A Recent Graduate's Perspective
By SETH M. BERG, OD
With all of the tools now essential in contact lens practice, the recently graduated optometrist must possess a more thorough knowledge of contact lenses than his predecessors. In addition to learning all the capabilities of corneal topography and other newfangled automated
to learning all the capabilities of corneal topography and other newfangled office equipment, the recent graduate is confronted with more product differentiation. With so many brands of contact lenses available, the young doctor needs to know all the options thoroughly in order to make informed decisions.
Representatives of the various contact lens companies and publishers of contact lens related books and magazines can be especially helpful in providing updated information to help the new graduate keep up with cutting-edge knowledge. The contact lens manufacturers must continue to play an important role in informing not only the experienced and veteran doctors about their products but also recent graduates so that they too can become part of the ever-growing technology of the contact lens field.
In the Schools
All optometry schools should incorporate a contact lens rotation into the curriculum, including coverage of keratoconus and post-refractive surgery, cosmetic and prosthetic fits to give the graduating student as much knowledge of both simple and speciality contact lens fitting as possible. With proper training, selecting the most appropriate lenses for each patient and distinguishing the various unique properties of each type of contact lens can be an enjoyable experience for new practitioners and their patients. In the schools and in clinics, however, some students are given only a small array of contact lenses to try on patients. Working at multiple practices has given me exposure to many types and brands of lenses, and the more patients I see, the more experience and confidence I have with these choices.
Refractive surgery, while it threatens to decrease the contact lens patient base, may actually impact contact lens practices favorably because the present technology is not perfect. As corneal refractive surgery grows more popular, residual induced astigmatism and undercorrection occasionally warrants the use of contact lenses. I strongly advise optometry students to visit a laser center or similar institute as part of their fourth-year rotation. This will involve them in hands-on preop testing and postop treatment and management.
Getting Started in Practice
Without the help of clinical preceptors, new graduates have the sudden responsibility of dispensing and explaining proper contact lens handling and maintenance techniques, as well as remedying any mild complications that may occur. Fortunately, young doctors in a group practice can confer with experienced doctors and ask for assistance if a problem arises.
Specializing in contact lenses is one of the best ways for a recent graduate to increase his patient base. During a routine eye exam, it's particularly important for new practitioners to ask patients who are candidates for contact lens wear if they are interested in trying contact lenses.
Our newly acquired knowledge should not be limited to patients in the office. Inform community groups of new advances in lens technology and lens care systems. Visit schools and help children with assignments on vision, or hold in-office seminars for local residents. Volunteer to write an eyecare article for the local newspaper. Illustrate how your practice uses state-of-the-art technology to fit its new patients.
Also, establishing a professional relationship with laser clinics can help recent graduates become more familiar with follow-up care, if indicated.
These ideas, along with others, can help recent graduates build and maintain a successful contact lens practice of their own well into the next millennium. CLS
Dr. Berg practices in Boca Raton, Florida. He is a member of the AOA and specializes in pediatrics, contact lenses and low vision.