I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Dave Rouse, OD, President of the Florida Optometric Association, past Optometrist of the Year and Illinois College of Optometry graduate, who currently practices in Weston, FL. He played an integral part (along with many students, optometrists, advocates and legislators across Florida) in the new law passed that gives optometrists the ability to prescribe oral medications.
Q. To start, can you give us a summary of what this new law does for optometrists, and most importantly, their patients?
A. It allows for optometrists to care for patients in a more effective way and streamlines the healthcare delivery system. It gives optometrists the prescription authority for oral medication, so we don’t have to refer patients out and can better treat our patients on their initial visit by getting them the best medication possible while sitting in our chairs. Patients will no longer have to incur the expense of an additional office visit or co-pay, or time lost from work to go to an extra practitioner. Optometrists can now prescribe oral meds in 48 states.
Q. What does it take to get something like this from just an idea, to the law that it is today?
A. This was a grassroots effort, and by continually engaging the legislative process over the last few decades we became successful. The FOA was hyper-focused in this year. There has to be a “need” for legislation and the “need” was patients did not have the proper access to care and the eye care that was delivered was inefficient and costly. Also geographically, (as in many other states) there are not a lot of ophthalmologists in rural areas, so patient symptoms were actually getting worse before they could be seen by an ophthalmologist. Next, this becomes an advocacy issue by lobbying and educating legislators for this bill. Through grassroots efforts, optometrists and students educated all their local representatives and senators on the issue and its merit. All this snowballed, leadership got involved and here we are today…this is a great thing for FL, the law will give its citizens a greater access to care and provides a savings to the health care system.
Q. Any advice to students on why they should get involved, and how they can do it?
A. Here’s a great example: we have NOVA Southeastern students here in Florida, who played a very important role in this bill getting passed. They formed phonetrees, traveled to Tallahassee and visited with local representatives to make sure that these reps could realize the issue was important, and reassure them that we do have the training and education necessary to safely and effectively prescribe oral medication. Having the students side by side with us helped the point come across in a big way. The old saying is true, educate before you legislate!
No matter where you practice, or go to school, you should be indoctrinated into the legislative process, because once you graduate, regardless of the state, you will have a legislative issue. I think it’s the responsibility of all the schools to take it upon themselves to educate the students on that process, because it will serve them well once they get out.
Q. What got you into the legislative side of optometry, and led you to be in the position you are today as president of the FOA?
A. A local OD who was actively involved took me to lunch and told me what organized optometry is all about. He invited me to a local society meeting, I went to the meeting and saw how optometrists work together as a team, and I became a member. Eventually, I ran as a local society trustee, then became local society president. Later I was nominated to be on the state board, then worked my way up… so after about 15-20 years of being involved in local optometry, I ascended to the ranks of president. It was my natural interest in making the profession better and the inherent fight in me that wanted to make sure we’re never taken advantage of that let me to this position.
Q. Thanks so much for your time! Anything else to add?
A. I’m thrilled for the opportunity to treat our patients in the state of FL and in the most advanced way we possibly can, this bill that passed is good for the citizens of FL, but it’s not just an optometry bill, it’s really going to streamline the health care delivery system for our patients, and I’m thrilled that we can do this for them.
Thanks to Dr. Rouse for taking the time to talk with us at OptometryStudents.com! Thank you to the NOVA students who were involved in making this bill become a law! Any NOVA students out there who want to share their experience in the process, please do in the comments below, we would love to hear it!!