37-year-old optometrist

Hello everyone! It is nice to see so many people deciding medicine is what they want to do later in life, gives me hope.

I am currently an optometrist and just not satisfied with what I am doing, I feel like I want to do so much more for my patients than my license allows. I am going to take the August 25 MCAT, have been studying for the past two months, has been 13 years since I graduated with my bachelor degree. Any sage words out there?

I am currently living in Kansas and hope to gain entrance into KU med for next year.

Hi there, I am also an OD who is applying for the current cycle. I am 46 and graduated OD school in 1994. I am also taking the MCAT on Aug 25.

Good luck!

Hi, I have a question about a career in optometry. I am currently in school for opticianry and was looking to pursue optometry. I would like to know what is it that you are not satisfied with in your career. At first I thought about pursuing Ophthalmology because I know I can practice full scope; unfortunately, being an optician is not enough for me and my ability to provide patient care is extremely limited so I thought I would pursue optometry. At the moment I am trying to decide whether I should pursue Optometry or Ophthalmology. I know I can make the best of either professions and the only reason that is stopping me from pursuing ophthalmology is the fact that it would take min. 8 years including residency to become a MD. In the end I would be in my late 30’s which is a time I expect to have a family by. I’m afraid of missing out on times with friends and family. It is funny how good things happen when I’m really busy.

Optometry can be a satisfying career option, it depends on what your’re looking to get out of it.

In my opinion Medicine offers many more career options. General optometry is fairly easy although it can become quite monotinous. If you’re able to open or purchase an office and you’re a great business person it can be quite lucrative, but if your plan is to go corporate, they can ‘suck the life’ out of you. So if you decide to pursue optometry I would recommend you strive to acquire a solo or group practice, and stay away from the chain stores.

I’ve worked in a chain store as an optician doing sales and I hated it so I wouldn’t think being an optometrist there would make much of a difference. I do see myself working in a group practice possibly along side an ophthalmologist. I want to make sure that whether I become a OD or an MD I would be able to practice Opticianry as well. I don’t want to feel like I wasted two years studying to be an optician. It was in Opticianry school that I made up my mind to become a doctor. What I learned in the two years as an opticianry student will definitely become extremely useful for which ever path I choose. But I think Optometry would give me more opportunity to practice opticianry as well.

Good for you, Sean! I think its amazing that you have the courage to switch careers. If being a doctor is what you want, then don’t let anything stop you.

I don’t know what kind of advice you’re looking for, but I have several thoughts to share with you:

  1. if you haven’t stumbled on the Examkrackers series for studying for the MCAT, I can’t recommend them highly enough. They are thorough and no-nonsense, and tell you what you do and do not need to know. If you do those, you will be well-prepared. Of course, an MCAT prep course might be even better, but not everyone can do that (I couldn’t afford it, myself).

  2. If being a doctor is what you want, you should consider maybe applying to more schools than just KU. That’s kind of an eggs in one basket situation-- you need to maximize your chances.

  3. Along the same lines, consider DO schools. They love nontraditional students and people embarking on second careers. They are sometimes more likely to look at you as a person, and not just write you off as an irregular set of numbers.

To answer your question as thourough as possible without writing a book, optometry just does not give me the satisfaction at the end of the day that I feel I need out of my career. The part I love most about the job is the pathology, which I see a very limited amount of since I am in a metropolitan setting, and once I see most pathology I have to refer out to an ophthalmologist for most treatments anyway. Even for glaucoma, which am am licensed to treat, I have to refer out for diagnostic testing because I don’t have a large enough glaucoma practice to warrant spending $65,000 on an OCT which is quickly becoming the standard of care.

Which brings us to the retail side of the profession… As a poster has already aluded to, if you are a very good business person you can do OK, and really just OK in the current financial climate. Long gone are the days of what I would call “the golden age” of optometry when patients came in and purchased all their eye care and eye wear needs from their neighborhood OD. I feel I am constantly trying to think of new and creative ways to get patients to understand the value of our services and quality of our merchandise, but all too often it simply comes down to price. It just does not seem like people really care that much about quality and are just wanting the cheapest thing they can get. “Can I just get a copy of my prescription, I saw this pair of glasses at Costco that were really cute and much cheaper.” I started my own practice cold 3 1/2 years ago and trust me, you can’t even pay the overhead with just giving eye examinations, especially with some of the terrible vision plans out there that only reimburse $40 for an exam. So I have just really had it with the whole retail part of my practice because I constantly feel the stress of not making enough money to cover expenses let alone take home a salary that will provide the life for my family that I feel an 8 year degree should.

On your thought of working in an MD/OD setting. This was my original thought as well, until you get out there in the “real” world and realize that most MDs have very little respect for optometrists beyond just doing refractions and fitting contact lenses (which are almost just not even profitable with online ordering and Costco selling them for just barely over my cost). I say most because there are a few opthalmologists in my area that realize how well trained we are and co-manage patients without hesitation. Needless to say those are the busiest MDs in my area simply because most ODs refer to them. One of my close friends works with the corneal/cataract specialist I refer to and he loves the job, but really does not make as much as he should given the responsibility that he has, and when it comes down to it at the end of the day the MD has the final say in what happens in the practice and what direction he wants to take it in.

As far as the chain stores, I have done that as well and yes, they will suck the life right out of you. They just want more hours, for you to see more patients and then will still come to you with the attitude “what have you done for me lately?” Not a way I wish to spend the next 30 years of my life.

If you are really debating between the two, without hesitation I recommend you follow the MD path, unless you really want to live in rural Amereica, which I think is where optometry really thrives. You are booked solid, there is really no competition for you materials, and you treat alot of pathology because the closest OMD may be 2-3 hours away. Most ODs I know in rural settings do VERY well, all of my collegues, including myself, in the metropolitain setting struggle just to see enough patients to pay the bills. I know you think that your late 30s is old, but believe me, it is not. I just had my first child 9 months ago and am now HOPEFULLY headed back to med school. Take the plunge and become an OMD, you will not regret your decision, if you follow the OD route you may.

Hi Sean,

Thanks for sharing. I’m suddenly glad I’m not an OD. I just wanted to say hey b/c we’re neighbors. I work in Lenexa.

I’ll be heading to the KU Med open house in a few hours, if you have any questions, maybe I can help.

Are you planning to apply to KCUMB as well? We’re pretty limited on local options.

While I ordinarily heartily endorse the idea that you can go into any specialty from a D.O. background, I would discourage anyone from thinking that it would be feasible if the eventual goal is ophthalmology. Ophtho is perhaps THE most competitive specialty of all the specialties, with very very few training positions. One must have top board scores, top grades, top evals, and research experience to have a shot at ophthalmology. Of course these things are possible with a D.O. – I know that. But I am not sure that the ophtho residencies do!