What is an Ophthalmologist?
An ophthalmologist is a medical or osteopathic doctor who specializes in eye and vision care. Ophthalmologists complete 12 to 13 years of training and education, and are licensed to practice medicine and surgery. This advanced training allows ophthalmologists to diagnose and treat a wider range of conditions than optometrists and opticians. Typical training includes a four-year college degree followed by at least eight years of additional medical training.
An ophthalmologist diagnoses and treats all eye diseases, performs eye surgery and prescribes and fits eyeglasses and contact lenses to correct vision problems. Many ophthalmologists are also involved in scientific research on the causes and cures for eye diseases and vision disorders. Because they are medical doctors, ophthalmologists can sometimes recognize other health problems that aren’t directly related to the eye, and refer those patients to the right medical doctors for treatment.
Subspecialists: additional knowledge and training for specific eye needs
While ophthalmologists are trained to care for all eye problems and conditions, some ophthalmologists specialize further in a specific area of medical or surgical eye care. This person is called a subspecialist. He or she usually completes one or two years of additional, more in-depth training (called a Fellowship) in one of the main subspecialty areas such as Glaucoma, Retina, Cornea, Pediatrics, Neurology, Oculo-Plastic Surgery or others. This added training and knowledge prepares an ophthalmologist to take care of more complex or specific conditions in certain areas of the eye or in certain groups of patients. The Eye Institute has board-certified AND fellowship trained physicians in each of these fields.
What is an Optometrist?
Optometrists are healthcare professionals who provide primary vision care ranging from vision testing and correction to the diagnosis, treatment, and management of vision changes. An optometrist is not a medical doctor. An optometrist receives a doctor of optometry (OD) degree after completing 2 to 4 years of college-level education, followed by four years of optometry school. They are licensed to practice optometry, which primarily involves performing eye exams and vision tests, prescribing and dispensing corrective lenses, detecting certain eye abnormalities and prescribing medications for certain eye diseases. Many ophthalmologists and optometrists work together in the same offices, as a team. In the United States, what optometrists are licensed to do for patients can vary from state to state.
Does Board Certification and Fellowship Training Matter?
The Eye Institute physicians are board certified AND fellowship trained. What does this mean and should it matter to you as a patient?
What Does “Board-Certified” Mean?
A board-certified ophthalmologist is one who has received a certificate from the American Board of Ophthalmology (ABO), which is the oldest medical specialty board in the United States. It has been providing certificates to qualified ophthalmologists since 1916. Those certificates are the only ophthalmology certificates recognized by both the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS).
The certification process requires the ophthalmologist to take and pass an oral exam and a written qualifying exam. The ophthalmologist also has to sign a pledge in which they promise to practice with integrity, compassion and respect for the patient’s dignity. Since the 1990s, board-certified doctors, also known as diplomates, have been required to update their certifications every ten years. That requirement ensures that the doctor follows and knows the advances and changes in their specialty.
What Does the Certification Process Involve?
In order to even attempt the certification process, the ophthalmologist must have completed medical school, an internship and their residency, and they must have their medical license. The certification process generally takes 18 months to two years or even longer. During that time, the certification candidate will either be working in a practice or they will be receiving advanced training in a sub-specialty from a fellowship program.
Why is Board Certification Important?
Board certification proves than a doctor has superior knowledge and skill. It also demonstrates that they have undertaken extra training to provide their patients with the best possible care. The re-certification requirements ensure that the doctor stays abreast of the latest developments within their specialty.
What does “Fellowship trained” mean?
Physicians that are fellowship trained have received their training in general Ophthalmology and have gone through additional training (usually 1 to 2 years) in their specific area of specialty such as Cornea, Retina, Glaucoma, Orbital & Oculoplastics and Pediatrics. The Eye Institute is the only Ophthalmology group in Northeast Oklahoma that has board certified AND fellowship trained physicians in all of our specialties.