On hearing the word "foundation," images of buildings come to mind. The foundation is the poured concrete, the layers of brick, the solid underground structure on which the building is dependent. It is an essential component of the building. Without it, the building collapses.
A Foundation is also an organization that provides money for particular purposes, such as research. Most of us recognize the famous ones: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, George Soros' Open Society Foundation, the Ford Foundation, to name a few. Professional groups often have their Foundations. The AOA has Optometry Cares (so helpful to optometrists and schools affected by hurricanes and other disasters) while ARVO has the ARVO Foundation. Our Academy has the American Academy of Optometry Foundation (AAOF). This year we will distribute almost a half-million dollars to students and researchers. I can hear the gasps…you had no idea.
The Academy’s Foundation reminds me of the moon; silent, solemn, and essential. Not well understood. However, we know the moon derived from the earth, that it marks our months and rules the tides. It can even be romantic, the stuff of poetry.
As we move towards the Academy’s 100th anniversary, it is time to celebrate our Foundation. It is time for all of us to recognize and promote this essential part of our professional lives.
If you step back and look at your typical clinical day, you can see that every time you prescribe a prostaglandin for the first-line treatment of glaucoma, every time you differentiate infective from non-infective contact lens-related ulcers and every time you explain a patching schedule for an amblyopic child, you are channeling the science that your Foundation promotes. Your evidence-based practice is what your Fellowship stands for and your Foundation is what provides the evidence. The Foundation creates the science, the Academy translates it, and you live it. After all, as Edward Hand said so well: “Science is a method to keep yourself from kidding yourself.”
Science is such a practical thing. At the which-is-better-1-or-2 level, science is the foundation of all healthcare. Without science, we do not know the risk factors for glaucoma or how to treat myopia progression or have approved medicines to treat dry eye. Science is healthcare.
The Foundation also supports the future of our profession. Students receive funds to attend the Academy's annual meeting, and graduate students receive awards to facilitate a Masters or PhD degree. There are efforts afoot to help new ODs take that extra year of residency training.
There is more to this optometric science story. Published scientific studies lift the image of our profession in the eyes of other healthcare professions, and if we wish to keep this image rising, we must contribute to the body of literature that informs practice.
In the end, our Foundation is our foundation. Let us start seeing it that way. Let us shift our thinking and actively support and promote this aspect of Academy Fellowship.
Over the next two years, try to find a way to support student attendance at the Academy, to help a resident survive yet another year of schooling, to fund the clinical research that informs your everyday practice and elevates our profession. Presently, only 5% of Fellows support the Foundation. Let us double that by 2020 and make it 50% by 2022, our centenary.