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The importance of optometry to our day and time, and the future, is a matter which I am sure this committee need not be reminded. There are many and varied areas to which this field of medicine applies; such as military optometry, motorists' vision and highway safety, occupational vision, visual problems of aeronautics and space, vision aid to the partially blind, visual problems of children and youth are only a few.
The demand upon the men in the profession of optometry today is very great. In the United States we have about 1 optometrist for every 12,000 persons, whereas the recognized minimum is 1 for every 7,000 persons. Even with this deficiency, the Bureau of the Census considers that by 1970 there will be an attrition of 10 percent of the optometrists currently licensed.
There is clearly an apparent need for students of the profession and get there are cases where acceptable optometry students have been unable to attend school because the necessary finances were not available. Many of these students needing financial assistance work their way through school causing them to have to lighten their scholastic load resulting in an extension of the time they must spend in a school of optometry.
Our Federal Government has provided for the medical student who needs financial help, and yet in a profession where we are lacking in those to serve our Nation, and where this deficiency is increasing, we have failed to recognize the great need in this area.
The optometric profession has made an attempt to provide the means for student loans, but their efforts fall short of the demands. Every one of the schools of optometry have funds available either for scholarships or loans, or both, but even these are not sufficient to meet the demands of the qualifying students.
I am very proud to state that the State of Florida provides five annual scholarships up to $4,000 each for 4 years' attendance at an accredited college of optometry.
I feel it is time that our Federal Government recognizes the importance of the profession of optometry and recognizes further the need of financial assistence as it has given other medical professions. I trust you will give this matter every consideration and realize the serious nature of providing for help to young people who qualify for and are interested in the preservation of the sight of this Nation's people.
STATEMENT OF W. JUDD CHAPMAN, 0.D., PRESIDENT, AMERICAN
OPTOMETRIC ASSOCIATION Mr. ROGERS of Florida. Dr. Chapman, if you will come forward, we are very pleased to have you and have our colleague present you, and all of us particularly in Florida are very proud of you and the fine accomplishments you have demonstrated here, particularly in being national president of the American Optometric Association.
Dr. CHAPMAN. Thank you very much, Congressman Rogers, and certainly to Congressman Fuqua, I pay once again my very sincere thanks to him for his interest in my profession as he has shown it very visibly to me during my term as national president. I thank him for taking time to come here today and introduce me.
My prepared statement, Congressman Rogers, will be presented to this subcommittee in detail, but in the matter of conserving time, I am going to summarize extemporaneously, if I may. Mr. ROGERS of Florida. Yes. That will be fine, and
may here the prepared statement will be made a part of the record and then we can have the testimony as you desire to present it.
(Dr. Chapman's statement in full follows:)
STATEMENT OF W. JUDD CHAPMAN, O.D. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, my name is W. Judd Chap man, I am president of the American Optometric Association and past president of the Florida Optometric Association. My testimony here today is on behalf of the American Optometric Association.
I am a practicing optometrist in Tallahassee, Fla. After attending the University of Florida I went to Northern Illinois College of Optometry, graduating in 1948. Subsequently I took postgraduate work in the contact lens field at the School of Optometry, University of Houston. I am a member of the American Academy of Optometry, the American Optometric Foundation, a former president of the Florida State Board of Optometry, and hold a Reserve commission in the U.S. Air Force Medical Service Corps.
It is a privilege and a pleasure to appear before this committee with my colleagues to present the facts which we believe warrant the passage of H.R. 8546. This is one of 31 identical bills introduced in the House of Representatives during the 88th Congress.
The man who joins his local or State association thereby automatically becomes a member of the American Optometric Association and must abide by our code of ethics. He is provided the “Manual of Professional Practice for the American Optometrist,” a copy of which is being furnished to this committee for its files.
The optometrist never forgets that he has a public duty to his fellow citizens. There are numerous departments and committees within AOA dedicated to serving the public welfare. I shall name only a few :
Under the department of public health optometry there functions a committee known as the committee on vision care for the aging. The department of public information provides film strips, TV charts, radio tapes, scripts, speeches, posters, billboards, and publications which alert the public to the need for vision care.
One of our newly formed committees deals with visual problems in aeronautics and space. The May issue of Astronautics & Aeronautics carries an article by Dr. Ingeborg Schmidt entitled “Seeing a Satellite From a Satellite." Dr. Schmidt is a member of the faculty of the Division of Optometry, Indiana University.
Our committee on motorists' vision and highway safety has achieved nationwide recognition for work in this field. The committee on research held a symposium in Washington last year which was well attended and addressed by one of your colleagues, the Hon. George Miller, of California. Our committee on social and health care trends has been active particularly in providing vision care for the indigent. Among other important committees are the committee of occupational vision, committee on visual problems of children and youth, vision aid to the partially blind, and the committee on contact lenses, the chairman of which committee recently appeared before one of the Senate subcommittees which was investigating the subject of contact lenses and other vision aids furnished to the elderly.
The optometrists, considering their limited number, render extensive services to the Nation as a whole in addition to performing services for their individual patients.
It seems unbelievable that in passing the Health Professions Assistance Act of 1963, the student loan provisions were limited to schools of medicine, osteopathy, and dentistry. I know that you Congressmen will agree, since you have to read a daily basket full of mail and congressional bills, that with a few exceptions, education is acquired largely through reading and visual observations. The optometrist is the specialist in vision. However, our schools and colleges are competing for students not only with medicine, dentistry, and osteopathy but also with all phases of engineering as well as other fields of science and the arts.
The mere fact that the Federal Government has encouraged the establishment of student loans for three branches of the health care professions in and of itself places a handicap on our schools and colleges when it comes to competing for students. There are loans available to our students, but they are not adequate. There is not a single school or college of optometry which could not advantageously and with propriety utilize additional loan funds for capable students in college who would otherwise be forced to drop out.
We do not advocate making it too easy. On the other hand, we recognize that financial worries frequently result in a student failing to achieve the highest degree of excellence of which he or she is capable.
The importance of vision in this day and age is self-evident, both to our national defense and to our industrial strength. There are over 400 optometrists on active duty in the Armed Forces. They hold commissions ranging from second lieutenant to colonel or, in the Navy, from ensign to captain.
A person who suspects he has eye trouble, or just seeks reassurance that he doesn't, first goes to see the optometrist in his area or community. He knows that the optometrist is professionally trained to make eye examinations to search for defective vision, and that he prescribes glasses, contact lenses, or vision training.
But the optometrist functions in more sophisticated ways, too. He determines the presence or absence of external or internal pathological conditions. His examination may uncover diseases such as heart disease, brain tumor, or diabetes. He studies the coordination of the eyes, undertakes a refraction of the eyes to determine vision ability, clarity, and efficiency of vision. When a pathological condition is found to exist or even suspected, the optometrist is in duty bound to refer the patient either to his family physician or to an appropriate licensed practitioner.
Many of our manufacturers engaged in defense production have one or more optometrists who devote their entire time to caring for the vision needs of their employees. It is not only in our industrial plants but in rural areas as well that our profession is providing an indispensable service.
A survey was made not too long ago of optometric requirements in my home State of Florida. It was based on a ratio of 1 optometrist to 7,000 population, and also on 1 optometrist to 10,000 population, and it was projected to an estimated population in 1965. The discrepancy at the time of the survey on the 1 to 7,000 ratio was 277 optometrists, and on the 1965 estimation, at the same ratio, the shortage will more than double. There were 20 of Florida's 67 counties without the services of an optometrist and in several areas no professional vision care was available within a radius of 50 miles. The Florida Legislature, in an effort to help correct the situation, has provided scholarships up to $1,000 a year over a period of 3 years to students who are citizens of Florida and who will agree to practice in designated areas of our State upon completing their optometric education. This, on the basis of a 4-year professional course, falls far short of meeting the financial requirements of students, and the scholarships are limited to five a year. This is a drop in the bucket compared with the needs of Florida alone. These scholarships are outright grants. In this legislation provision is made only for loans, which would be repaid with interest.
There are with me today several of the leaders of our profession who will cover other phases of the subject. One of these is Dr. H. Ward Ewalt, my immediate predecessor as president of the American Optometric Association. An other is Dr. Gordon Heath, of the faculty of the Division of Optometry of Indiana University and president of the Association of Schools & Colleges of Optometry. Dr. Nelson Waldman, chairman of our committee on vocational guidance whose function is to recruit students for our schools and colleges of optometry. They are doing a splendid piece of work but the passage of this legislation would greatly assist them.
· Dr. Donald Springer will describe the financial problems of the young graduate entering practice. The proposed legislation would be of assistance there because the loans would be payable over a longer period of years than those which can be obtained on a commercial basis. Dr. Frank Kitchell, president of the American Optometric Foundation, was unable to be present but has prepared a statement which I would like to have incorporated in the record. One of the functions of the foundation is to ştimulate interest in and provide scholarships for postgraduate study. Postgraduate work leading to a degree of Ph. D. in physiological optics is only available on campuses where we have schools or colleges of optometry. There is a great need for expansion of this program and, again, student loans could be well utilized in this area.
In closing, Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you for this opportunity and to assure you that both myself and these who have accompanied me would be delighted to answer any questions that may be asked.
Dr. CHAPMAN. Thank you, sir. Before I introduce the specialists of my profession who are with me today for the purpose of testifying in behalf of H.R. 8546, there are certain things I would like to make known to this committee that are important to the welfare of our Nation.
It has been a privilege to travel throughout this country as president of my association and visit with not only my own colleagues but other interested parties in the health care field. At the same time I have visited all of the schools and colleges of optometry in the United States. From these trips and from these experiences I have seen the very acute need for additional services and additional personnel in the optometric field.
There has been a vivid awareness of the extreme manpower shortage which exists in this particular realm of the health care field and the need for more optometric practitioners. Additionally, I can report the necessity for my profession to be responsible for the solution of this problem. We are most grateful to be here today for the privilege of explaining our position, documenting it for this committee and seeking the help, guidance, and direction from our Federal Government in meeting this need which our country faces and about which we are deeply concerned.
I would like to point out that there are numerous departments and committees within the American Optometric Association structure which are dedicated to serving the public welfare of this Nation, and I would like to mention certain of these at this time.
Under the department of public health optometry is our vision care for the aging committee, and the committee on aeronautics and space. There are committees on motorists vision and highway safety and research. The committee on social and health care trends has been particularly active in providing vision care for the indigent of this Nation. There are other committees known as the committee on occupational vision, visual problems of children and youth, vision aid to the partially blind and the committee on contact lenses.
I point out these facts now, in this brief summary, to indicate the keen interest that my profession has in the area of public health need. Our interests go far beyond that which the individual practitioner does in his respective office to his own individual patient. We are indeed cognizant of the fact that this responsibility of optometry in the public health field is becoming even greater each passing day. In meeting this responsibility we find it is very difficult to honestly compete with the other health care professions, particularly since student loan facilities were made available to medicine, dentistry, and to osteopathy in the original bill. The competition is keen for the minds of the young men and women of this Nation, and we desperately need the help and assistance that can be given through the provisions of this act to aid us in securing for our profession and for the Nation qualified students.
I was going to make reference to the very fine legislation which my own State adopted for optometry back some years ago. Congressman Fuqua has referred to this measure in his introduction and so I shall not go into it in greater detail. It has been a tremendous help to our State in providing the type of optometric care and vision care that is needed in many areas, and it has been a far-reaching move on the part of the Florida Legislature to provide this help for its citizens.
Today, accompanying me are some of the very outstanding people of optometry throughout this Nation. I am going to introduce them at this time, Congressman Rogers, in a group. They will appear in turn without further introduction.
The first will be Dr. H. Ward Ewalt, who is the immediate past president of the American Optometric Association. Following Dr. Ewalt we will hear from Dr. Gordon Heath of the faculty of the Division of Optometry at Indiana University. He is president of the Association of Schools & Colleges of Optometry.
Following Dr. Heath will be Dr. Nelson Waldman, chairman of our committee on vocational guidance whose primary function is to recruit students for our schools and colleges of optometry throughout the country. Dr. Waldman is from Houston, Tex.
Our final speaker will be Dr. Don Springer from Alabama, president of the American Academy of Optometry. Dr. Springer will describe the financial problems of the young optometric graduate who enters practice. Dr. Frank Kitchell of the American Optometric Foundation who was unable to be present this morning has presented a statement to this committee which will be incorporated as part of the record.
I have additionally brought along another of the fine leaders of optometry, Dr. Nelson Abrahamsen, Sr., of Cleveland, Ohio, who is chairman of the Council on Optometric Education. This agency is responsible for the accrediting of our schools and colleges. He is here in case any of the committee would care to ask a particular question in the field which he represents.
I do thank you, Congressman Rogers, for the privilege of making this summary statement and presenting these gentlemen on behalf of optometry.
Mr. ROGERS of Florida. Thank you for your statement and for your being here to give your testimony to the committee. Are there any questions? Mr. Pickle?
Mr. PICKLE. I don't have a question now except I want to welcome the doctor here. I had occasion to visit with him right at the first of the session, and we had some pictures made, and I got to know him personally then and some of the people he worked with. I was glad to hear his statement and glad he is here.
Mr. ROGERS of Florida. Mr. Schenck?
STATEMENT OF DR. H. WARD EWALT, JR., 0.D., IMMEDIATE PAST
PRESIDENT, AMERICAN OPTOMETRIC ASSOCIATION
Mr. ROGERS of Florida. We will be glad now to hear from Dr. Ewalt, immediate past president of the American Optometric Association. Dr. Ewalt, it is a pleasure to have you here with us this morning. Dr. EWALT. Thank you. I am glad to be here.
I am glad to be here. I want first to assure the members of the committee I am not selling books. However, some of the things that I would like to present to the committee are of such a nature that I thought some of our fundamental scientific information ought to be available to the staff of the committee in order that they can look into the matter to whatever extent suited their interests and purposes.