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Optometry is the only profession specifically licensed in all of the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and the outlying possessions of the United States to deal with refractive and visual anomalies. Optometry exists only because the public reposes trust in it to fill its visual needs, and compensates optometrists for doing so.

Most Americans requiring vision care are dependent upon the availability of members of our profession. In addition, most of the preventive work in the field of vision care periodic examinations for evidences of vision difficulties relating to such near-point vision tasks as reading or eye-hand coordination is performed by optometrists in the home community. While medical practitioners also frequently provide such services, the number of medical doctors trained in this specialty is approximately one-sixth as large as the admittedly limited number of optometrists.

Results of the 1960 Census of Population show 16,044 optometrists practicing in the United States. This was a gain over the 1950 census of 9.6 percent. The same census revealed a gain in the same period for dentists of 10.1 percent and for physicians and surgeons of 18.9 percent.

Our latest tabulation for May 1964 shows there are some 17,000 optometrists in practice. As of 8 a.m., May 21, 1964, the Bureau of Census, Department of Commerce, reports that the U.S. population is 191,741,430. In round figures, then, we have a ratio of 1 optometrist to every 11,250 Americans.

Since most Americans—including those in the armed service—are dependent primarily upon members of the optometric profession for most of their vision care requirements (or for referral, when indicated, to physicians for medical attention), the question is whether there are sufficient licensed optometrists to meet the needs of this country.

The data we have establishes that there is a pronounced and serious shortage in our profession, and that this shortage, under the present conditions of college enrollment, and vigorous competition with the health and other sciences, will get increasingly worse before it will be improved. The facts are these :

More practitioners are leaving the field (through death and retirement) than are entering it.

2. The number of students enrolled in colleges of optometry has fallen off drastically since the high point of post-World War II GI bill enrollments. However, there has been a steady, but all too slow growth since 1958.

3. According to a recent, professionwide survey, less than 7 percent of the practicing optometrists in this country are under the age of 29, while about half of all optometrists are over 38.

The following figures are based on a 1959 survey made by the American Optometric Association, on which there was a 45-percent response to the questionnaire. This study, providing the best information currently available on the characteristics of the profession, showed that

Percent Were then under 29.

7 Were then between 29 and 38_

44 Were then between 39 and 48.

30 Were then between 49 and 58. Were then between 59 and 68_

5 Were then 69 or older (of which 3/10 of 1 percent were still practicing at 90 or older).

2 4. The accepted minimum ratio of optometrists to population has been determined to be one practitioner to each 7,000 persons. The actual ratio, however, is now of one optometrist to each 11,250 persons. At the current level in 1964, then, we have a present shortage of 10,000 optometrists needed to provide the barest minimal vision needs of our population.

Since it requires at least 5, and usually 6, years of college-level training to prepare an optometrist for general practice, and since college enrollments have not kept pace with the attrition rate in the profession, the present unfavorable ratio of optometrists to population will worsen, if the trend is not reversed quickly.

The shortage of optometrists is much more serious in some States than in others, but is acute in all States. There are 45 counties in Kentucky, according to a report by that State's Governor, which are without a single full-time optometrist. But even in States where the ratio is more favorable than in others, patients must schedule their appointments far in advance, and often wait an

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inordinate length of time for examinations. This problem, common to medicine, dentistry, and osteopathy, is equally true in optometry.

States with the highest percentage of population per optometrist are generally those States with the highest Negro or Spanish-American population. They are also generally the States with the lowest per capita income. Applicants desiring to enter the study of optometry from these Sates are those most in need of financial assistance to pay the costs of their education.

The Midwestern States are usually considered to be as self-sufficient as any group of States in our Nation. It is significant, therefore, to study the following table taken from the Optometric World, a privately published magazine, which appeared in that magazine's December 1963 issue.

The scope of the study was limited to 10 States and was to find those counties having 10,000 or more population per optometrist. Note that all counties having no optometrists are included regardless of population.

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Population per optometrist-Continued

KANSAS

County

1960 population

Optometrists

5 10 3

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143,792 185, 495 48,524 13, 909 25, 865 12,897 12, 886 343, 231 11, 253 11, 252 22, 279 10, 739 10, 309 10, 254

9,574 32, 368

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2 1 1 1

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4

LOUISIANA

1 1 1 2

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1

1

CCCC

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2 1 2 1 3

38, 555 29, 939 29, 063 57, 622 55, 381 26, 974 208, 769 23, 824 22, 545 22, 488 21, 219 20, 198 18, 564 18, 439 18, 369 18, 301 17, 991 36, 653 17, 624 33, 709 16, 726 48, 833 32, 186 111, 351 60, 771 14, 796 28, 535 14, 177 84, 656 27, 927 13, 330 51, 697 37, 606 49, 931 12, 395 59, 434 81, 493 230, 058

11, 421 101, 663 223, 859 44,015 9, 978 9, 163

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Population

per optometrist

Johnson.
Wyandotte.
Leavenworth.
Rice.
Harvey.
Nemaha.
Osage.
Sedgwick.
Greenwood.
Jefferson.
Cherokee.
Washington.
Jackson.
Pawnee
Doniphan.
Barton..

28,758 18,549 16, 175 13, 909 12, 932 12, 897 12, 886 11, 441 11, 253

11, 139 10, 739 10, 309 10, 254

8,062

38, 555 29, 939 29, 063 28, 811 27, 690 26, 974 26,096

22, 545 22, 488 21, 219

18, 301

Vermilion.
Iberville.
St. Martin.
Bossier.
Lafourche.
Livingston.
Jefferson..
Richland.
Plaquemines..
Pointe Coupee-
St. Charles.
East Feliciana.
Sabine..
St. John the Baptist.
St. James..
Vernon.
Assumption.
Natchitoches.
Union.
Morehouse
Bienville..
St. Mary
St. Bernard.
Rapides..
Terrebonne
West Baton Rouge.
Lincoln.-
West Carroll
Lafayette.
Ascension
Grant.
Iberia.
Avoyelles.
Acadia.
West Feliciana..
Tangipahoa..
St. Landry.
East Baton Rouge.
Catahoula..
Ouachita.
Caddo..
Washington.
Red River.
St. Helena.

17, 826 17, 624 16, 854 16, 726 16, 277 16,093 15, 907 15, 193

14, 267 14, 177 14, 109 13, 963

12, 914 12, 535 12, 483

11, 887 11, 642 11, 503

11, 296 11, 192 11,004

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Population per optometrist-Continued

MINNESOTÁ

County

1960 population Optometrists

3 1 1 3

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Anoka... Nicollet. Scott. Washington Benton. Cass. Goodhue. Sibley. Dakota Yellow Medicine. Wright. Murray Watonwan. Marshall. Chisago.. Lac Qui Parle. Morrison Dodge Sherburne Aitken Roseau Renville Stevens. Wilkin.. Lincoln

85, 916
23, 196
21, 909
54, 432
17, 287
16, 720
33, 035
16, 288
78, 303
15, 523
29, 935
14, 743
14, 460
14, 262
13, 419
13, 330
26, 641
13, 259
12, 861
12, 162
12, 154
23, 249
11, 262
10, 650
9, 651

1 2 1 5 1 2 1 1 1 1

16, 720 16, 512 16, 288 15, 661 15, 523 14, 967 14, 743 14, 460 14, 262 13, 419 13, 330 13, 320

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MISSOURI

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Population

per optometrist

28, 638 23, 196 21, 909 17, 477

12, 162 12, 154 11, 624 11, 262 10, 650

46, 567 38, 095

23, 260 17, 758 17, 657 16,706 15, 507 15, 047 14, 851 14, 579 14, 346 14, 183 13, 847 13, 753

Pulaski.
Pemiscott.
New Madrid
Platte
Lawrence
Texas...
St. Charles.
Pike.
Monroe.
Newton
Cass.
Clay.
Washington
Wright
Carroll
Webster.
Chariton
Christian
Grundy.
Ste. Genevieve..
Callaway.
McDonald..
Montgomery
Andrew.
Osage -
Howard
Monroe..
Moniteau.
Mississippi.
Taney-
Bollinger
Sullivan.
Clark.
Wayne
Caldwell
Ralls.
Iron

12, 359 12, 220 12, 116 11, 929 11, 798 11, 097 11,062 10,859 10, 500 10, 347 10, 238

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1 2 1

CCCCCC

Population per optometrist-Continued

NEBRASKA

County

1960 population

Optometrists

(1)

31, 281 17, 821 17, 270 13, 368 12, 940 12, 168 10, 192 10, 312 9, 425 8, 717 8, 106

1 1 1 1 1 1 1

CCC

NORTH DAKOTA

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3 1

25, 137 14,030 36, 182 11, 253 10, 641 11,099 10, 583 20, 992 10, 064 10, 007 9, 435 8, 705

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OKLAHOMA

1 1 1 1 2

6

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18, 121 18, 001 17, 762 16, 303 32, 441 15, 673 90, 803 29, 106 28, 301 13, 198 13, 112 12, 371 24, 727 12,077 11, 706 44, 231 10, 848 10, 635 10, 622 10, 376 10, 352 20, 641 40, 495 20, 073

2 1

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8,192 8, 140

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Population

per optometrist

Sarpy.
Cass.
Saunders.
Cedar
Red Willow
Dakota.
Burt.
Butler
Fillmore
Clay.
Dixon.

17, 821 17, 270 13, 368 12, 940 12, 168 10, 192 10, 312

25, 137

12, 060
11, 253
10, 841

Steele..
McLean.
Polk.
Norman.
Rolette.
McHenry-
Trail..
Morton.
Cavalier.
Mountrail.
Benson.
La Moure.

10, 496
10, 064

10, 007

18, 121 18, 001 17,762 16, 303 16, 220 15, 673 15, 134 14, 553 14, 150 13, 198 13, 112

Washita
Sequoyah..
Cherokee
Craig -
Osage
Wagoner
Comanche
Le Flore.
Ottawa.
Delaware
A dair
McIntosh
Canadian.
Blaine
Okfuskee.
Payne
Nowata
Kingfisher
Murray.
Noble
Atoka
Rogers.
Creek..
Mayes.
Jefferson.
Grant.

12,363
12,077

11, 058 10, 848 10, 635 10, 622 10, 376 10, 352 10, 320 10, 124 10,036

13, 190 12,044 11, 706 11, 159

Roberts
Meade.
Spink.
Turner
Hutchinson.
Union.
Bon Homme.
Kingsbury..

1 None.

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