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Measurements of fields of vision-by which you can detect signs of actual or impending pathology.
Fitting contact lenses-by which you adapt modern "invisible" lenses fitted over the eyeball and under the eyelid.
Vision for education—by which you are enabled to safeguard the vision of a child and assist him in learning.
Vision in industry-by which training you can work for ocular efficiency for safety and productivity.
Telescopic spectacles-by which training you can aid the visually subnormal. As you can see, many fields of service are open and waiting for you.
The following colleges can prepare you for your career in optometry and your State board examinations in the State of your choice:
Illinois College of Optometry, Chicago, Ill.
Los Angeles College of Optometry, Los Angeles, Calif.
The Massachusetts College of Optometry, Boston, Mass.
Ohio State University School of Optometry, Columbus, Ohio.
EMPLOYMENT OUTLOOK FOR OPTOMETRISTS
U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics
NATURE OF WORK
Optometrists examine eyes and perform other services to safeguard and improve vision. They use special instruments and tests to find and measure defects in vision and, when needed prescribe eyeglasses, contact lenses (invisible lenses), and eye exercises or other treatment that does not require drugs or surgery. Most optometrists supply their patients with the eyeglasses prescribed, though some do only minor repair work, such as straightening frames or replacing nose pieces on glasses. A few optometrists specialize in work such as fitting persons who are nearly blind with telescopic spectacles, studying the relationship of vision to highway safety, and analyzing lighting and other conditions that affect the efficiency of workers in industry or business. A few are engaged primarily in teaching, research, or a combination of the two.
Optometrists should not be confused with ophthalmologists, oculists, or dispensing opticians. Ophthalmologists and oculists are physicians who specialize in the medical and surgical care of the eyes and may prescribe drugs or other treatment, as well as lenses. Dispensing opticians (see index) fit and adjust eyeglasses according to prescriptions written by ophthalmologists or optometrists; they do not examine eyes or prescribe treatment.
Most of the 17,000 optometrists employed in 1962 were in private practice. However, some were salaried employees, working as assistants to established practitioners or for health clinics, hospitals, optical instrument manufacturers, or government agencies. A few taught in colleges of optometry or served as optometrists in the Armed Forces.
Optometrists are located chiefly in large cities and industrial areas, where many people are engaged in office work or other occupations which tend to create or emphasize vision problems. About 40 percent are in five States-California,
New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Many small towns and rural areas, especially in the South, have no optometrists.
TRAINING, OTHER QUALIFICATIONS, AND ADVANCEMENT
A license is required to practice optometry in all States and the District of Columbia. Applicants for licenses must be graduates of an accredited school of optometry and pass a State board examination. In some States, only graduates of certain schools of optometry are admitted to these examinations. A student planning to become an optometrist should, therefore, choose a school approved by the board of optometry in the State where he expects to practice. There were 10 schools of optometry in the country in 1963. Applicants with the necessary qualifications have an excellent chance of being admitted to one of these schools.
At least 5 years of college are needed to become an optometrist. The usual requirement is 2 years of preoptometry education in an approved college, followed by 3 years of training in an optometry school. However, completion of a 4-year course is required by some optometry schools after the 2 years of preoptometry study which are a prerequisite for admission. Preoptometry cources include mathematics, physics, biology, and chemistry, as well as English and other liberal arts courses. Students in schools of optometry have both classroom and laboratory work, as well as an opportunity to gain professional experience in the clinic run by the school. Most schools award the degree of doctor of optometry (O.D.), but some confer bachelor's degrees in science or optometry instead. Optometrists who wish to specialize often take additional training. A master's or Ph. D. degree in physiological optics or in a related field is usually required for teaching and research work.
A prospective optometrist should have a liking for mathematical and scientific work, the ability to use delicate precision instruments, mechanical aptitude, and good vision. In addition, to become a successful practitioner, he must be able to deal with people tactfully.
The majority of optometrists start either by setting up a new practice or by purchasing an established one. Some begin as assistants to established practitioners, and young graduates are frequently advised to do this in order to acquire experience and the funds necessary to equip an office.
Employment opportunities for new optometry graduates are expected to remain favorable throughout the 1960's. During this period, the number of new graduates is likely to be considerably less than the number of experienced optometrists who retire or stop practicing for other reasons. As in the past, opportunities to set up a new practice will generally be best in small towns and in residential areas of cities, where the new optometrist can easily become known and where competition is not as keen as in large business centers. Communities, especially in the South, that have no optometric services available will also offer opportunities for new graduates. A good office location is of major importance for a successful practice. The optometrits should consider the number of optometrists and medical eye specialists in the vicinity, in relation to size, occupations, age, and income level of the population in the area.
Over the long run, the demand for eye-care services will continue to grow. The importance of good vision to efficiency at work and in school is becoming more widely recognized; eye strain has been increased by many aspects of modern living; and the use of eyeglasses has come to be generally accepted. The volume of eye-care services needed will also be increased by the anticipated growth in population, especially by the expected sharp rise in the number of older people -the group most likely to need glasses-and because of the growing number of people employed in white-collar occupations. Although the expanded demand will be met in part by medical doctors who are eye specialists, optometrists will continue to supply a substantial proportion of all eye-care services.
Women optometrists, who constitute about 5 percent of the profession, have many opportunities to work as salaried assistants in the field of visual training. Those in private practice have been particularly successful in work with children.
EARNINGS AND WORKING CONDITIONS
In optometry, as in some of the other health fields, a low income must be expected during the first few years of practice. As a practice becomes established, earnings usually rise significantly. In 1962, over half the optometrists
had annual net incomes between $7,000 and $20,000, according to the American Optometric Association.
Newly graduated optometrists employed by clinics or other optometrists earned an average weekly salary of $160 in early 1963, according to the limited data available. Experienced optometrists generally received $200 or more a week.
Optometrists practicing in towns and small cities have higher average earnings than those in large cities. However, some successful practitioners in big cities have very high incomes. Although optometrists in salaried positions may at first earn more than those who go into practice for themselves, the situation is likely to be reversed after a few years of experience.
Working hours in this profession are usually regular. Since the work is not strenuous, optometrists can often continue to practice after the normal retirement age.
WHERE TO GO FOR MORE INFORMATION
Additional information on optometry as a career is available from: American Optometric Association, 4030 Chouteau Avenue, St. Louis, Mo.
Information on required preoptometry courses may be obtained by writing to the optometry school in which the prospective student wishes to enroll. The board of optometry in the capital of the State in which the student plans to practice will provide a list of optometry schools approved by that State.
Dr. WALDMAN. Thank you. I am Dr. Nelson F. Waldman, a practicing optometrist in Houston, Tex., and chairman of the American Optometric Association's Committee on Vocational Guidance. I am also president-elect of the Texas Optometric Association. Optometrists fill a public health need which can be met from no other source than by utilization of their services. They supply two-thirds of all vision care to the general public of the United States, and in the Armed Forces this percentage is closer to 85 percent.
Most Americans requiring vision care are dependent on the availability of members of our profession. In addition, most preventive work in the field of vision care is performed by optometrists. Their services are essential to the health and well-being of the American people, the missions of the U.S. Armed Forces and of civilian space and other scientific endeavors, the production of vital military and related equipment and materials needed for national defense, and to the development of skills and the improvement of educational techniques among students and workers.
Optometry is the only profession specifically licensed in all the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and the outlying possessions of the United States to deal with refractive and visual anomalies.
Yet, just as demand on the optometrist's services expands, the number of optometrists is, in fact, declining in proportion to the population curve which is ever turning upward. So that when you read in the 1960 census figures that there are 16,044 optometrists practicing in the United States, and that this was a gain over the 1950 census of 9.6 percent, you have to keep in mind that proportionately our profession is declining. Incidentally, the same census revealed that dentists gained 10.1 percent and physicians and surgeons 18.9 percent in that same 10-year period.
We now have about 17,000 practicing optometrists for a population of 191 million—or 1 optometrist to every 11,250 Americans.
The accepted minimum ratio of optometrists to population is 1 practitioner to every 7,000 Americans. To reach that ratio and to provide the barest minimal vision needs for our people-civilian and military—we need 10,000 additional optometrists.
One reason why we must have more trained manpower is the growth in the older age group. The University of Chicago in a report predicts that by 1980 the number of persons 65 to 69 will exceed 8.5 million while those over 70 will number almost 16 million. Those age groups have great need of our services. The Better Vision Institute, following a canvass of 1,082 family units including 3,354 persons, reports that 100 percent of those 65 and over wore glasses.
We know that more practitioners are leaving the field-due to retirement or death-than are entering it, and that student enrollment is far below its post-World War II high. It has, however, been rising again slowly since 1958. We also know that too many of our practicing optometrists 49 percent-are 39 or older. We of the American. Optometric Association are making a concerted effort to attract suitable young men and women into the profession.
But we are handicapped in our recruitment by two factors: No. 1, many of our prospective students lack the funds to attend optometry schools, and the schools have not sufficient funds to make loans to such suitable students. No. 2, because we are not included in the list of health specialists receiving Federal loans, many of those who consider optometry as a career believe that the profession is adequately staffed, perhaps even overcrowded, and, therefore, choose another field.
In the printed statement which you have before you, you will find some revealing incidents of self-help practiced by our profession to attract young people to it. But proud as we are of such examples, they are not enough on a national scale to provide funds for the students we need.
You will also find a very encouraging picture of the type of student we do attract.
Our Operation Manpower is paying off. Operation Manpower started in 1959 when the AOA decided that student recruitment was the No. 1 project. The following year its vocational guidance committee created a 5-year program called Operation Manpower designed as a blueprint for recruitment of students.
All segments of optometry-the AOA, doctors, schools, manufacturers, and suppliers of ophthalmic materials are cooperating in this hard-hitting program of career guidance and information. Each month we mail out The Recruiter, a bulletin which enlists everyone's support in Operation Manpower. I am providing a copy of the May 1964 issue for this committee's files.
But no such program can be completely successful until and unless the prospective student has the wherewithal to start-and to finishoptometry school. As it stands now, many qualified prospects find it impossible to enter optometry schools-others have to leave after the freshman year. A number of scholarships have been made available by various associations, societies, and institutions which are listed in Scholarships in Optometry, 1964-65, a copy of which has been supplied to this committee.
But the magnitude of the problem is such that we cannot meet the needs. That is why we feel that it is imperative for the future visual health and welfare of our people that optometry students be granted the same loan opportunities as our sister professions of dentistry, medicine, and osteopathy by the passage of H.R. 8546.
A favorable report by the committee on this legislation will greatly enhance our opportunity to protect America's most precious giftvision.
Mr. ROGERS of Florida. Thank you very much, Dr. Waldman. We appreciate your testimony.
The next witness is Dr. Donald A. Springer, president of the American Academy of Optometry.
Dr. Springer, the committee will be glad to have your testimony. STATEMENT OF DR. DONALD A. SPRINGER, O.D., PRESIDENT, AMERICAN ACADEMY OF OPTOMETRY
Dr. SPRINGER. Thank you.
Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, I would like to thank you for the opportunity of appearing before you. I am Donald A. Springer, a practicing optometrist in Anniston, Ala., where I have been in practice since 1946. I am a graduate of the School of Optometry at the Ohio State University, in Columbus, Ohio. I am a past president of the Alabama Optometrist Association and at the present time president of the American Academy of Optometry.
I would like to say a word about the academy if I might. It is a voluntary organization of optometrists and other scientists in the field of vision who are dedicated to improving the professional, educational, and scientific standards of optometric service provided the citizens of this country.
I am speaking in support of H.R. 8546. My reasons for appearing in favor of this bill are several. One is that students contemplating entering this profession, as has been stated earlier, if the need arises will know that there are funds available that they can fall back on to complete their training. Another reason is that the profession is called up to supply optometric officers for all of the Armed Forces, and it has been a problem for us to recruit graduates to fill these slots. At the present time they are filled, but the demand increases each year. Also, more States will be encouraged as several already have to provide scholarships in our field.
I think most important of my reasons is that the vast majority of the optometry graduates immediately go into private practice in small communities in rural areas, and as you gentlemen know, one of our problems is to provide health care services in rural areas and smaller communities.
This is the area that I feel the optometrist can serve the best in and where the need for him is greatest. But to do this, these men must establish either a new practice or purchase the practice of a retiring optometrist. But many of these graduating students, if they have been able to complete their optometric education, have depleted their own funds and oftentimes that of their family. Then we are faced with the situation of a trained man who is willing to go into a community where he is needed but he frankly lacks the funds to establish an office that is properly equipped.
I feel this legislation will enable these young people and their families to conserve part of their available funds so that they will have the necessary money to begin the practice.