Why Optometry, PA, and Pharmacy are Top 100 Jobs, and What to Expect in the Years to Come.

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By Julie A. Schornack, OD, Med, president of Marshall B. Ketchum University  

If you are a leader with a strong sense of compassion and a desire to have an impact on the world around you, then you have likely considered a career in health care. The health care professions are full of leaders—those who thrive under pressure and possess discipline and determination to go along with their leadership skills.  

While physicians, surgeons and nurses are visible roles and often seen as leaders in the industry, there are a few career options in health care that you may not have considered. These careers offer just as many opportunities for leadership while enabling you to have a unique impact on your community and a more extensive ability to collaborate with others. Three especially rewarding occupations, each of which is among the top 100 jobs in the United States according to The U.S. & World News Report are optometrists, physician assistants (PA’s) and pharmacists.

Three Reasons Optometry is an Attractive Career Choice

  1. There are many choices in how you practice, giving you multiple options based on your passion and skills. You can practice as an employee, private practice owner, ophthalmology/optometry combination practice, research, education, HMO, corporate, industry, Veteran’s Affairs, Indian Health Service, military, etc.
  2. An ever-expanding scope of practice within the profession presents constant opportunities for further education and patient care offerings for diagnostic and treatment procedures.
  3. As an optometrist, you have a special relationship with your patients. You can have longer visits with your patients, allowing you to provide quality care and build authentic relationships with each of them. Patients you may take care of include entire families, often over their lifetime, and you frequently get to witness firsthand how you’ve increased the quality of their lives by improving their eye health and visibility.

Three Reasons PA is an Attractive Career Choice

  1. PAs get to be essential front-line health care providers without the commitment to the long years of medical school and the high expense of medical school education.
  2. PAs are able to specialize in a multitude of areas and pursue distinct and unique areas of specialties within medicine.
  3. PAs can practice in a variety of settings from hospitals, private offices, urgent care and more.

Three Reasons Pharmacy is an Attractive Career Choice

  1. Pharmacy runs deep through all aspects of health care, making pharmacists valuable members of the health care industry. They collaborate with many different professionals in differing areas of the field with the goal of providing excellent patient outcomes.
  2. Pharmacists in California have an expanded scope of practice compared to other states which allows them to be at the forefront of pushing the profession forward.
  3. With constant changes in the pharmaceutical industry and new drug entries daily, a pharmacists’ commitment to life-long learning is never ending.

Leadership Within Optometry, PA and Pharmacy

In addition to the ways these careers are rewarding options for those interested in pursuing a profession in health care, each of them can provide you with ample opportunities to employ leadership skills. Every profession needs leaders to step up for their respective professions from a political and advocacy standpoint, and this is especially true for health care occupations like optometry, PA and pharmacy. Historically, the scope of each of these practices has been advanced by strong leaders who charted a course for increased responsibilities for the health care industry. Those in this role have a duty to educate public leaders on issues of health care that intersect with their professions to help them be knowledgeable and to make well-informed decisions.

Leaders are also needed in every profession to gather practitioners in their respective career and work through their professional organizations to identify problems and solutions. As an optometrist, PA or pharmacist, in addition to treating your patients, you will also connect with your colleagues and advocate for your profession to improve the care opportunities you’re able to deliver.

The many diverse and beautiful communities in our nation are always in need of resilient and compassionate leaders, and never more so than in the health care field. The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the importance of strong leadership to tackle public health problems, as well as the effects of a lack of such leadership. Because optometrists, PAs and pharmacists work is deeply ingrained in your community, you would also have the chance to identify health care inequities and gaps – taking the lead on mitigating those inequities and gaps.  

What We Can Expect in the Years to Com

Optometry, PA and pharmacy continue to grow and offer ample prospects for advancement, a generous income, fulfilling employment, high degrees of success and advanced leadership opportunities. As our country continues to struggle with the number of practicing physicians unable to meet high demand, we can see that these professions all contribute to easing this burden, as they can often treat individuals successfully before the patient requires a physician. Having more providers to address the needs of patients serves the health care system and patients at a level of excellence.

Another important trend in health care that makes these professions appealing career choices is the proliferation of the team-based approach to health care. This collaborative, interdisciplinary method for patient care is the future of all health care, and continuing to build strong interprofessional health care teams that address patients holistically should improve overall patient outcomes. Ultimately, optometry, PA and pharmacy can contribute in a meaningful way to the overall quality of life for patients.

Lastly, one of the most vital expectations for what is to come in the future of these professions has to do with the many parts of our country that are wildly underserved with health care providers. Here is where you might encounter the potential for truly bold leadership, as one of the greatest markers of a leader is one who charts a new course to a place where few have gone before and finds ways to meaningfully affect change there. Opportunities abound for optometrists, PA’s and pharmacists who are open to practicing and delivering care in increasingly diverse settings, and who relish the challenge of impacting lives in bold and innovative ways.

If you are considering a career in health care as a means of utilizing your leadership skills, you would be hard-pressed to find a more stimulating professional path than a career in optometry, PA or pharmacy. Each of these professions steps in to partner with patients for the best health care outcomes, so you are often helping people when they are at their most vulnerable and in need of a compassionate guide to assist them to understand their health challenges. Solving the health care obstacles of patients and being a part of teams that collaborate to determine the best care for patients is personal and professionally rewarding!

About the Author:

Dr. Julie A. Schornack is the second President of Marshall B. Ketchum University (MBKU) in Fullerton, California. Dr. Schornack has been at the college since 1986. Dr. Schornack received her optometry degree from the Illinois College of Optometry in 1984. She then completed a Masters of Education at Pacific University College of Optometry. She has also served as an Assistant Professor in the Cornea and Contact Lens Service where she had responsibilities in the lecture, laboratory and clinic. Dr. Schornack has also been involved in contact lens research and has lectured extensively on contact lens-related topics. Over the course of her time at the University she has served in a variety of positions including Associate Dean of Clinical Education, Vice President of Clinical Affairs for the Southern California College of Optometry and most recently, Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff for the University. President Schornack was appointed the second president of MBKU on July 1, 2022.

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