Last year a new state law passed allowing Oklahoma optometrists to perform non-laser surgical procedures to be regulated by the Board of Examiners of Optometry.
Now that board's rules are coming into question.
And opponents, including the American Medical Association are asking the legislature to overrule them.
Dr Ray Balyeat: "I feel that this potentially opens the field of surgery to non-surgeons."
Ophthalmologist Dr. Ray Balyeat says the board's rules go far beyond what optometrists are safely trained to do.
So what is the difference? An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor specializing in eye care.
Training includes 4 years of undergraduate study four years of medical school, one year of internship, and three or more years of specialized training. An optometrist is also a doctor but not an MD. Training includes the same 4-year college degree, then four years at an accredited college of optometry.Optometrists may undergo additional specialized training but they do not go to medical school.
That's why for Optometrist Monte Harrel, the line is clearly drawn. He says optometrists even under the new rules are not allowed to perform invasive surgery that is actually cutting on the eyeball. Dr. Harrell says it's all about access to care, sometimes in rural areas Optometrists are the only option.
Dr Monte Harrel: "If you get a piece of metal in your eye it's nice for your family eye doctor to be able to do that rather than driving to a metro area to see an Ophthalmologist who does more major surgeries."
Dr Ray Balyeat: "There is no rural access problem in Oklahoma, this is a bogus issue."
Dr. Balyeat says Ophthamalogists have satellite offices around the state.
It all comes down to who has the power to wield this. And it's likely some on both sides will never see eye to eye. Now whether Optometrists can continue operating under the new rules is in the hands of the legislature.