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Hi y’all! Paige Willett (second-year student) here, writing this during one of the busiest semesters I have had of optometry school yet. Second year really kicks it into gear and you hit the ground running! It has been so fun, albeit stressful at times, learning so many new skills and focusing on more clinic-oriented classes. We have also been over in The Eye Center for the first time this year so that has been one of the most interesting parts of second year so far.
One of my favorite things about our profession is that it is never stagnant. There are always new advancements being made on both the research side of things and the legislation side of scope of practice. Something that has made me realize our profession really is like a family is seeing how we will come together to expand scope of practice. Some recent advancements made in our scope of practice include: Arkansas, Mississippi, and Wyoming being able to perform laser procedures; Massachusetts and Texas being able to manage glaucoma; and most recently New York state being able to prescribe oral medications. These expansions are very important because these are skills we are currently learning at SCO, so being able to practice to the full extent of our knowledge means better care can be provided to our patients. Many of these legislative battles were years in the making and involved many doctors around the country. Without the joint effort of doctors in their home state as well as surrounding states, none of these advancements would have been possible. The American Optometric Association also plays a big role in helping states expand their scope.
So you might read and this and think to yourself, “that’s really cool I’m sure I’ll be involved in helping with that once I graduate.” Which is exactly what I was thinking when there was legislation trying to be passed in my home state of Arkansas. A quick backstory on the legislative battle in Arkansas: The bill was originally passed by the House or Representatives and Senate approving the expansion of scope, when ophthalmologists in Arkansas challenged this bill and collected signatures for a referendum. The Arkansas Optometric Association then sued the ophthalmologist group citing that the signatures were collected unethically and therefore should not be valid.
One Saturday the summer before my senior year of college, I was approached by two different people collecting signatures “to keep optometrists from cutting on people’s eyes because they aren’t doctors” as they worded it. In true Gen Z fashion, I whipped out my phone and started videoing the guy who was so aggressively trying to get my signature by spouting off tons of misinformation about optometrists. Fast forward to the summer before I started optometry school, I was asked to testify in court because the videos I took were now being used as evidence. This was a very nerve-wracking day for me, I even had to take the oath to tell the truth like they do on TV (so wild!). Never did I ever think the videos I took would result in all that. This experience really showed me that students can still play a role in advocacy for our profession. It’s easy for us to think that we don’t have a big role to play while in school, when that’s far from the truth. No matter what state you plan on practicing in, the American Optometric Association and local state associations are always looking for student involvement and you never know where that involvement might lead you in the future.
Signing off to go study,
Class of 2024