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Podcast Episode #2: What is an Optometrist? (The 5 O’s)

Welcome to The Bright Eyes Podcast: Advice for Healthy Vision for All Ages. Your hosts are Dr. Nate Bonilla-Warford & Dr. Beth Knighton, residency-trained optometrist that provide eye exams for glasses and contacts, and specialty services including vision therapy, myopia control, orthokeratology, and sports vision training. Their mission to empower patients by providing the best in friendly, professional, and individualized eye care.

For episode #2 of the Bright Eyes Podcast, Dr. Nate and Dr. Beth discuss the differences and similarities between the 5 O’s:

  • Optometrists
  • Ophthalmologists
  • Opticians
  • Orthoptists
  • Ocularists


Dr. Beth: [00:00:03] From rainy Tampa Bay it’s the Bright Eyes podcast. This is episode number two. I’m Dr. Beth Knighton.

Dr. Nate: [00:00:10] And I am Dr. Nate Bonilla-Warford.

Dr. Beth: [00:00:13] And today’s episode is all about what is an optometrist.

Dr. Nate: [00:00:18] That’s right. But first Beth I need to acknowledge the elephant in the room and that is it really does not sound like we’re recording this in a professional recording studio in New York with hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment. You know why that is?

Dr. Beth: [00:00:36] Because we’re in our office on the laptop.

Dr. Nate: [00:00:41] It’s true we’ve got our Blue Yeti microphone and our laptop in the blue exam room in Bright Eyes Family Vision Care and it doesn’t sound perfect but it sounds OK. And hopefully over time as we do more of these we will make it sound a little bit better. I was too impatient to get started with the podcast. So here we are.

staffDr. Beth: [00:01:13] So I get asked a lot about what the difference is between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist. And the main difference between the two is surgical treatment. So optometrists and ophthalmologists are trained in eye disease and how the eye works. But we take it from slightly different perspectives, so an optometrist will look more at the functional aspects of eyes and vision how they work as a team versus a ophthalmologist who will look at it from an eye disease standpoint deciding if surgery or laser treatment or other options are needed. And so we both are critical to the eye care world without one or the other. It would really be difficult for our patients. And so the better that we can work as a team and be on board together for our patients it provides better outcomes for everybody.

Dr. Nate: [00:02:24] Yeah I agree with that. I think that as a general rule optometrists tend to think more about vision and vision development as people grow from being infants to toddlers to kids to teenagers to adults how their vision changes and what their visual needs are. I think the ophthalmologists that I know some of my friends who are ophthalmologists they tend to think more about how the eyes grow and how the eyes age and what kind of diseases the eyeballs themselves can get. And that would include everything from cataracts and glaucoma and diseases related to diabetes. And any of those things. And like Dr. Beth said both are extremely important but they do have slightly different perspectives.

Dr. Beth: [00:03:24] The training for the two is similar but different. And that optometrists and ophthalmologists go for their undergraduate degree, four years of that then optometrists go on to optometry school for four years. And of the optometrists who graduate some of them choose to go on for residency for further training. Like Dr. Nate and I did in pediatrics specifically, but there are lots of specialties that optometrists can go into. And ophthalmologist when they leave under-graduate go on to four years of medical school where they learn eyes and body and then go on to do a three to five year residency in ophthalmology or their specialty and potentially onto fellowship after that for further training. So that’s the difference between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist. But then there’s also an optician. And so Nate you want to tell us a little bit about that.

Dr. Nate: [00:04:29] So before I went to optometry school my wife Cristina was getting her masters at the University of Wisconsin – Madison I was an optician. An optician is somebody who is specially trained in the fitting and fabrication and fixing and dispensing of glasses. And in some states those are licensed in Florida you can get an optician license but you don’t have to have one. In some states they’re not licensed. So I had the experience of being an optician and working with glasses and one of my favorite things about being an optician was repairing glasses when they appeared to be hopelessly damaged. Sometimes you have to be very creative to fix glasses so that people can use them until they’re able to purchase a new pair.

Dr. Beth: [00:05:33] We’ve seen some come into the office that have been pretty mangled at that time. It’s true. So what about orthoptists? Some people have heard of that. How does that fit in?

Dr. Nate: [00:05:46] So an orthoptist is a form of vision therapist that works with ophthalmologists. I’ve known a few orthoptists. Unfortunately they are kind of a vanishing breed. They used to be much more common when ophthalmologists provided more visual training or vision therapy to help improve the functional vision of patients. They don’t tend to do that as much. And so they don’t have the orthtopists to help them develop the skills for patients but they are very dedicated and knowledgeable people they know a whole lot about the eyes and how they move and focus and coordinate vision.

Dr. Nate: [00:06:37] And then there’s one more and that is an ocularist. And an ocularist makes prosthetic eyes. Or sometimes people call them up Glass-Eye even though they’re not glass but they are fake. I have somebody either didn’t develop an eye properly or they lost it due to trauma or some sort of injury. Yes they are extremely talented artists that make prosthetic that’s comfortable for patients and it’s hand-painted to match the other eye as closely as possible. I always think that that’s fascinating work.

Dr. Nate: [00:07:19] There are some really great videos and some of these topics. There is a wonderful video that says “I am a Doctor of Optometry” (below) and we’ll put that in the show notes. There’s another video about what an optometrist is and there’s some ones about opticians and ocularists. So all of those.

Dr. Beth: [00:07:43] Thank you all for listening. If you have any questions comments or suggestions you can e-mail us at Until next time stay dry.


Thank you for listening. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, you can email us at

The only purpose of this podcast is to educate and to inform. It is no substitute for professional care by a doctor experienced in the area you require. This podcast is provided on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services. Please consult your physician for diagnosis and treatment.

Intro/outro music by Lucas Warford of Three For Silver.

Justin Schoonover, CPO

When asked by the doctor to write a blog post about passing the Paraoptometric examination and becoming certified, I procrastinated thinking he would forget about it. That obviously didn’t work. So here it is, short and sweet.

I’ll start off by saying that I can officially add more letters to my already ridiculously long last name. I’m giving Dr. Bonilla-Warford, OD a run for his money. I am now a certified paraoptometric, meaning that I have demonstrated the proficiency and knowledge in basic science, clinical principals and procedures, ophthalmic optics and dispensing, and professional issues.

I take pride in this not only for my own personal academic satisfaction, but also because it is an indicator of the amount of knowledge and skill that the doctor and staff at Bright Eyes possess. I’ll explain. I did not take optometric classes or other courses in preparation for this exam. To be honest, the preparatory workbook provided was not necessary. It all came from hands-on, on-the-job training. Dr. Bonilla-Warford creates an environment conducive for learning for both staff and patients. I usually wouldn’t admit this outright because I’m not really a big fan of blogging, but I read every blog post he puts up on the Bright Eyes website. A lot of it is actually interesting! All of it contains information that is pertinent and knowledgeable.

I’m also constantly learning new things from my coworkers. Whether it’s ways to properly document in our electronic charting system, or tips on how to repair a frame that has obviously been chewed on by some creature then driven over by a WWII Sherman tank, something new comes up everyday.

So in a nutshell, although I am very proud of my new certification, I am more thankful for the skills and knowledge I’ve picked up while working here at Bright Eyes!

All the best,

Justin Schoonover, CPO
Bright Eyes Family Vision Care
Connect with Us:Dr Nate Google PlusBright Eyes Tampa on Google PlacesBright Eyes Tampa on FacebookBright Eyes Tampa on TwitterBright Eyes Tampa on YelpBright Eyes Tampa on foursquareWestchase Patch

Tampa Coach Eyewear Show – Saturday, May 9th


Get ready for the most exciting Bright Eyes event of the year! We will have a Coach representative on-site. All Coach frames, in every style and color, will be on sale. Not only that, this is the biggest sale we have ever had. 50% off on all Coach sunglasses, just in time for summer.

This one-time event will be on Saturday, May 9th from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Discounts may not apply with vision plan and insurance plans. Stop by the office to learn more.

Hope to see you there!

Dr. Nate

Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD
Bright Eyes Family Vision Care
Located in the Westchase area of Tampa.

Dr Nate Google PlusBright Eyes Tampa on Google PlacesBright Eyes Tampa on FacebookBright Eyes Tampa on TwitterBright Eyes Tampa on YelpBright Eyes Tampa on foursquareWestchase Patch

Specs4us are here!


OK, Tampa Bay. Just a brief note to say that we finally have the Specs4us frames in stock, in a variety of models and colors. In fact, we are one of four places in Florida and the only one in Westchase or Tampa to carry them. I am excited to have them.

We had a patient come in today to check them out and they work as advertised. They fit beautifully and her mother was excited to have them.

The Specs4us line was created specifically for patients with Down Syndrome. These patients have specific facial features that make it difficult to find glasses that fit. You can read an interview with the creator, Maria Dellapine here.

Update: 7/5/09: These frames now come in larger sizes and have sunglass clips.

Be Well!

Dr. Nate

Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD
Bright Eyes Family Vision Care
Located in the Westchase area of Tampa.

Dr Nate Google PlusBright Eyes Tampa on Google PlacesBright Eyes Tampa on FacebookBright Eyes Tampa on TwitterBright Eyes Tampa on YelpBright Eyes Tampa on foursquareWestchase Patch

Our Frame and Lens Specialist Honored



I am proud to announce that one of our Frame and Lens Specialists, Laura Huffman, has been honored this summer by receiving two national awards.

First, Laura can be seen in the Vision Monday magazine issue about Influential Women in the Optical Business under the article, Opticianry Students: The Next Generation of Female Leaders. She was the only one chosen from her entire class to be featured in this article.

Second, Laura won the Digital Corneal Reflection Pupilometer Award from Essilor of America for being the most outstanding student in her class. The award is given yearly out to one graduating student at each opticianry and optometry school. I am especially proud of Laura because I myself won this award while attending the Illinois College of Optometry.

So next time you are in the office, be sure to congratulate Laura!

Be Well!

Dr. Nate

Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD
Bright Eyes Family Vision Care
Located in the Westchase area of Tampa.

Dr Nate Google PlusBright Eyes Tampa on Google PlacesBright Eyes Tampa on FacebookBright Eyes Tampa on TwitterBright Eyes Tampa on YelpBright Eyes Tampa on foursquareWestchase Patch


Read this Important Information About COVID-19 and Bright Eyes!