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HomemibusinessHow Fast Can you Learn?

How Fast Can you Learn?

If you think your scientific and technical knowledge is pretty much up to date you might want to think again… Given the recent changes with National Registration, you might want to get back to doing some more continuing education, before you drop back from the cutting edge.

The moment we think we have a good knowledge of science or technology, new information becomes available, and suddenly we are behind the times.

Graduation Day

It’s Graduation Day. All that hard work has paid off. You know as much about optometry as you probably ever will. You’re up to date with all the latest cutting edge information. But…are you? Like the latest computer, your knowledge was becoming increasingly outdated by new information, products and techniques. Before you know it, you’re on your way to becoming almost out-of-date.

To remain current you need to become active in looking for better ways of working. Frankly, our patients expect no less from us. We need to be lifelong learners. There is always more to read, more technology to master, more courses to attend, more qualifications to complete…

To remain current you need to become active in looking for better ways of working.

To give you some perspective, the vast repository of knowledge is increasing all the time. How fast is knowledge expanding? First, the number of years needed for the knowledge in a particular knowledge field to double has been calculated (Figure 1).

Obsolescence Rate

As you might expect, computing has the fastest rate of knowledge obsolescence with a doubling time of seven years. In medicine it’s nine years before you know half of current knowledge. Engineering is more stable with a half life of 13 years. Let’s assume optometry is similar to medicine. This suggests that ten years after graduation you know less than half of what’s out there. Have you ever wondered why the university optometry programs are getting longer all the time?!

So, how can you keep up with the knowledge explosion? Take advantage of Evidence Based Medicine (EBM) where independent institutions perform technology and technique evaluations for us. The outstanding example is the Cochrane Collaboration. Let’s say you want to know whether low vision aids really help people with low vision. Just go to www.thecochranelibrary.com, browse the reviews under ‘Eyes and Vision’ and the answer is there! (What’s the answer? You will just have to look it up!)

Another top repository is the National Institute of Health’s Clinical Trials website. Want to know if pencil push-up eye exercises work in convergence insufficiency? Go to http://clinicaltrials.gov, search for ‘eye’ and ‘ocular motility disorders’ and look up the Convergence Insufficiency Treatment Trial (CITT). What’s the answer? A qualified yes…

Always take advantage of conferences and seminars! Presenters usually have years of experience in their respective fields and have done extensive literature reviews. In other words, they know their stuff! Plus you get to network, play with new technology and have a cold beer with your friends while taking advantage of their outstanding knowledge!

Use the Web. Journals provide the best way to stay up-to-date. Many leading optometry journals are available free online and contain some of the latest information on current trends (see Figure 2 for a few good places to start).

Use Industry CPD. Companies like Luxottica provide outstanding OAA approved online and seminar based CPD for optometrists. Keep track of the CPD events in your area using OAA emails and individual invitations.

Final Word

The bottom line? Optometry is changing faster today than at any time in its history. New technology like OCTs, new schools, new lenses, ocular therapeutics, compulsory CPD… The modern optometrist can’t just rely on uni lectures vaguely recalled from 15 years ago. Keep up to date. Use the Web. Read journals. Attend conferences and seminars. Use industry CPD. Above all, become an active member of the optometry learning community. How fast can you learn?

Fgure 1: Years needed for information to double in particular professions

Knowledge Area

Years to Double












Figure 2: Examples of optometry specific website


Web address



Optometry Today


Review of Optometry


Contact Lens Spectrum




Dr. Peter Herse practiced optometry for a number of years in Australia and Kenya before he entered academic life in 1984. He has held appointments in a number of optometry schools around the world and is currently Director of the Luxottica Institute of Learning in Sydney, NSW. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry, has a strong interest in low vision, optometry education and international eye care, has been a Director of the Macular Degeneration Foundation and a Councilor of the OAA NSW .