Optometric (and ophthalmologic) eye care is becoming increasingly important in Georgia, due to its aging population. After the age of forty-five the incidence of eye and vision problems needing diagnosis and treatment increases. Optometric services are very accessible to Georgians—as of 2005 there are
The Georgia Optical Association was founded in 1904, and in 1916 Georgia became the thirty-eighth state to pass a law recognizing and regulating the practice of optometry. The same year the Georgia Optical Association changed its name to the Georgia Optometric Association.
The original function of an optometrist was to measure the eyes for eyeglasses. The word optometry is derived from opto, Latin for "eye," and metrist, Latin for "the measure of." Thus, an optometrist was a person who "measured" the eye for its refractive condition. In 1886 Edmund Landolt, of Paris, France, was the first to use the term optometry. The optometer was an instrument that had been around since the seventeenth century, so its operation was logically called optometry, and those who performed the test were optometrists.
To become a licensed doctor of optometry in Georgia, one must attend a four-year graduate program in an optometry college; graduates must then pass the Georgia State Board examination in order to be licensed to practice. Typically, optometry-school students have already obtained a bachelor's degree. Almost all optometrists have had at least eight years of college training.
Sixteen optometric schools operate in the United States, four of which are in the South: Southern College
Each Georgia optometrist must also take thirty-six hours of approved continuing education every two years in order to retain his or her license to practice. Every year the Southern Educational Congress of Optometry, the largest optometric educational meeting in the United States, convenes in Atlanta. From 2001 to 2004 there have been more than 8,000 registrants from all over the world at each conference.
In the mid–twentieth century very few women practiced optometry, but in 2001 in Georgia, 28 percent of all practicing doctors of optometry were female. And in 2003-4, 60 percent of all students in optometric colleges were female.
Jack Runninger, Rome
A project of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor.