We all know the old yarn about the drunk looking for his lost car keys. Though he's pretty sure he dropped them somewhere else, he spends his time searching under a street light because the light is better there.

With due respect to their intentions, the recent action of the leadership of the Academy of Ophthalmology to ban optometrists from AAO  educational meetings strikes me as an equally futile endeavor. Reasoning that "non-members have attended these courses and then used their attendance as arguments to legislatures to expand their scope of practice," the board of the academy struck out with one of the few means at its disposal. But what was the target, and what was the effect?

Assuming that attendance at any ophthalmology meeting has some bearing on optometry's expanded scope of practice, does this ban signal a run on their attendance at ASCRS, ARVO, or any of the scores of other meetings all over the country where optometrists can acquire the same knowledge?

More to the point, is any state legislator wavering over scope of practice legislation really going to be swayed by what an OD learned at an Academy meeting?

The issue's received far more attention than it warrants. So why add to that with an editorial? Because there are too many people in both professions who want to hide their heads when they see these kinds of actions by their leadership. Let's not forget that some optometric meetings take the same tack with opticians who dare to seek entry to their contact lens courses. We're entrusting the safety of America's vision to those same elderly security people in the same blue blazers who stand outside every meeting room in eye care.

Solutions? Can't answer that. I started watching these battles 17 years ago and haven't heard a good one yet. But it's not hard to imagine that 17 more years of this kind of inside-the-box thinking will pass and we'll be no closer to solutions. Meanwhile, during that same period of time, the number of people in this country who become blind will increase by 70 percent, with a similar rise in projected low vision, if we accept the findings in April's Archives of Ophthalmology. I'm not suggesting a connection. I am suggesting that there are far more pressing problems on which talented and committed people could spend their efforts.

It's well past time to start looking where the answers might be, not just where the light is better.