Throughout Your Optometry Career, Remember Your Roots

By Peter G. Shaw-McMinn, OD

Oct. 12, 2016

With my optometry career drawing to a close, I am assessing how far our profession has come–and where we still need to go. You don’t need to wait until retirement to take stock of your career and the profession of optometry. Reflecting and assessing periodically can help you grow professionally and improve your practice at all stages of your career.

Over the past four decades, we have made great advancements in providing medical eyecare, but it’s important to remember: Often the greatest way we can improve our patients’ lives is by prescribing the right spectacle and contact lenses.

Thanks to our profession, I have had a great 38 years as a practicing OD and part-time faculty member at Southern California College of Optometry. During that time I watched our profession get diagnostic drugs, then therapeutic drugs, and evolve into the scope of practice we have today.

At the Great Western Council of Optometry I think it appropriate that the last lecture I gave was titled, “Prescribe New Lens Technologies for Ocular Pathology Conditions.” Despite our increase in scope of practice, we must not forget what we can do to assist our patients with lenses. Optometrists have always been the experts in lens technology.

I was always going to be a doctor. As long as I can remember, people called me “Little Doc.” My dad was a retired physician and my mom a nurse, so I was raised to be a doctor. I was pre-med at the University of Southern California at a time when everyone seemed to be pre-med. Only 50 percent of the applicants made it into medical school, so the school required all pre-med majors to consider an alternative. Like many of you, I considered dentistry and veterinary medicine, but I realized the person who made the biggest difference in my life was my optometrist.

I was born with four diopters of astigmatism my left eye, and none in my right. I was 15 exo at near and had severe learning problems in first grade – in fact, I was considered educationally mentally retarded, despite having a high IQ. My optometrist gave me vision therapy at age 6, and miraculously, I went to the top of my class by second grade, eventually skipped sixth grade, and started college at age 16. If it wasn’t for Luprele Williams, OD, I never would have had the wonderful opportunities optometry gave me.

I got into medical school, but chose optometry because I felt helping someone have a wonderful life was more fulfilling than taking out gall bladders – and I’ve been right!
I mention this because so many ODs today ignore what we can do to help our patients with lenses, whether contact lenses or spectacle lenses.

I graduated from optometry school with very little knowledge of optical. I was convinced I would offer vision therapy and medical care and live happily ever after. As fate would have it, a practice was for sale in the town where my optometrist had retired to her horse ranch. It was a retirement community, and Bob Williams, then at SCCO, later at the Optometric Extension Program, suggested I take a look since I frequently went to her horse ranch. I bought the practice in Sun City because it was a good deal, and planned on selling it in two years. It turned out that, although you had to be 55-and-over to live in Sun City, I had 60 vision therapy patients a week from the surrounding communities.

I quickly learned that ophthalmologists did very little for my elderly patients and I could help them with lenses. As ophthalmological treatments improved, so did optical options, allowing me to restore lost vision or slow the loss of vision in my elderly patients.

I had my OCT, Diopsys VEP and ERG, UBM, B-scan, aberrometer, corneal topographer, Optos and visual fields analyzer for medical eyecare evaluation and management. But, importantly, they also helped me prescribe contact lenses or spectacle lenses that could improve the lives of my patients.

As I fade into the sunset, and we continue to offer advanced ophthalmological services, please don’t forget our roots: No one can do more than us in helping our patients with lenses. Continue to do so.

Thanks for attending my lectures and reading my articles for the past 38 years. You, my colleagues, have always done more for me than I have for you.

Have you reflected lately on your career and the current state of optometry? What challenges lie ahead for us? How can we best continue to provide the most optimal spectacle and contact lenses while continuing to grow as medical eyecare practitioners?


Peter G. Shaw-McMinn, OD, who has just retired from optometry, was an assistant professor of Clinical Studies at the Southern California College of Optometry. He was the senior partner of Sun City Vision Center, a group practice including five optometrists. Dr. Shaw-McMinn has served as chairman of the AOA Practice Management Committee and the Association of Practice Management Educators. He was the appointed Benedict Professor in Practice Management & Administration for the University of Houston College of Optometry for 2001-2002. To contact:



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