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  • Setting Precedent in Arkansas: Asking Voters to Determine Scope of Practice

    Ophthalmology is under attack in Arkansas. Last year optometry pushed through legislation and won the ability to perform SLT, YAG laser, eyelid surgery and injections around the eye.

    After sitting through the Arkansas House and Senate meetings prior to passage of this law, I felt a deep sense of frustration. We had argued—effectively, we thought—for the importance of an MD or DO and the years of surgical residency training.

    Severin Pouly MDI appreciate optometrists, respect their skill, and work with excellent ODs on a daily basis; our legislative arguments weren’t intended as an attack on optometry.

    This debate was about the significance of our years of surgical training for patient safety. Does medical education and the process of training as an MD or DO have meaning? I felt that we expressed this value well to the legislature.

    In the end, it was our patients who lost. This was the impetus for my involvement with Safe Surgery Arkansas.

    The organization formed in response to passage of the bill, shortly after the legislative session ended.

    And we’re seeing a paradigm shift to allow voters, rather than special interest-funded legislators, to determine who should perform surgery on their eyes.

    Safe Surgery Arkansas gathered enough voter signatures for a referendum on the new law. This issue is on the November ballot after overcoming multiple legal challenges by optometry to prevent a vote.

    Currently, Safe Surgery Arkansas is mounting a statewide campaign to educate voters about the importance of allowing only trained medical doctors to operate on eyes and eyelids. Polls show Arkansans are against this new law when they understand the facts.

    This referendum will set a national precedent and will be the first popular vote on scope of practice. It is a new approach to allow voters, instead of special interests and statehouse politics, to dictate who is legally considered equivalent to ophthalmologists. Now, we have to educate the voters on safe surgery.

    This means the most to young ophthalmologists who have their entire careers ahead. We ask that you get involved. We need funds to educate voters on the issues. If you know people in Arkansas, encourage them to vote NO.

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    Severin M. Pouly, MD, completed a residency in ophthalmology in 2016, and a cornea, cataract and refractive surgery fellowship at the Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah in 2017. Dr. Pouly joined the Little Rock Eye Clinic in Arkansas on Aug. 1, 2017.