Optometry Through the Years
by Dr. Claro M. Cinco
“The events of the past century say much about where Optometry bas been foretell accurately where Optometry is going.” (John Classe)
The History of the development of Optometry as a profession is more than exciting episode of a profession’s struggle to achieve its present state of development. From its humble beginning as craft, then as a trade, and finally as a profession. Optometry won and lost battles, was vilified and maligned, suffered indignities, went into extreme sacrifices and conquered all attempts to contain its growth.
A brief of the historical background of optometry would reveal the 18th to the 19th century as the area of spectacles were no longer being associated with witchcraft and were recognized as valuable tool for enhancing vision. Then, from the 19th century to the early 20th century, the science and the art of clinical refraction was developed, followed later by improved methods of lens fabrication.
From the early to the middle of the 20th century, optometry was mainly involved in pure vision testing. Followed by a growing interest in binocular vision, the introduction of visual analysis and the development of contact lenses.
From the 3rd quarter to the close of this 20th century, optometry made a giant leap towards the fulfillment of tis role as a primary care profession. New laws were passed to provide the profession the use of diagnostic pharmaceutical agents (DPAs) and therapeutic pharmaceuticals agents (TPAs). As a natural consequence, optometrists became involved in the treatment and management of disease. In some countries, optometrists perform limited surgery.
At the turn of this century, there was no established record of optometry in the Philippines. There were no facilities for grinding prescriptions for lenses. It is presumed that a few wealthy residents, mostly Spanish priests and colonizers, ordered their ready-made reading spectacles from Europe
Dr. Jose P. Rizal had atrial case which is now in the collection of the late Dr. Geminiano de Ocampo, and the only available evidence of an actual prescription for eyeglasses are those written by him. Showing that he did some refraction. Rizal finished his medical studies at the Universidad Central de Madrid. Bu had his medical education at the Universidad de Santo Tomas in Manila. He trained in ophthalmology under the famous Dr. Louis de Wecker in Paris in 1885, with Dr. Otto Becker in Germany, and with Drs. Schweiger, Zulzer and Galezowsky. It is believed that he also spent a few days with Ernst Fuch in Vienna before his first voyage home in 1887. It is known where his lens prescriptions were filled but it can only be assumed that they were ordered in Europe since he was trained there.
Some relevant information, although not directly related to optometry, may be worth mentioning. Nicolas Fernando states that “Rizal is known to performed the first cataract extraction in these island as early as 1887”. However, De Ocampo said that 50 years earlier, in 1822, Paul P. dela Gironiere performed cataract extraction. Gironiere, a French naval surgeon who arrived in Cavite in May 1820, related how he removed the eye of a Spanish captain, Don Juan Poras, which was afflicted with tumor. As it took 18 months to order an artificial eye from Paris, he had to devise one pieces of glass and a tube, with the help of a carriage painter and a jeweler. De Ocampo quoted Gironiere: “Notwithstanding my youth and inexperience, my first success gave me much confidence that I performed several operations upon persons afflicted with cataracts, which succeed most fortunately.”
Nicolas Fernando mentioned that in Manila, during the last years of the Spanish regime, there were two Spanish physicians, Drs. Biola and M.C Torneli, who were also practicing oculist. J.P Bantug reports from the “ Estadistical Operatoria de las Salas de Cirugia de Hombres y Mujeres del Hospital civil de San Juan de Dios” that there was one cataract extraction in 1875, and two in 1876.
Even when Rizal was in Europe studying medicine and specializing in ophthalmology in 1884-1887, according to Leoncio Lopez- Rizal, he received a letter from one of his relatives in Calamba stating that he was being treated by a Captain Spanish oculist for his eye ailment.
While historical literature shows that there were physicians who practiced ophthalmology earlier than Rizal, no mention was made that clinical refraction was performed.
The first optometric clinic where refraction was practiced was established was established in Manila by R.M. Clark in 1902. He also set up the first lends grinding facility in the Philippines. After his came H.C. Strong followed later by Cipriano Lara, Feredico SArabia, Carlos Ortiz and Manuel Sabater. As more enterprising people joined the optical venture. Clark and Company, and H.E Heacock opened their services with Dr. Joaquin del Alcazar as their optometrist.
The “optical business” became popular and at that time anybody even without adequate preparation and technical training can engage in said business. The problem of standardization and the need for training became a great concern and this stimulated the organization of the first optometric association of the Philippines in 1917 whose initial members were so-called “opticians” namely Drs. G.T Hermann, Justo Gonzales, E.V Bartholomai and Carlos Ortiz. The name of the association was the Philippine association of Optometrists. It was through the efforts of this association that the Philippine legislature enacted the first regulatory law in optometry known as the Optometry Law of 1917. This law was later amended in 1919.
Optometry earned its legal recognition as a profession with the passage of this law. In the same year (1917) South Carolina, Wyoming and Penssylvania, and then U.S territories of Hawaii and Alaska also passed their optometry laws. For almost 70 years, the Philippines was the only country in Asia with a regulatory law in optometry. This was due to the influence of American colonization of this country.
The optometry Law of 1917 provided for among other things, the creation of the “Junta Examinadora” (Board of Examiners) who was charge the duty to determine the requirements for licensing to practice optometry. Article 812 of said law also provided that those who were already practicing the profession with an established office at least one year prior to March 11,1917 may secure a certificate of registration as optometrist upon passing a practical examination by means of a trial case. Jokingly referred to as “examinacion de gracia” this examination satisfied the so-called “grandfather clause” provision of the newly enacted law. The members of the first “Junta Examinadora” were G.T. Hermann, H.O. Haynor, William G. Moore, E.V. Bartholomai and Justo Gonzales.
Philippine Involvement in International Optometry
The first reference abroad on optometry in the Philippines was made some fifty-five years ago by Professor Henry W. Hofstetter in his book “Optometry—Professional, Economic and Legal Aspects” where he devoted a paragraph about Centro Escolar University as offering an optometry course with Dr. Gregorio G. Estrada as dean. Otherwise, optometry in the Philippines was unknown abroad.
In the early 1960’s, a Filipino optometrists, Dr. Gamaliel M. Gonzalez, who was dean at that time of Manila Central University, College of Optometry in Manila, was invited to speak at a scientific meeting of the German optometric association. To the best of our knowledge, he is the first Filipino optometrist to lecture in a foreign country. Towards the middle of 1960’s, a few foreign optometrists came to deliver lectures and conduct seminars, specially on contact lenses.
At the joint congress of the American Optometric Association and the Canadian Association of Optometrists held at Toronto, Canada in July 1977, Dr. Claro M. Cinco and Dr. Antonio F. Joson, Jr. (Philippines) with Dr. Damien P. Smith (Australia) discovered that independently their national associations had come to the view that regional cooperation was imperative. In an informal breakfast conference they agreed to coordinate in the planned First Asian-Pacific Optometric Congress sponsored by the Optometric Association of the Philippines. In July,1978 at Manila and second Asian-Pacific Optometric Congress held jointly with the Third Australian International Optometric Congress at Bali, Indonesia and Singapore in May, 1979
At the 1st APOC in Manila, chaired by Dr. Eduardo N. Genabe, the International Federation of Asian and Pacific Associations of Optometrists (IFAPAO) was fouded, and at the 2nd APOC in Bali the first set of office bearers were elected. They were: Dr. Claro M. Cinco (Philippines), presiden; Dr. Fumio Morie (Japan), vice-president; Dr. Ali S. Asgar (Fiji), director. Dr. Damien P. Smith was chosen to assume the permanent position as Secretary-General of the federation.
Hence, the IFAPAO became the driving force which influenced and contributed to the development of optometry and optometric education in the region. IFAPAO continued its sponsorship of these regional conferences every two years. In line with the worldwide reorganization of IOOL to WCO (World Council of Optometry). IFAPAO changed its name to APCO (Asian-Pacific Council of Optometry) and Dr. Antonio F. Joson, Jr. (Philippines) was elected president. In 2004, Dr. Joson was elected to the permanent position as APCO Secretaty-General, vice Dr. Willard Bleything.
Beforehand, Dr. Damien P. Smith, after several years of exemplary service, stepped down as IFAPAO Secretary-General AND Dr. Willaed B. Bleything assumed the position. Dr. Smith was later elected President of World Council of Optometry for the year term 2002-2004.
In 1980, the Optometric Association of the Philippines (OAP) was represented by Dr. Claro M. Cinco at the General Delegates Meeting of the International Optometric and Optical League (IOOL) at Nagoya, Japan. The OAP applied as a member of the IOOL, and in 1983 the Philippines was admitted as an Associate Member of the IOOL, and in 1983 the Philippines was admitted as an Associate Member of the World Organization. At this writing, the OAP is the recognized member of the Asian-Pacific Council of Optometry (APCO) and at the World Council of Optometry (WCO) as official representative organization from the Philippines.
In 1987, the International Optometric and Optical League (IOOL, now WCO) decided to acknowledge annually, when qualified, an optometrist who made significant contributions to the development of optometry worldwide, and in as the “International Optometrist of the Year.” The award as the inaugural “International Optometrist of the Year” was presented in Sydney, Australia to Dr. Claro M. Cinco by IOOL President DR. G. Burtt Holmes. In the succeeding years, Dr. Svein Hommerstad of Norway, and Dr. Henry W. Hofstetter of U.S.A. were recipients of the award.