The Future of Optometry: Personal Journey, Technological Innovation, and the New Age Optometrist

The Future of Optometry: Personal Journey, Technological Innovation, and the New Age Optometrist

What is the future of optometry? Innovation, representation, and student debt all play significant roles in shaping the future of optometry. Optometry is on the cusp of transformative changes driven by technological advancements. Innovations like teleoptometry, advanced diagnostic tools, and smart eyewear have the potential to revolutionize patient care and expand access to eye health services. These innovations can enhance the accuracy of diagnoses, enable remote consultations, and provide personalized treatment plans, ultimately improving the overall patient experience.

Representation is equally crucial for the advancement of optometry. A diverse and inclusive profession is better equipped to understand and cater to a wide range of patients’ unique needs. Efforts to increase representation within optometry by encouraging individuals from underrepresented backgrounds to pursue careers in the field can foster cultural competence and enhance patient outcomes. As the world becomes more interconnected, a diverse workforce that reflects the diversity of patient populations can lead to better communication, empathy, and care delivery.

Student debt has the potential to significantly impact the trajectory of optometry as well. The burden of high student debt can deter aspiring optometrists from pursuing their careers or limit their choices in terms of practice settings. Addressing student debt through scholarship programs, loan forgiveness initiatives, and financial education can alleviate this burden and attract a broader range of individuals to the profession. By reducing financial barriers to entry, these strategies can help ensure that talented and dedicated individuals have the opportunity to contribute to the field of optometry and provide quality eye care to diverse communities.

Personal Journey and Introduction to Optometry.

Dr. Darryl Glover:
Let’s take a stroll down memory lane. I’m eager to know more about you. Can you start from the beginning? Tell us where you’re from, a bit about your background, and your journey into optometry. And where are you attending school now?

Easy Anyama:
For starters, my name is Easy Anyama. I often get questions about my unique name. Contrary to what many might think, there’s no grand story behind it. My father thought it’d be cool, so he named me “Easy.” Interestingly, in Nigerian, my name means “the eye knows.” It’s kind of serendipitous, almost suggesting some predestined connection to optometry.

My path to optometry wasn’t straightforward. It began when my athletic career came to an end. I played Division I football and was training for the NFL. Training can be expensive, so I needed a job to support myself. Surprisingly, the only job offer I got was from my college town’s optometrist, Dr. Steven Stanfield. Working with him, I was introduced to the world of optometry. He had a remarkable relationship with his patients, and it opened my eyes (no pun intended) to a side of healthcare I had never known. Most of my family is in medicine, so I always equated healthcare with medicine. This experience shifted my perspective.

As I delved deeper into optometry, I became more aware of eye care disparities and the dedicated professionals striving to address them. This drew me even closer to the field. So, instead of pursuing the NFL, I chose optometry.

The Evolution of the Optometrist.

Dr. Darryl Glover:
Today, I’d like to focus our conversation on the future of optometry in three main areas. First, I’m interested in the future doctor. What will the next generation of optometrists look like, and how will they differ? Next, I’d like to discuss representation. And lastly, a topic I know you’re pretty passionate about is innovation.

Easy Anyama:
There’s a noticeable shift regarding the future doctor in the way we practice. We might be doing less data collection, mainly due to advancements in technology, our expanding scope, and the evolution of our profession. Instead, there’s a deeper focus on data analysis and, more importantly, on patient outcomes. That’s the direction I believe we’re headed in.

Dr. Darryl Glover:
For a new optometrist, like the ones just graduating, what are their expectations and priorities for the future of optometry? What are they seeking to ensure they’re comfortable in the exam lane and effectively serving patients throughout their careers? How does this new generation differ from its predecessors?

Easy Anyama:
Most new graduates are primarily concerned with paying off their loans and achieving financial security. It’s not about not working hard, but perhaps not working as frequently as in the past. There’s a desire for work-life balance; time for vacations and relaxation. Instead of waiting to enjoy their free time post-retirement at 65, these new grads are keen to incorporate leisure earlier in their careers.

Dr. Darryl Glover:
Do you anticipate a decline in those choosing the private practice route for the future of optometry? Are we going to see more optometrists leaning towards corporate optometry or perhaps group private practices? What’s the buzz in the schools about this?

Easy Anyama:
Certainly, I foresee more optometrists leaning towards the corporate route and group practices. The idea of starting from scratch, or what we call “cold starting,” isn’t a topic I hear about often these days. But I believe today’s independent practitioners could benefit from revisiting the fundamentals of good business. It’s about nurturing relationships early and consistently. Nowadays, I often observe a hesitancy between students and established doctors. Students may feel intimidated, thinking, “This is a doctor; they’re significant,” whereas doctors might perceive these students as distant or aloof. This gap needs to be bridged. If we nurture these relationships over time, mutual trust can develop.

The Future of Optometry: Leadership, Representation and American Optometric Student Association’s Mission.

Dr. Darryl Glover:
I’d like to delve into our second topic: representation. It’s about the significance of being present and contributing to optometry. You chose a unique path. While you excelled academically, you also aimed to be a leader and sought representation. Could you share your journey in this regard and your insights on its future?

Easy Anyama:
I’ve always been deeply fascinated by people. Perhaps being the youngest of five children shaped this; maybe there wasn’t space for ego, but I’ve grown to genuinely admire and learn from others. The individuals I’ve met along my journey have continually inspired and pushed me to step up.

Several exceptional doctors I encountered motivated me to take the lead, and I believe that’s what the next generation needs. Encouraging someone isn’t as complicated as it seems. It’s about asking simple questions: “Have you thought about becoming an optometrist? Have you considered taking on a leadership role?” It’s vital to make them understand that their unique attributes are essential to optometry. For instance, how often do you come across someone passionate about AI, optometry, and has a background in football?

In essence, there’s no secret formula. Just show up because your presence and perspective are essential.

Dr. Darryl Glover:
You’ve played a significant role in shaping the student experience in recent years. Can you give us an insight into the current trajectory of the American Optometric Student Association and its future direction?

Easy Anyama:
With the American Optometric Student Association, we’ve seen a significant transformation. Interestingly, we didn’t move too far from where we started but rather revisited our core mission: Preparing our students to excel as doctors of optometry. This refocused mission is what Nathan and I are proud to have cemented as our legacy. Whenever students have questions or seek knowledge beyond their classroom teachings, I hope they’ll look to the American Optometric Student Association. This intent is evident in all our programs and events. For instance, the OM event, which, I believe, saw its largest turnout.

Currently, the American Optometric Student Association’s primary focus for the future of optometry revolves around what I term the “big four” for students: student loans, scope expansion, NBEO, and networking. We constantly ask ourselves how we can target these areas, provide resources to students, and truly represent their interests.

Moreover, we’ve revamped our media platform, I now serve as its editor-in-chief. It’s an avenue for individuals to share their stories, unique practice styles, and passion for the profession, hopefully inspiring the upcoming generation.

Technological Innovation and the Future of Optometry.

Dr. Darryl Glover:
Let’s pivot a bit. The mindset of our peers, particularly when it comes to technological innovation. Given your interest in this domain, how do you envision the future of optometry? What can we anticipate in terms of technological evolution in the next 5 to 10 years?

Easy Anyama:
Presently, we’re in a promising place in optometry regarding technology. It’s puzzling to me why many optometrists are apprehensive about tech. Radiologists are the only medical professionals I think utilize technology more than we do. I was personally drawn to optometry partly because of the intriguing gadgets. We heavily rely on technological advancements.

However, there’s a notable difference in our approach. We often adopt technology presented to us, rather than pioneering it ourselves. I firmly believe that domain experts, like optometrists, should be at the forefront of creating tools specific to their domain. Future trends I foresee are AI, 3D printing, telehealth, and big data analytics. Significant investments are being made in these areas, yet the amount invested specifically for optometry doesn’t seem proportionate.

Concerning AI, there’s a prevailing sentiment that tools might be developed primarily for ophthalmology, which could bypass optometry. Consider a scenario where someone gets their eye assessment from a mall kiosk and is referred directly to an ophthalmologist, sidelining optometrists entirely. We must prevent this. Despite the influx of tech tools, the importance of human touch and care remains unparalleled. Amazon reviews, for instance, underscore the significance people place on human experience and interaction.

Optometry is here to stay. A quote I resonate with says that technology won’t eliminate jobs but will replace those who don’t adapt to it. Embracing and leveraging technology will be essential for our profession’s continued success.

In conclusion, the future of optometry is intricately intertwined with innovation, representation, and student debt. As the profession embraces technological advancements, promotes diversity, and addresses financial challenges, it is poised to evolve into a more accessible, inclusive, and dynamic field better equipped to meet the eye care needs of a changing world.

If you want to learn more about the future of optometry, please check out the podcast with Dr. Richard Edlow.

Get in Touch


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Latest Posts