I was an Indian Health Service optometrist for two years, but my dad was one for 34, beginning in 1971. I believe he was the first PHS-IHS optometrist to join and then serve a full 30 years. (There may have been others that actually retired before him, but they had previous military time-in-grade.)
One of his contemporaries was Dr. Les Caplan, OD, MEd, FAAO. Dr. Caplan is an award-winning optometrist of historical significance. He was the first optometrist assigned as the Clinical Consultant for Optometry to the director of the Indian Health Service. Back in the early 70s, optometrists were barely being integrated into the IHS healthcare system as real eyecare physicians, so Dr. Caplan traveled around the country to help make this monumental transition, paving the way for increased scope of practice for optometrists in all modes of practice.
In June 2015 at the AOA meeting in Seattle, there was a presentation sponsored by the Optometric Historical Society that Dr. Caplan gave, and I got a hold of his presentation. The powerpoint file was 128 MB, so I condensed it to an 18 MB PDF, which you can view here with Dr. Caplan’s permission.
On page 39 there is a picture of some wetlands viewed through an airplane window. That is actually a 5 minute silent video filmed in 8mm that shows highlights from Dr. Kaplan’s trip to Alaska in 1971.
Anyone interested in Indian Health Service optometry should go through the entire presentation. It is also of significance to anyone interested in optometry’s advancement in scope of practice.
To learn more about the AOA’s optometric history initiative, read this.
There is an award given to PHS optometrists named after Dr. Caplan.Tags: History, Indian Health Service, Organized Optometry, Scope of Practice, Travel
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