Letters of Recommendation from an Optometrist

Do letters of recommendation from an optometrist count as a letter from a physician? Do medical schools value letters of recommendation from an OD as much as they do an MD? Afterall, they are still doctors.

I do apologize for the long post but I feel some background info may be pertinent to understanding the quality of letter I would be able to receive from 3 different optometric physicians.

I have almost 3 years, or a little under 6,000 hours of experience as an optometric technician. I was very fortunate to get to experience direct patient care from start to end of an appointment. Most technicians will only scribe or only pre-test patients and then hand them off to the doctor. My job entailed greeting patients, checking them in, taking history, doing any required work up for the doctor from checking visual acuity to taking scans of the retina to pulling contact lenses out of patients eye balls. Once I was done with pre-testing, I would go into the exam room with the doctor to scribe and assist with administering eye drops, dyes, and any additional testing. Once the doctor was done and left the room I would recap the treatment plan with the patient and schedule follow up appointments as needed.

This unique experience of staying with patients through the entire appointment allowed me to formulate my own thoughts about what was going on, think about possible diagnosis, think about potential treatment plans, then listen to the doctor throughout the appointment and compare the actual diagnosis and treatment plan to my theoretical one. The doctors I worked for really fostered my inquisitiveness and love of learning. They were always willing to answer questions and review interesting cases with me. Any time the doctor saw something interesting in the microscope he would always ask the patient if it was ok for me to take a look through the slit lamp. It definitely felt pretty amazing when he would tell patients that one day I would be the one running the microscope.

So why am I not going to optometry school? Optometrist can not perform any surgery or procedure that breaks the skin or cuts into tissue. I am very interested in procedures and surgeries. Additionally, it is the medical side of optometry that makes me light up. The refraction and glasses prescription side of optometry is not where my passion lies. After spending a month in Ghana volunteering at an ophthalmology clinic where I was able to observe surgeries I really fell in love with the OR and it cemented for me that I need to go to medical school.

I worked through my first year of undergrad and the doctors I worked for were incredibly supportive by constantly adjusting my work schedule to accommodate my constantly changing school schedule. Unfortunately, I had to make the incredibly difficult decision to stop working to focus on academics back in august as my course load was just getting to heavy to continue working full time and going to school full time. I worked very hard to foster an excellent relationship with the doctors I worked for and from time to time they even let me do fill-in work when someone calls out sick. I recently reached out to them and asked if they could help connect me with an ophthalmologist to shadow since I know that I need more experience with MDs. Fortunately they got me in touch with a very prominent and well respected Ophthalmologist in Seattle and I will begin shadowing shortly.

With all of that being said, I can not fathom being able to develop as meaningful and impactfull of a relationship with an MD that I shadow once a week as I did with the optometric physicians that I spent 40 hours a week with for 3 years. I am concerned that admissions committees may completely disregard a letter from an optometrist simply because they are not an MD.

I answer this in Session 149! opmpodcast.com/149 (comes out 10/24/2018). Short answer—no.