‘When the Student Is Ready . . .’

Today’s optometry students are entering a world of change. Health care reform is transforming the profession. State legislation is extending optometry’s scope of care. Technology continues advancing. One thing that is not changing, however, is the increasing need for eyecare, eyewear and the professionals who provide them.

The National Eye Care Workforce Study, by the AOA and the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry, predicts an increase in demand for eye-care due to the growth and aging of the population, expanded insurance coverage, and an increase in diabetes. While the study predicts that there will be enough optometrists, that is based on optometrists providing 32 percent more visits per year.

In addition, the Think About Your Eyes initiative is doing its best to raise awareness about the need for eye exams, effectively increasing eyecare demand. Seeing the value in this initiative, leading companies are putting their support behind it. Some of these companies also sponsor vision vans and foundations to provide eyecare to underserved communities. Similarly, these companies also see the value in supporting students, with scholarships, competitions, educational opportunities, websites and more.

One of four kids in the U.S. have a vision problem significant enough to affect learning, according to Kids Vision For Life. More than 600 million people worldwide are blind or vision impaired because they do not have access to eye exams and glasses, according to Optometry Giving Sight.

Clearly, there is plenty of need to help people see clearly. Where will the professionals come from other than new and existing optometry schools? Like the visionary companies that sponsor students, let’s support the schools of optometry. There will surely be no lack of patients for whom their graduates can provide eyecare and eyewear. ■