Optometrist Ron Ferrucci was never prouder than when his son, Greg, decided he wanted to join him in his practice. Greg grew up helping his dad in the Milford office, helping patients read eye charts, filing papers, and visiting elderly clients in the nursing home, but when he went off to college, he wasn?t sure what career he wanted to pursue. He came back that first semester and announced, ?Dad, I want to be an optometrist.?
?It was very gratifying,? says Ferrucci of when Greg joined him as a partner three years ago at Greater Milford Eye Associates. ?I think he had a good sense of what the profession was all about from watching us work with patients over the years. It?s wonderful to be able to help improve people?s visions and do good things for people in that way.?
Today the father and son practice offer specialized services such as advanced contact lens fitting, refractive laser consultations, and low-vision examinations. ?Vision problems are inherent in society today, whether it?s children who can?t see the chalkboard or adults who are having problems driving at night,? says Ferrucci. ?
Optometry, ophthalmology, opticians: what?s the difference between the three ?O? professions? Optometrists (ODs) like Ferrucci mainly deal with healthy eyes, prescribing glasses and contact lenses; opticians dispense glasses and contact lenses, and ophthalmologists are medical doctors (MDs) who specialize in performing surgery on diseased eyes. The job outlook is good for all three ?Os,? but optometry in particular offers generous compensation; optometrists on average can earn as much as ophthalmologists ($148,923, according to the American Optometric Association Economic Survey) without the protracted medical education.
Q: What does it take to be an optometrist?
A: Admission to one of the accredited 20-plus schools of optometry is highly competitive, with only 1 out of 3 applicants accepted, preceded by at least three years of study at a college or university. All states require optometrists to be licensed.
Q: What?s the biggest challenge today as an optometrist?
A: Like any other health professional, we?re under the thumb of insurers, and the challenge for optometrists is to make sure we're reimbursed at rates equal to the value of the services we provide.
Q: What sort of patients have you seen over the years?
A: They include a physicist who have helped launch astronauts to the moon; an anthropologist who was instrumental in redesigning parachutes for women during World War II; and a homebound man who was so impaired with low vision he couldn?t finish high school. But when he was fitted with an optic telescope over special contact lens, he was able to complete school, get a drivers license, and become gainfully employed. We try to allow patients to reach their visual goals, no matter what their lifestyles might be.
Q: How has the profession changed over the years?
A: The eye chart is digital now, so patients can?t memorize it anymore. I used to have people come in and laughingly say, ?TZVECL,? which was 20/20 on the Snellen eye chart for 150 years. Now the lines keep changing.
Q: And who does your eye exams?
A: My son Greg, of course. It?s always a pleasure to have him do it. I glow with pride.
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