Twenty military ODs from all branches joined AOS members in San Antonio last weekend for the 4th Annual Continuing Education Meeting. “San Antonio has a large military presence” said AOS President Dr. Pamela Miller. “Having them participate in uniform added a lot to the meeting and made us proud to recognize their service both to our profession and to the nation.”
The weekend kicked off with a reception Friday evening above San Antonio’s famous RiverWalk. “The food was wonderful, but the camaraderie was even better” noted Dr. A.J. DeVivo. “The friendliness and professional fellowship is what really sets this meeting apart.”
Not only did attendees hear from well-known leaders in the profession, including Dr. Agustin Gonzalez, Dr. Ben Szirth, Dr. Ken Lebow, Mr. Robert Robello, Dr. Khadija Shahid, and Dr. Michael Sullivan-Mee, but they were able to record and track their CE using the new OE Tracker smartphone app from ARBO. “I love the tracking online. It was simple to download and easy to use” according to Dr. Melissa Almarales.
The 2013 Dr. Harvey Yamamoto Award recipient was announced as Nichols Gubler. Nick's award winning essay "How can Social Media be used in the Optometric Practice to improve patient care and outcome" may be read online at the AOS website, www.OptometricSociety.org. Nick is a senior at the Arizona College of Optometry at Midwestern University.
Honorary Life Memberships were awarded to Mr. Robert Rebello, Dr. Gary Gerber, Dr. Paul Farkas, and Dr. Harvey Yamamoto for their dedication, commitment and support of optometry and the AOS.
All in all, it was a great meeting as Dr. Marcia Detloff noted, “The entire meeting was perfect. I packed 14 hours of COPE CE into 1 1/2 days and still had time to talk to several vendors, take a boat ride around the River Walk, see the Alamo and enjoy a dinner at a fantastic French restaurant."
We look forward to seeing everyone next year in Chicago, May 2-4, 2014.
Many people within the profession are asking how many practicing optometrists are needed to meet the needs of the population of the United States and whether the plethora of new “for profit” optometry schools which have opened, and those planned to open, over the last few years will produce an over supply of O.D.s. There is a significant concern that too many practicing O.D.s could negatively affect the ability of practicing O.D.s to earn a reasonable income. This is especially important for younger O.D.s who are graduating with an average debt of $150,000.00 to $200,000.00. How will they be able to pay their student loan and cost of living bills if they are unable to earn an appropriate income?
Let us evaluate some of the pertinent facts which may help us determine if there are too many schools graduating too many O.D.s.
There are currently 21 optometry schools, public and private, open in the U.S. and its territories with another proposed school in Virginia which is tentatively scheduled to enroll its first class in 2014. Four new schools have enrolled students in the last few years with some of them now graduating their first group of optometrists.
In 2012, according to the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO), the 21 current schools had 2545 individuals apply for the 1797 first year spots available. If the Virginia school opens, that will add approximately 48 more students per year to the initial enrollment for a total of 1845 students per class. For the 2011- 2012 class year, there were a total of 6289 optometry students enrolled in the 20 schools operating at that time. That represented a 14.6% increase in total enrollment since the 2006-2007 class year. With the opening of the new school in Massachusetts and the proposed school in Virginia, that number will increase by approximately 112 students per class year for a total of approximately 6737 optometry students once the two newest schools enroll all four class years. In 2011, there were 1308 graduates. In a few short years, with 22 schools graduating students, that number could very easily exceed 1600 per year which is a 22% increase in graduates per year compared to 2011.
With a projected annual average of 850 O.D.s retiring by 2015, we will soon have an average net gain of 750 O.D.s coming into the marketplace every year. In 2008, there were 34,800 practicing O.D.s and, at the present rate of growth, the projection is that there will be 43,200 practicing O.D.s by 2018 which is a 24% increase in 10 years. It appears that the RAND and Abt studies were both correct in predicting an oversupply of O.D.s which began a few years ago and seems to be getting worse with the opening of each new college of optometry.
A couple of issues which have to be closely scrutinized regarding all of the schools is the level of clinical experience they will be able to provide to the students while enrolled and also whether the schools will be able to obtain the necessary skilled teaching staff. It will be especially interesting to see how the school in Virginia, which is opening in a very rural low population density area of the state, will be able to meet these critical needs.
If the schools cannot meet the didactic and clinical education requirements for their students, then we may see a situation where the NBEO pass rates begin to decline or more graduates just barely being able to pass these board exams. What effect will that have on the quality of the graduates at a time when O.D.s are taking on a greater role in the medical eye care of their patients every day? Only time will tell.
Now let us evaluate some practice income and patient load data for the average O.D.
According to the “Review of Optometry” 2012 income survey, the average net income per O.D. was ...