Comments by Dr. Kenneth J. Myers, President American Board of Certification in Medical Optometry
Although in the past decade concerns about the rapidly growing numbers of optometry graduates have been voiced at optometry web discussion boards, schools of optometry and the American Optometric Association continued to claim more graduates were needed. The AOA continued to report to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that greater numbers of future optometrists were needed…leading the popular media to portray optometry as a “hot” profession that stimulated the opening of more schools, especially at sites with osteopathic schools which were rapidly expanding.
And when the most recent (2014) and “definitive” study of future optometry and ophthalmology supply and demand (Lewin Study – supervised by the AOA) surveyed practicing optometrists and found an optometry overcapacity of 30%, the AOA interpreted this to mean “there would be an adequate supply of eyecare providers in the future”. See AOA Misinterprets Lewin Group Studies for more information.
Optometry appears traveling down the same “Yellow Brick Road” followed by law, veterinarian, pharmacy and other professional schools whose excess graduates carry large student debts and face restricted opportunities to practice their profession.
Meanwhile the ratio of “qualified optometry applicants per seat” has fallen to a record low of nearly one-to-one, the number of licensed optometrists per capita is at record highs and the almost doubled graduation rate of some 1,900 per year will eventually produce about 76,000 licensed optometrists compared to the current 42,000 which is a record number. And the U.S. birth rate has been falling each year since about 1996.
How does optometry growth compare?
Percent growth in degrees conferred 1986-2015 and male/female ratio of graduates in 2015 (Data complied from HEGIS Survey)
Dentistry +15%, 1.08 Medicine +15%, 1.09 Podiatry -6%, 1.58 Chiropractic -25%, 1.51 Veterinary +24%, 0.28 Optometry +47%, 0.50 *
* By 2020 total O.D. degrees conferred will be 85% higher than base year 1986 if enrollments remain at current level.
AOA Misinterprets Lewin Group Studies
Click here to read AOA’s misinterpretation of the Lewin Group Studies. The Lewin Group studies are available for free only to AOA members.
- Eye Care Workforce Study, The Lewin Group, Inc., March 24, 2014
- Eye Care Workforce Study: Supply and Demand Projections, The Lewin Group, Inc., April 25, 2014
For independent reviews of the Lewin Group findings please read
U.S. Dept. of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, HEGIS Survey, Division of Education Statistics, Table 324.50, May, 2017.
Review of Optometry was the first non-academic trade association to investigate the optometry surplus. Bill Kekevian, Senior Editor, takes a look at the issue while focusing on the impact on academic standards.