Discussion of the ‘Future of Optometry’ Draws Overflow Crowd on Final Day of Optometry’s Meeting


(L to R) The panelists at the Review of Optometry breakfast session were Mary Anne Murphy, OD, Jason Ortman, OD, and Kristin O’Brien, OD.

DENVER—A discussion of what the future may hold for eyecare professionals, especially independent ODs, was the hot ticket Saturday morning on the final day of Optometry’s Meeting here at the Colorado Convention Center. An overflow crowd of about 300 attendees gathered for the breakfast session, “Defining the Future of Optometry,” which was organized by Review of Optometric Business (ROB) in conjunction with the American Optometric Association and sponsored by Essilor. Roger Mummert, ROB’s director of content, introduced the session and acted as the moderator for the discussion.

Mark Wright, OD, FCOVD, ROB’s professional editor, set the stage for the discussion with a presentation of key metrics in the eyecare sector today, as well as a rundown of some of the key challenges independent ODs are likely to face in the near future. The panelists at the session were Denver-area independent optometrists Kristin O’Brien, OD, Mary Anne Murphy, OD and Jason Ortman, OD.

In his opening remarks, Wright noted that eyecare is “a huge business” and that today about 76 percent of adults wear eyeglasses for vision correction. “Baby Boomers are aging and the group behind it is aging as well,” Wright noted. “And that suggests good things for us as a profession.”

Asked about the biggest challenges and opportunities in her practice, Murphy said one of her key priorities is selecting the right partners within the industry. “Who really wants to partner with me?,” she asked rhetorically. “Everyone comes to me and says they are on my team, [but] choosing those partners and making educated decisions [is so important]. It’s really about understanding what’s at the crux of that partnership and who values that relationship.”

Another key factor for independent ODs and allowing them to build upon growth opportunities as they arise is the role that mentors can play. “Mentoring has been particularly important for me,” O’Brien explained in response to a question about mentoring. “As a brand new graduate opening a private practice from scratch right out of optometry school, I really relied on my colleagues locally to help me navigate through some of the more difficult times and challenges… I think there are some amazing new mentoring programs coming out.”

In a discussion about future opportunities for ECPs, Ortman noted the importance of growing the medical eyecare segment while also staying abreast of new ideas and technologies. “You always have to think about how you can do things differently in your practice, take those steps and educate yourself,” he said. “If you’re not continually innovating and if you’re not continually growing, you are falling behind. And none of us want to fall behind. We want to provide class care for our patients. If there are new models and ways to do this effectively, while still having excelling outcomes and patient care, then this is the way that we have to go.”