American Academy of Ophthalmology Web Site: www.aao.org
"A recent survey shows consumers are confused about the differences among eye care providers, but when it comes to surgery, consumers overwhelmingly know that they want a provider with a medical degree."
This headline from the National Consumers League (NCL) will hopefully be an alarming wake-up call to our subspecialty. The question now is: How do we address the issue? The American Academy of Ophthalmology has attempted to raise awareness of the differences in training through its Eye M.D. campaign. However, the NCL report attests to the fact that this campaign has failed.
Perhaps we should look to otorhinolaryngology for some help. Owing to similar confusion of the public, the American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS) and American Board of Otolaryngology (ABOto) adopted "Otolaryngology/ Head and Neck Surgery." This has helped define the specialty for the public. You will find that most ear, nose and throat doctors now refer to themselves as Head and Neck Surgeons. It is simple, but effective.
Our colleagues in the United Kingdom refer to themselves as Ophthalmic Surgeons. They do not seem to have identity crisis issues with the public. There is universal acknowledgment, both in the United Kingdom and United States, that surgeons have a medical degree and are the ultimate authority on eye care.
In my opinion, the Academy should abandon its Eye M.D. campaign. Perhaps an Eye Surgeon or Ophthalmic Surgeon advertisement campaign would be more fruitful in making the public aware of our role in eye care. The distinctions between physician and nonphysician have been muddied by organized optometry. It is now time to restore clarity.
Dominick I. Golio, MD
I was pleased that you brought up the dilemma of the automated answering system in January’s Opinion ("Is This the Party to Whom I Am Speaking"). This has been one of my pet peeves. (I seem to be an outlier when it comes to the available options.)
Recently I ordered a program (about $10) for my Palm Pilot, only to find that when I downloaded it from the Internet, it was not compatible with my version of the Palm Pilot. (There was no documentation to indicate this.) I was able to erase the useless program from my system, but then spent about six hours trying to get reimbursed for the purchase.
It took quite a while to talk to a real person, and then they kept forwarding me to other people until I would arrive (after three to five transfers) back to someone I had talked to previously. Eventually, I was able to get to someone who cancelled my order and reimbursed me, but it was quite a struggle.
I believe that I learned a few things: 1) do not order Palm Pilot programs, 2) sometimes a bargain is not a bargain, and 3) my time is worth less than $2 per hour.
Chris A. Johnson, PhD
I was rereading your Opinion, "Denial: Do You Deny You Are in It?" (November/ December). As usual, you have hit the nail on the head.
I agree that we should be careful about relying on our personal sense of propriety when entering into situations that pose a potential conflict of interest. The dangers are that we might be in denial or we may lack awareness or understanding of rules that apply in domains other than our own, namely the rules of commerce, investment and law.
Besides enlisting our friends for feedback before we act, I think it is wise to find colleagues with expertise outside our field who may point out ramifications that might not initially occur to us.
People need to be made aware that significant legal problems can arise when professionalism is sacrificed, and that these problems may be financially and career threatening.
I appreciated your words on the subject and hope that we all will take them to heart.
Thomas C. White, MD
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