with patients. It shows in our revenue per encounter and our patient satisfaction surveys.

Is this sustainable? We need to find a way to keep the impact of quality care and the personal touch as we return to a pandemic-free U.S.

Marc Taub, OD, FAAO

Optometry Times Editorial Advisory Board member

Memphis, TN

I am very much looking forward to seeing my extended family in the year ahead. I will be doing more of the same professionally with writing and editing and am happy to share that a new book or two are on the way!

Mo Rafieetary, OD, FAAO

Optometry Times Editorial Advisory Board member


My outlook for 2021 io remain human, and as humans for million years have survived all kinds of calamities to do my part in that struggle. Professionally, I am proud to belong to a group that has and continues to grow, make progress, and remain prosperous.

We shall survive this pandemic and most likely must deal with something else as life comes at us. We can’t ever lose hope that there will be better days.

For 2021, we will look at future delivery of pharmaceuticals such as anti-vascular epithelial growth factor (VEGF), diabetic macular edema (portal delivery system, viral vectors/genetic therapy), and possible treatment for dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD)/geographic atrophy (GA).

Paul Chous, OD, FAAO

Optometry Times Editorial Advisory Board member

Tacoma, WA

Looking toward 2021, I plan on delivering the best care, writing the best articles, and giving the best CE presentation of my career. I would also like to go to Disneyland.

Jenny Coyle, OD, FAAO

Fullerton, CA

The enormous success of the Academy At-Home meeting will no doubt change the way ODs approach professional meetings and conferences. I believe opportunities for virtual participation in all aspects of our meetings are here to stay in some capacity, and that will expand the ability for people to get involved or participate.

A shining example of a successful virtual event was the Summit on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion hosted by the American Academy of Optometry (AAO), National Optometric Association (NOA), and Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) on October 6, 2020, that drew 2700 attendees. It was an epic call to action that started as a low in 2020 by shining a light on the profound lack of diversity in our profession. That session, along with many others such as the series hosted by the State University of New York (SUNY) College of Optometry this summer provided forums for the dissemination of knowledge and brutal facts that will serve as a stimulus to do better in 2021 and beyond.

I hope that we will be able to highlight growth and positive work in the realm of diversity, equity, and inclusion as a high of 2021.

Jeffry Gerson, OD, FAAO

Optometry Times Editorial Advisory Board member

Leawood, KS

I hope that 2021 will look much different, but I know that it likely won’t. I think we will be practicing similarly a year from now to how we are today.

I look forward to optometry continuing to show its value by providing safe, effective care to people needing it both through medical eye care and vision correction. I think that people will want to stay away from ERs and urgent cares with eye problems, and they may be more likely to call on us to help take care of them—this is a good thing for patients.

I am hoping that in-person meetings are able to start to return as I miss the camaraderie of seeing colleagues. I am optimistic that they will in some fashion, but they will not be the same as they were before COVID.

Barbara Fluder, OD

Optometry Times Editorial Advisory Board member

Valdosta, GA

In 2021, I hope we can get a vaccine that is effective and we can overcome and move on. I don’t think life will ever be the same in regard to handshaking and embracing one another, which is unfortunate. I guess the non-huggers are happy. I hope the world economy can recover, and I feel optometry will continue to grow and be a prosperous profession.

Kelly K. Nichols, OD, PhD, FAAO

Birmingham, AL

Spring semester is looking to be a repeat of fall, with the hope of a vaccine and reductions in cases. Until then, “we got this” in academia, and some of these “silver linings” are here to stay. Importantly, even those in education who are a bit slower to embrace change have seen in real time that it can be done, and we are stronger for it.

John Rumpakis, OD, FAAO

Optometry Times Editorial Advisory Board member

Lake Oswego, OR

I view 2021 as a year of optimism. I believe that our country, and specifically our industry, will emerge from this stronger and with a renewed focus on securing our place within the greater health care community.

I, for one, am excited to be part of a great profession with a great group of people, both colleagues and our good friends in the industry that supports us as well.

Art Epstein, OD, FAAO


For 2021, more publications, more research, an externship, and likely an ocular disease residency. Practice wise, I am especially excited about a virtual explosion in new dry eye products coming to market. Presbyopia drugs will provide a massive opportunity for optometry. Finally, in 2021 the need for optometry to embrace medical eye care will become painfully apparent. Helping my colleagues embrace and succeed in medical eye care is at the very top of my agenda for 2021.

Justin Bazan, OD

Optometry Times Editorial Advisory Board member

Brooklyn, NY

Until things change, we are continuing on the same course. I am doubtful we will see anything really change in 2021. Maybe later in the year, but I have learned not to plan too far ahead as it all can change in an instant.

I am grateful to have been able to adjust as needed and make things work despite the obstacles. Doing more with less is our COVID world reality.

Marc Bloomenstein, OD, FAAO

Optometry Times Editorial Advisory Board member

Scottsdale, AZ

As ODs look toward 2021 and put this Snellen year in the rearview mirror, we have to maintain the same hygienic diligence we have all added to our offices. I don’t see my not wearing a mask in a lane ever again, singing happy birthday as I wash my hands (a lot) and providing more options for patients to have examinations without being in the office, like digital phoropters or augmented reality (AR) visual field testing.

I do look forward to the time when we can all congregate at a meeting, wait in a line to get our free cookie in the exhibition hall; however, I don't see that happening for a while.

So, I think we should change the Snellen chart to a 20/22 line—yes, that looks like it will be much clearer!

Jade Coats, OD

Optometry Times Editorial Advisory Board member

Rogers, AR

Looking forward to the coming year, 2021 has a chance to be a much better year for optometrists. It is a great time to discuss the importance of backup glasses, purchasing an annual supply of contact lenses, and being prepared.

It is also a great time to start treating and managing things in your practice, like dry eye disease and computer vision syndrome as they become more of a concern across all age groups.

Andrew Morgenstern, OD, FAAO

Optometry Times Editorial Advisory Board member

Bethesda, MD

2020 is a measurement used to describe “clear vision.” We now have a “2020 vision” for the next phase of our world. We need to be ready for the unexpected.

ODs can look to integrate more artificial intelligence (AI) into their practices, but in a way that complements their practice, increased patient interaction, and ultimately the health of the practice.

People are engaging their doctors in a new way since the pandemic began. They should not have a “go back to the old way, pre-COVID” mentality. There are many many new methods and technologies that have enabled patient interaction that are here to stay. ODs need to embrace that to their benefit.

Karla Zadnik, OD, PhD, FAAO

Columbus, OH

Optometric educators will need to look at what virtual teaching worked and what didn’t to craft a new pedagogy going forward—for implementation in autumn 2021.

More from our January 2021 issue

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