The U.S. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is the last and only jurisdiction of the United States of America where licensed Doctors of Optometry are not allowed to use therapeutic pharmaceutical agents for the treatment of ocular health conditions in their patients. Optometrists in Puerto Rico are educated with the same rigorous U.S. accredited didactic and clinical training as all the optometrists in the United States, and are required to complete and successfully pass all parts of the National Board of Examiners in Optometry examinations to be allowed to practice in the Island. The National Board is a requirement for a license to practice as an optometrist in all the 50 United States.
Doctors of Optometry trained in Puerto Rico are successfully engaged in practices with full therapeutic privileges at this moment in many states, as commissioned officers in the U.S. Armed Forces Medical Services, as well as the Veterans Administration, The U.S. Public Health Service and other federal and state medical departments. Organized optometry in Puerto Rico has unsuccessfully presented legislation in the past, leaving the more than 4 million citizens of the Island with only about 100 ophthalmologists to care for their ocular health. This situation is not acceptable under the most basic standard of care that the rest of the citizens of the United States enjoy in their particular jurisdictions by certified Doctors of Optometry. As a matter of fact many practicing optometrists in Puerto Rico hold also therapeutic licenses in states, to maintain and uphold their proficiency and clinical expertise’s at par with the regular practice of the profession in the United States.
The government of Puerto Rico, by not allowing this legislation to be successful, is systematically discriminating against their own citizens and purposely allowing a substandard of care.
It is with deep anger and embarrassment that we were informed that the U.S. Army would no longer be accepting Doctors of Optometry with licenses that will not allow the practitioners to prescribe therapeutic pharmaceutical agents. The U.S. Army was very clear in stating that: “We do not accept any providers who do not meet the necessary criteria for practicing at the highest level of our profession. It does not matter what license you hold. If you are not licensed to practice therapeutics, your credentialing in our Military Treatment Facilities is extremely limited and you are not able to perform your duties at the level necessary to carry out the mission in a combat zone or other deployments.” Its is expected that the Navy, Air Force and the rest of the federal medical services will go along with the Army soon.
Again, the government of Puerto Rico, by not allowing Optometrists in Puerto Rico to prescribe, is systematically discriminating against their own citizens and purposely allowing a substandard of care. This is an injustice and discrimination toward the 4.5 million residents of this U.S. Commonwealth, and now to the Doctors of Optometry licensed in Puerto Rico that are now not allowed to serve as officers and healthcare providers in the U.S. Armed Forces.