Doctors of Optometry use a microscope to diagnose over 270 systemic health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, auto-immune diseases, cancers and more.
These doctors are trusted and more accessible as their eye surgeon colleagues (ophthalmologists) are not even in half of the counties in Virginia.*
to treat glaucoma and after-cataract surgery care. While optometrists are the trusted professionals for the majority of eye care patients in the United States, you still need an ophthalmologist (eye surgeon) to perform cataract surgery, LASIK, retina surgery and more.
Every Optometry school in the USA trains Doctors of Optometry to perform in-office eye laser procedures and Doctors of Optometry in Virginia have been certified to perform in-office laser procedures since the 1990s. In other states, these glaucoma and after-cataract in-office eye laser procedures are provided by optometrists.
Every state governs the privileges of its health care providers through licensing programs. For example, every optometry school trains its students for in-office eye laser procedures and in-office surgical care but every state decides the rights of its doctors to perform these procedures. Typically, MDs try to limit the rights of optometrists, dentists, nurses, chiropractors and other health care professions.
A 2022 bill before the Virginia General Assembly will allow Doctors of Optometry to practice to the scope of their education and training by allowing them to perform in-office eye laser procedures.
Doctors of Optometry have been trained for and performed these eye laser procedures in other states for decades. It's time for Virginia to catch up, especially since more than half of the counties in Virginia do not even have ophthalmologists, making it difficult to access care.
In-office eye laser procedure certification requires:
American Optometric Association review of public Medicare data
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One optometrist in Oklahoma performed more laser procedures than a group of ophthalmologists. MDs exploited that by writing a paper about it. However, MDs refused to look at the nationwide data because it showed 13x more Eye MDs required patients to have 3 procedures compared to when Doctors of Optometry perform the same.
Doctors of Optometry have been performing in‑office eye laser procedures since the 1990s. The argument that only MDs are supposed to perform these procedures ended more than two decades ago.
Every Doctor of Optometry school in the USA teaches and trains optometrists for in‑office surgical and in-office eye laser procedures. In addition, every Optometrist that qualifies to perform in‑office eye laser procedures has been certified by experts including by ophthalmology. It's time to update Virginia Code to the 21st century.
Doctors of Optometry have been performing in-office eye laser procedures for decades. Virginia is late to adopt such a law. Eye MDs published an article in 2018 that proved patients would have to drive nearly 2x further by limiting in-office eye laser procedures to only ophthalmologists.*
The 'Optometry Bill' before the 2022 General Assembly only allows three in‑office eye laser procedures called: selective laser trabeculoplasty, peripheral iridotomy, and posterior capsulotomy. These three in‑office procedures do not include major surgeries like cataract surgery, retina surgery, LASIK and more. In fact, the 2022 'Optometry Bill' includes a long list of surgical exclusions to bolster the confidence of all involved because only three procedures are allowed in the language of the bill.
Optometry is a legislated profession. Not unlike dentists, chiropractors, podiatrists, physical therapists and other doctor-level health professions, these non-MD professions must legislate to be allowed to perform any patient care. That means that each of these professions must meet with legislators regularly to discuss health care trends and issues. In fact, even the MD lobby will meet with legislators and give campaign contributions yearly.
In-office eye laser procedure certification is a major endeavor. It requires:
Clearly this is impossible to accomplish in only one weekend.
MDs in Virginia have fought against the ability of Doctors of Optometry to care for their patients since the 1980s. In that time, MDs have tried to stop Optometrists from:
MDs try to convince the public and legislators that their care is the only one that should allow these medical procedures despite there being zero evidence of ill-effects of optometric care over the past four decades. The entire Optometry profession has been built upon personal eye health and vision care for the betterment of society. This is why the public prefers Optometrists for their personalized eye health care.
Doctors of Optometry respect and work closely alongside Ophthalmologists to provide their patients the best possible eye care in Virginia.
Ophthalmologists provide a critical surgical role in LASIK, incisional glaucoma surgery, retinal surgery, eye muscle surgery, corneal transplants, and much much more. Patients are much better served when each discipline is able to practice to the fullest extent of their education and training.