As a current ophthalmology resident, the past two years have been the most difficult of my life, learning more in that time than all of my cumulative years of schooling.
But it wasn’t until recently that I garnered a full appreciation for the intensive training that ophthalmologists undergo.
For recent stories on optometric scope of practice battles across the nation, view the interactive map.
As surgical scope battles are being fought throughout the country in states like Mississippi, Texas and in my home state of Florida, I’m committed to ensuring that surgery is performed by surgeons. Our patients deserve the absolute competence and sound judgment that goes along with four-plus years of diligent medical and surgical study and apprenticeship.
With the support of the Florida Society of Ophthalmology, I recently had the opportunity to deliver my testimony in opposition to Senate Bill 876/House Bill 631 before a state Senate committee.
Should these bills pass, they would further expand the scope of practice for optometrists in the state of Florida to include many surgical procedures and nearly unrestricted prescribing power, subjecting the citizens of Florida to unnecessary risk. In preparation for my testimony, I had to pore over the bill itself and study the ratification process.
Only then did it dawn upon me how little I know about the inner workings of our government and how much I take for granted for the work of those that are politically active on our behalf.
These individuals dedicate countless hours and great effort in safeguarding the field of ophthalmology on the legislative stage. They are constantly battling to ensure proper representation, and they do so thanklessly.
Every scope-of-practice bill that expands the role of optometry is ground lost that may never be regained. The ramifications of what occurs on the floor of the Florida House and of the Senate will echo into the future for all of us and for our patients. The threat is imminent and ever-present.
Whether a first-year resident in ophthalmology or a retiree in the field, I implore readers to educate themselves in our legislative process and the battles at hand. Just as our elected officials are called to represent the best interest of their constituencies, we are called to ensure the health and safety of our patients. In order to accomplish this, we must do all that we can to protect the field of ophthalmology.
I urge you to educate yourselves about upcoming scope-of-practice legislation so that we might affect change (or prevent it). We must educate our state leadership and successfully advocate for our patients.
Testify before a committee if you have the opportunity and write to your congressman, Most importantly, donate to the Academy’s political action committee, OPHTHPAC®, and to a fund to support surgery by surgeons at the state level, the Surgical Scope Fund, or your state’s eye PAC.
Be proactive. Wars are fought and won by armies, not individuals.
||About the author: About the author: Andrew C. Bowman, MD, is a resident at the University of Florida College of Medicine, Gainesville, Fla. He is sponsored by the Florida Society of Ophthalmology to join over 140 residents and fellowship trainees as a participant in the Academy’s 2021 Advocacy Ambassador Program.