Why Bother with Research in Schools and Colleges of Optometry? : Optometry and Vision Science

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Why Bother with Research in Schools and Colleges of Optometry?

Twa, Michael D. OD, PhD, FAAO

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Optometry and Vision Science: November 2022 - Volume 99 - Issue 11 - p 791
doi: 10.1097/OPX.0000000000001950
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Every 5 years, the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education reviews existing accreditation standards. This review includes input from practitioners, professional organizations (e.g., the National Board of Examiners in Optometry, the American Optometric Association), the public, faculty and students from schools and colleges of optometry, and others. The Council recently held an assembly of these stakeholders in St. Louis, MO, where these standards and public comments were discussed. These discussions are important because they influence the future direction of optometric educational institution accreditation standards—setting expectations on curriculum, faculty, administration, clinic operations, and research. The third standard, Research and Scholarly Activity, has two parts as defined below.

3.1 The program must support, encourage, and maintain research and scholarly activity.

3.2 The program must provide opportunities for students to participate in research and other scholarly activities mentored by faculty.

During the comment period, a survey was provided to all stakeholders, and numerous comments were received that reflect a common sentiment I have heard in other places. I will summarize this sentiment as follows: Why bother with research? This activity is irrelevant to clinical practice.

As a member of the subcommittee assigned to address this standard, the subcommittee was charged with reviewing the current standard, considering stakeholder comments, and recommending revisions to the standard if required. Specifically, we were to comment on the clarity of the standard and identify any gaps or redundancies.

As part of this review process, I prepared a short editorial statement that summarized the main points of the subcommittee's discussions and delivered these statements to the larger assembly. I take responsibility for the comments shared here, but I also credit my fellow committee members for their substantive comments and ideas that are reflected in this editorial. What follows are the public statements made during the recent Accreditation Council meeting.


“Frankly, the comments received that devalue research are a disappointment. Reducing or eliminating the existing research requirement would be a massive setback for the profession. This perspective absurdly presumes that we presently have all the knowledge needed to practice the profession for the next 10, 20, or 100 years. This peer-review committee resoundingly and unanimously rejected this wrongheaded assertion, that research requirements should be eliminated and in response, we propose practical and informed recommendations to strengthen this standard.

Requiring research is not as inaccessible as some would have you believe. It requires only a few things: a question, the curiosity and tenacity to pursue that question, the ability to make sound observations, and the humility to frame your work in the context of the existing knowledge. Research and discovery can and must be an imperative for every optometric educational program.

A profession without an ongoing investment in creating new knowledge, is not a profession with concern, interest, or acknowledgement of the responsibility for what is required to be a profession. Without plans and active engagement in the discovery and dissemination of new knowledge, it cannot redefine its scope or maintain its standing and relevance within the evolving landscape of modern health systems. It cannot advance its standards for contemporary practice or set a future course for the profession.

Setting aside research as a profession would abdicate our independence and cede our authority for self-determination to other entities who would gladly define the profession's future for their own purpose. Accepting recommendations to reduce current requirements for research would reduce the profession to a technical trade.”

It would be short-sighted to lower this accreditation standard or eliminate it as some would recommend. The future vitality of the profession depends on it.

Michael D. Twa, OD, PhD, FAAO
Editor in Chief Optometry and Vision Science University of Houston College of Optometry Houston, TX

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