I am often asked, “Why optometry? Why not general medicine or ophthalmology?” My answer is simple. It wasn’t the time difference or the lifestyle. I am intrigued by the eye and visual processes, but am not interested in performing surgery outside the realm of minor procedures.
When people ask me about the difference between the two fields, I often use this analogy: optometry is to ophthalmology as dentist is to oral surgeon. If you want to focus on the patient’s primary care and pre- or post-operative care, then optometry may be right for you. If you are interested in more advanced surgical procedures, then ophthalmology may be the better path.
As for general medicine, I was not interested in pursing other specialties; they simply did not fit. I began studying the eye through my undergraduate research, and it really clicked. I wanted to learn more about the complexity of vision and the anatomy of the visual system. Diving deeper, I began working at a center for the blind and visually impaired. That was when I really developed a passion for vision rehabilitation. This specialty works to treat patients that have lost part of their vision. It helps them to regain their independence by enhancing the vision that they do have. Vision rehabilitation primarily falls under optometry, which helped to solidify my final decision.
In the end, you really have to think about the kind of training you want and where you want to be after school. My advice is to make sure you do your research and shadow a variety of doctors in different settings. One thing I wish I’d known earlier about optometry is that, unlike medical school, there is a large amount of math and physics involved, primarily through your multiple optics courses. This was something I did not expect and something that I definitely struggled with.
Both OD and MD programs are challenging as well as rewarding. They will both take a lot of time, effort, and money, but at the end of four tough years, you will have the title “Dr.” It all just depends on what kind of doctor you want to be and what scope of practice is your goal. For me, the ability to give someone the chance to see again makes all the difference. The scope of practice optometry offers is just what I want.
I worked hard to get where I am today, and am continuing to work hard to achieve my degree. Only a few more years until Dr. Jessica Capri! I am lucky to have made the right decision: OD.