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We would appreciate having this letter submitted to the House Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Health and Public Safety, in time for the hearing on H.R. 8516 on May 26, 1964. We hope the subcommittee will give this bill favorable consideration. Respectfully yours,
Dr. RICHARD A. Johnson,
Corresponding Secretary. Mr. ROGERS of Florida. Next is our friend and colleague from South Carolina, the Honorable Robert T. Ashmore.
STATEMENT OF HON. ROBERT T. ASHMORE, A REPRESENTATIVE
IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
Mr. ASHMORE. Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to present my statement, Mr. Chairman. It is my pleasure to support the proposed amendment to title VII of the Public Health Service Act introduced as H.R. 8546 by my friend the Honorable Kenneth Roberts, who is chairman of this subcommittee, to extend to students of optometry those provisions relating to the student loan program.
I have been privileged to be a member of the South Carolina congressional delegation for more than 10 years. My interest in this legislation is prompted by my knowledge of the highly qualified and devoted optometrists who are serving my constituents in the Fourth Congressional District and the people of my State.
Unfortunately there are too few optometrists in South Carolina. Our State population as reported by the Bureau of Census was 2,382,594 in 1960 and is expected to be 2,809,000 by 1970. In 1960 there were 310 optometrists serving my people. The South Carolina Optometric Association has estimated that by 1970, 68 optometrists will be needed over and beyond the optometric replacements that will be required as a result of attrition caused by death and retirement.
There is a scholarship provision in the South Carolina Appropriations Act for tax aid to optometry students not to exceed the difference between the tuition charge at the South Carolina State College and the tuition fee charged by such out-of-State institutions as schools and colleges of optometry. Although funds available are helpful, the amount is not sufficient to fulfill the need nor to stimulate the desired interest in the profession. It does indicate the recognition by my State of the importance of optometrists to its wellbeing and the shortage in South Carolina's optometric manpower.
We do not have a school of optometry in South Carolina. The individual practitioner must get his education at out-of-State institutions at great financial sacrifice. Just as is the case with other professions, an optometric education is quite expensive. The optometrist's education to care for man's most precious sense takes approximately the same length of time to acquire at the college levels as the other professions.
Optometry is the profession specifically licensed to care for vision as dentistry is the profession specifically licensed for dental care. It is one of only three health professions licensed in every State in the Union, and the District of Columbia, and the territories to examine and prescribe. As one of our necessary and important health sciences, it should have been included in the provisions of the Health Professions Educational Assistance Act. This oversight can be corrected by passage of the legislation now before you. I offer this committee my fullest cooperation so that H.R. 8546 may be enacted this year and prospective students of optometry may be assured they will have education loans when they need them. I trust that you will take prompt and favorable action on this bill. Thank you for the opportunity to provide this statement in support of the visual welfare of South Carolina and our Nation.
Mr. ROGERS of Florida. Thank you, Mr. Ashmore.
Next we shall hear from our friend and colleague from Arkansas, the very able Congressman, James W. Trimble.
STATEMENT OF HON. JAMES W. TRIMBLE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF ARKANSAS
Mr. TRIMBLE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for this opportunity to present my statement.
As a member of the Arkansas congressional delegation, it is a pleasure to appear before this committee in support of the proposed amendment to title VII of the Public Health Service Act so as to extend to qualified schools of optometry and students of optometry those provisions thereof relating to the student loan program. I have been privileged to occupy my present position as a Member of the Congress for nearly 20 years. My interest in this legislation is not prompted by the fact that there is a school or college of optometry in the State of Arkansas. However, we do have many well-qualified and dedicated optometrists who are serving my constituents and the people of my State.
One of these is Garland Melton, O.D., of Fayetteville. I have known Dr. Melton for more than 40 years and regard him most highly. He is not only a well-qualified member of his profesion, but he is a loyal American who would not attempt to deceive me any more than I would appear here for the purpose of deceiving this committee. Many of my statements are based on conversations I have had with him. He assures me there is a real need for this legislation.
The Arkansas optometry law declares the practice of optometry to be a learned profession and the same rights, powers, and duties are declared to attach thereto as are attached to other learned professions. Not only do the same rights and duties attach to that profession, but I firmly believe that those who desire to become members of that profession should be entitled to the same rights and privileges as far as student loans are concerned as we in this 88th Congress provided for students of medicine, dentistry, and osteopathy. Unfortunately, this
was not done. H.R. 12 passed and is now Public Law 88–129. The bill went to the President without including optometry students in the loan provisions. A move is now on to correct that mistake. Thirty such bills in addition to the one introduced by Congressman Roberts of Alabama have been introduced in the House, including H.R. 8679 which I introduced. Senator Williams of New Jersey introduced S. 2180 for the same purpose. He was supported in so doing by the junior Senator from Arkansas and by a distinguished bipartisan group which included the minority leader and 27 other Members of the Senate, about one-fourth of whom were members of the minority party.
Vision in this day and age is of vital importance to everyone, particularly the youth of our land as well as our older citizens. If it were not for the optometrists practicing in Arkansas, a substantial percentage of our citizens over 50 years of age would be unable to carry on their work. It is generally agreed that there should be 1 practicing optometrist for every 7,000 members of the population. Yet, in the State of Arkansas, the figures submitted to the White House Conference showed that we had only 1 licensed optometist for 11,000 members of our population. Some States were less fortunate. Others were more fortunate, but in practically every State the number of practicing optometrists was less than the recommended ratio.
With the increase in population, the only way to meet this situation is to increase the number of students who are studying to qualify to practice this profession. When somewhat similar legislation was introduced in the 87th Congress, it provided for outright grants to the students in some of the health professions, but H.R. 12, as passed by this Congress, provides only for student loans which are to be repaid with interest. True, the rate of interest is less than the commercial rate.
If I were to attempt to tell you of all the areas in which vision is an important factor, my presentation would be unreasonably lengthy. There are other witnesses who will furnish you with some of this information. Therefore, I will conclude my statement by saying that I wholeheartedly, enthusiastically, and emphatically recommend prompt and favorable action on this legislation.
Mr. ROGERS of Florida. Thank you for a fine statement, Mr. Trimble.
The next witness is our colleague from New Jersey, the Honorable Frank Thompson, Jr.
STATEMENT OF HON. FRANK THOMPSON, JR., A REPRESENTATIVE
IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY
Mr. THOMPSON. Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you and the members of the subcommittee for this opportunity to express my support of H.R. 8546, which would amend title VII of the Health Professions Educational Assistance Act to authorize loans to students of optometry upon the same basis as those made available to students of other disciplines mentioned therein.
It is my understanding that there is a distinct need for more trained optometrists and that to meet that need our schools have to turn out considerably more students than are now being trained. For example, from 1960 to 1963 the population of New Jersey increased from 6,066,000 to 6,470,000, a growth of 404,000—nearly 135,000 per year. During this same period of time, the number of optometrists practicing in New Jersey decreased from 752 to 728, a loss of 248 per year. According to the New Jersey State Department of Conservation and Economic Development, New Jersey's population is expected to increase as follows:
6, 760,000 1970_
7, 440, 000 1975_
8, 112, 000
At the present rate of attrition, due to death and retirement, it is anticipated by the New Jersey State Board of Optometrists that the number of optometrists practicing in this State will decrease as follows:
1965_ 1970 1975_
720 660 620
Based upon a ratio of 1 optometrist to 7,000 population, the foreseeable deficits in optometric personnel are as follows: 1965 19701975_ These brief statistics are a clear indication that
(1) Losses in optometric personnel are not being replaced, and the number of optometrists practicing in New Jersey is expected to decline steadily;
(2) The ratio of optometrists to population is being depressed by both the population increase and the deficit in new optometric practitioners; and
(3) Unless this trend is reversed very quickly, New Jersey residents may soon have to endure dangerously long waits to get their eyes examined with any regularity. The cost of acquiring an optometric education and training has risen to the point where it is now financially beyond many qualified young people who might be interested in optometry as a career. The need of the people of New Jersey for an adequate supply of optometrists is no longer a matter of private concern. It verges upon a public issue. Nor is it any longer possible for private resources to provide the financial means to assist sufficient numbers of qualified but financially embarrassed young people in underwriting the cost of optometric education.
Good vision is so great a need in our ever-more-complex civilization that shortages of optometric personnel will be reflected in loss of jobs, lowered income, increases in school dropouts, and growing cultural deprivation.
It is an interesting fact that increased vigilance on the part of parents and school authorities is making it possible to detect sight deficiencies among our children far earlier than was the case in prior years, a situation which emphasizes even more strongly the need for a larger number of trained and competent optometrists.
The vision care needs of the people of New Jersey must be met. They can be met only by assuring a steady, adequate supply of new optometrists. A program of Federal loans to optometry students is the only way the requisite steady, adequate supply of new optometrists can be assured.
Because of these facts which I have presented, I introduced H.R. 8678, which is identical to H.R. 8546. I am pleased to note for the record that the New Jersey Optometric Association, through its administrative director, Andrew F. Fischer, O.D., has made known to me its support of this legislation. I urge strongly favorable consideration of this bill, and would ask that my statement be made a part of the record of these hearings.
I might add that the situation which exists in New Jersey is, no doubt, similar to the situation in other States, where there is also a great need for care and treatment of those with visual defects.
Mr. ROGERS of Florida. Thank you, Mr. Thompson. We appreciate your appearance.
The next witness is our colleague from California, the Honorable Robert L. Leggett.
STATEMENT OF HON. ROBERT L. LEGGETT, A REPRESENTATIVE
IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
Mr. LEGGETT. Mr. Chairman, it is my pleasure to coauthor the legislation before both the Senate and this committee, which legislation would simply authorize the use of Federal funds for loans to students and colleges of optometry on the same terms that they have already been made available to students of medicine, dentistry, and osteopathy.
The loans, as you recall, are interest bearing-repayable by the students on graduation—and it has been estimated that the cost of this legislation would be less than $1 million which funds would be, as indicated, fully repayable.
As a Representative from California, I would like to call certain facts to your attention.
There are but 10 optometric educational institutions in the United States and 2 of these are in California. California has traditionally provided excellent educational facilities, be they public or private, professional or liberal arts. Our schools of optometry in California, as represented by the University of California at Berkeley and the Los Angeles College of Optometry, are the finest obtainable in the world.
The present facilities of the Los Angeles College of Optometry are composed of a complex of five reconstructed Army barracks. As were many other accommodations, they were constructed as temporary quarters in 1948 to educate a tidal wave of returning veterans. Because of the circumstances and the nature of the construction, the buildings did then, and do now, meet only the minimum construction standards.
In general, enrollments in optometry colleges rose 6 to 8 percent in the fall of 1963. An increase of 10 to 15 percent is anticipated for September 1964. In his speech to the Senate on September 25, 1963, Senator Williams of New Jersey fully described the need for qualified optometrists based on population service.
According to these statistics, then, colleges of optometry need to attract another enrollment growth of 30 percent as a minimum requirement and in order to provide adequate facilities these colleges will need the assistance provided under an extension of Public Law 88–129. Student enrollees will in most cases require financial assistance which could be provided under extension of this act.
As a practical matter, this is one of the valid and positive approaches to the poverty program, and I support assistance to those seeking to educate themselves in a skilled profession. Mr. ROGERS of Florida. We appreciate your fine statement,