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eyesight, the increasing need for people trained to protect eyesight. Public service programs of the TĨ industry remind us almost daily that modern living takes a heavy toll of our eyesight. A telephone call for an appointment with an optometrist in northeast Texas will elicit the fact that there is a fairly long waiting period, and this is no doubt the case elsewhere.
The bill I have introduced, H.R. 8522, authorizes a loan program for students of optometry. This type of educational assistance is, in my opinion, financially sound, professionally proper and desirable, and wholly in the national interest. I respectfully request your favorable consideration.
Mr. ROGERS of Florida. Thank you, Mr. Patman. Our next witness is our colleague from Wisconsin, the Honorable Vernon Thomson. Welcome back to the committee.
STATEMENT OF HON. VERNON W. THOMSON, A REPRESENTATIVE
IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF WISCONSIN
Mr. THOMSON. Mr. Chairman, it was my privilege in the 87th Congress to serve as a member of the Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee of the House. Naturally, I am pleased to appear before you gentlemen today to urge favorable action on H.R. 8546. This bill is identical with H.R. 8658 which I sponsored.
As times passes we realize more and more the importance of vision in our own lives and in the welfare of our Nation. Optometrists are making a worthwhile contribution to conserving and improving the vision of citizens of all ages. We need more of them, and if by making available Federal loans both to prospective optometry students and those who have embarked on an optometric education we can increase the number of practicing optometrists, in my opinion, it is a sound investment.
In 1960, the population of Wisconsin was 3,952,000 and the projected population for the State in 1970, by the Census Bureau, will be 4,606,000, a 16-percent increase from 1960 to 1970. Right now in Wisconsin, there are 464 optometrists or a ratio of 1 for every 8,517 per capita which means that by 1970, if we take the normal growth pattern, we are going to need 240 more optometrists. However, in taking this into consideration we have to also realize the loss from death and retirement of those now in the practice of optometry. Therefore, the conclusion is that we are going to need more than the 240 to compensate for the growth rate and the loss of those now in practice.
The ratio of optometrists is figured on the basis of 1 to every 7,000 people, but if the trend is continued in Wisconsin, we will be below the minimum requirement with a ratio of 1 to every 10,000 per capita. Therefore, it is essential that consideration be given to encourage young people to go into the practice of optometry and I believe the benefits available under the student loan program should include the field of optometry. These are only loans which will be repaid with interest, but the real benefit to the country will be in providing more young men and women who are highly trained and dedicated to performing these greatly needed services for their fellow man.
Mr. ROGERS of Florida. Thank you for an excellent statement, Governor, and we certainly enjoyed having you with us once again.
Our next witness is the very able Congressman from Maryland, the Honorable Edward Garmatz. Please proceed, sir.
STATEMENT OF HON. EDWARD A. GARMATZ, A REPRESENTATIVE
IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MARYLAND
Mr. GARMATZ. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and members of the com
, mittee. Through an oversight undoubtedly, H.R. 12, the Health Professions Educational Act, when originally drafted, did not include a provision for loans to students of optometry. This was not added when considered by the House and Senate, to prevent any delay in the passage of this important legislation.
Since the need for optometrists is as great as the need for medical, dental, and other professional health personnel, I introduced H.R. 8702, to extend the provisions of H.R. 12 to qualified schools of optometry and students of optometry.
In addition to our older citizens whose lifespan is being lengthened and who require additional care and service for their vision, the number of younger persons and children in need of optometric services also is increasing, and the demand for trained optometrists is not being met.
I am confident that assistance to help finance education in that field will do much to increase the enrollment of qualified candidates in that field. Therefore, I strongly urge approval of this legislation by your subcommittee and the full committee, to meet the needs for qualified personnel in that branch of health service.
Mr. ROGERS of Florida. Thank you, Mr. Garmatz.
Next we will hear Congressman William L. St. Onge, our good friend from Connecticut.
STATEMENT OF HON. WILLIAM L. ST. ONGE, A REPRESENTATIVE
IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT Mr. St. ONGE. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I am delighted to know that your committee has scheduled hearings on the bill H.R. 8546 by the distinguished gentleman of Alabama, the Honorable Kenneth A. Roberts. This bill would amend the Public Health Service Act to make students of optometry eligible for Federal loans.
As you are well aware, the Health Professions Educational Assistance Act passed by Congress last year provided such loans to students of medicine, dentistry, and related professions, but unfortunately students of optometry were omitted. This is unfair and discriminatory against an honorable profession in the field of health, one that is as vital for the care of eyesight as dentistry is for the care of teeth.
Optometry is rendering a very important service in the complex age in which we live, and there is a steadily growing demand for such services. The Connecticut Optometric Society informs me that there is a serious shortage of optometrists in Connecticut and that all help should be given to young people to enter this profession. One of these ways is to provide loan funds to students who are unable to finance their schooling in optometry.
It is estimated that some 100 million people in the United States require some form of vision care, such as correction by glasses, visual training, or other treatment. Our present ratio of available service to the population is 1 optometrist per 9,500 people, which is regarded as being way below the required needs.
The bill under consideration would authorize the use of Federal funds for student loans to schools of optometry on the same basis as such loans are being extended to students of medicine and dentistry. These loans are subsequently to be repaid after the student will have completed the studies and established himself in the profession. The estimated cost is reported to be less than $1 million for the program.
Mr. Chairman, I strongly urge you and the members of your committee to take favorable action on this bill.
Mr. ROGERS of Florida. Thank you, Congressman, for your fine statement.
Now I would like to call on our friend from Illinois, the Honorable John B. Anderson.
STATEMENT OF HON. JOHN B. ANDERSON, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF ILLINOIS
Mr. ANDERSON. Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, I am delighted to have the opportunity to make this statement for the record which you are preparing on the need for amending the Health Professions Assistance Act of 1963, to include optometry students in the group of students afforded the opportunity to receive loans to continue their studies under section 740.
My bill, H.R. 8758, would simply afford qualified optometry students the same opportunities accorded students of medicine, osteopathy, and dentistry under the provisions of the aforementioned act.
It is my belief that this is only fair and proper. Certainly, an optometry student faces the same financial problems, long years of study, and other difficulties encountered by every other student seeking a career in a major health profession. Thus it is grossly unfair to exclude them from the provisions of this act.
No one would, I think, claim that their profession is less vital than any other medical profession, thus I cannot conceive of any good reason for this omission. I, therefore, urge the subcommittee to take quick action on this bill so that just as soon as possible this oversight will be corrected and deserving optometry students given the opportunity to benefit under the provisions of Public Law 88-129.
Mr. ROGERS of Florida. Thank you, Congressman Anderson.
Our next witness will be the gentleman from Illinois, Congressman George E. Shipley.
STATEMENT OF HON. GEORGE E. SHIPLEY, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF ILLINOIS
Mr. SHIPLEY. Mr. Chairman, I'm very pleased to have the opportunity this morning to say a few words in support of my bill, H.R. 8794, which, like your own, would provide for loans under the Health Professions Educational Assistance Act of 1963 to schools and students of optometry.
As you know, optometry is a vitally important profession in small towns and rural areas like the ones I represent since ophthalmologists rarely locate there. For example, there are presently only 4 ophthalmologists in my district of more than 443,000 people. An adequate
Ån supply of trained optometrists, then, is essential if these people are to receive proper vision care. Unfortunately, however, the 21,000 optometrists in this country cannot begin to meet the demands for their services. It has been recommended by the American Optometric Association that a minimum ratio of 1 optometrist per every 7,000 persons be maintained, but the country as a whole falls far short of meeting this goal.
I know I need not belabor the importance of vision care when speaking to this committee. You are all well aware that good eyesight is vital to a child's progress in school, to a driver's safety on the road, or to a workman's efficiency on the job. You also know that it was estimated by the American Optometric Association in 1960 that as much as 58 percent of the American population-more than 100 million people-require some form of vision care such as correction by glasses or visual training. Nearly half of this group, however, has not received any vision care at all or is relying upon obsolete or improper glasses. Even more frightening is the prediction of health experts that three-quarters of a million persons now living will eventually become blind unless preventive efforts can be made more effective. Of course, we need to continue our research programs, and we need to educate the public to seek eye care. These efforts will mean little, however, if we do not have enough trained experts who can provide the necessary care and apply the research findings in their medical practice.
Training in optometry has become longer and more expensive in recent years. Practicing optometrists have provided a number of scholarships, but they have been unable to fill all of the many requests for financial assistance. As a result many prospective students have chosen other fields where aid was more readily obtained. Federal loans to students of optometry would undoubtedly be a major factor in reversing this trend and encouraging interested students to prepare for a career which would not only benefit them but the entire country as well. Therefore, Mr. Chairman, I strongly support a loan program for students of optometry and urge favorable action upon my bill.
Mr. ROGERS of Florida. Thank you for a fine statement, Mr. Shipley.
Next we have that charming Congresswoman from Washington, the Honorable Julia Butler Hansen.
Welcome to the subcommittee.
STATEMENT OF HON. JULIA BUTLER HANSEN, A REPRESENTATIVE
IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF WASHINGTON
Mrs. HANSEN. Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee on Public Health and Safety, I appreciate very much the privilege of appearing before you today in behalf of my bill, H.R. 8775. This bill, very simply, extends to students of optometry the same benefits available to students of medicine, osteopathy, and dentistry. Under its terms, it would be possible for students of optometry to become eligible for student loans.
Before I comment specifically on this bill, I'd like to mention an article I noted in the May 23 issue of the Washington Post. President and Mrs. Johnson's daughter, Luci Baines Johnson, will work this summer for an optometrist here in Washington, D.C.
The article points out, “The middle of June, Luci will put in 8 hours a week in the office of Dr. Robert A. Kraskin, an optometrist at 4600 Massachusetts Avenue.
“Luci will be one of two assistants with visual training, Luci already knows firsthand about her new job because she took such training herself with Dr. Kraskin."
It is recognized that a group-if it is to become eligible for Government assistance—must be important to the public welfare.
Good sight is necessary for our people to live healthy, productive lives. Without good vision a person simply cannot function as he should. He is often sick. He cannot do his work capably. He is a drag on the economy.
Nowadays very few people past the age of 45 are able to perform efficiently without glasses or without the help of specialists in sight problems. Many of our young people are hampered in their schoolwork because of sight problems and must seek the services of eye specialists. Without correction, their sight problem may well prevent them from becoming productive citizens.
I might note here that though the optometrist serves the civilian population mainly, between 15 and 20 percent of optometry graduating classes enter the Armed Forces serving the sight needs of millions of those who serve in the Armed Forces.
Public health specialists have asserted that there should be 1 practicing optometrist for every 7,000 members of the population. In no State of the Union does this ratio of optometrist to total population exist. Indeed, available data show that the Nation is woefully short of qualified optometrists.
In order to meet the need for optometrists in the United States it is necessary first to increase the enrollment in the optometry schools. At present it is not possible to produce the number of optometrists necessary to satisfy the public needs in terms of death and retirement of optometrists as well as the population increase because of the lack of physical facilities.
Students have difficulty in finding money to begin the program and to complete it. Many optometry students are forced to prolong the length of their program by the necessity to work thus shortening the years of service to the public.
I respectfully urge this subcommittee to approve H.R. 8775 and make it possible for our optometry students to be entitled to student