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The Manitoba Association of Optometrists (MAO) is the regulatory and licensing body for the practice of optometry in Manitoba. We are responsible for enforcement of the provisions of The Optometry Act and Regulation. Every optometrist who works in Manitoba must be registered with MAO. We are also the professional association for Manitoba optometrists.

Our mission is to ensure the safe and ethical delivery of quality eye health and vision care through the regulation of optometry in Manitoba, and to promote excellence in the practise of optometry through advocacy and education.

Our structure consists of a council, committees, and staff with our primary functions being:

  • Enforce bylaws, rules, and standards
  • Set and maintain Standards of Practice
  • Register qualified practitioners
  • Respond fairly to public and patient inquiries and concerns
  • Promote awareness of optometrists’ role in the health care system
  • Promote the importance of eye health and regular, preventive exams
  • Promote clinical excellence
  • Uphold practitioner competence

The Three Os of Eye Care

Optometrists, Ophthalmologists, and Opticians provide different levels of eye care and vision services, and together address all of your visual needs, ranging from eyewear fitting to eye health to ocular surgery. Here are the differences between the Three:

Optometrists

Optometrists, or Doctors of Optometry, are primary health care professionals trained to examine, diagnose, treat, manage, and prevent diseases and disorders of the visual system. In addition to prescribing glasses and contact lenses, Optometrists can:

  • Recommend eye health hygiene and prescribe medications to treat eye disease such as glaucoma, and to treat infections, inflammations and allergies
  • Treat eye injuries including foreign body removal
  • Assess unusual or sudden vision changes and conditions causing eye pain
  • Assist in identifying general health conditions that are often first detected through an eye exam

An optometrist’s education typically includes a Bachelor of Science degree prior to completion of a four-year Doctor of Optometry degree (OD) at an accredited University. There are currently 23 accredited optometric degree programs in North America, including the University of Waterloo and University of Montreal which confer doctorates of Optometry in Canada.

For more information on becoming an optometrist, visit our Career in Optometry page.

Ophthalmologists

Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who perform procedures such as cataract surgery, laser eye surgery, and surgery for emergency conditions such as detached retina. They also provide secondary or tertiary treatment of eye diseases and disorders, often in conjunction with an optometrist. They usually accept patients only on referral from an optometrist or general practitioner.

Ophthalmologists’ education typically includes a Bachelor of Science degree (pre-med), a four-year Doctor of Medicine degree (MD) at an accredited university, a 5-year Ophthalmology residency, and certification as a specialist from the Royal College of Physicians & Surgeons.

Opticians

Opticians are licensed to design, supply, prepare, adjust, and dispense optical appliances based on an optical prescription from an optometrist or ophthalmologist. While this usually means prescription glasses, many opticians also undertake additional studies that certify them to fit and dispense contact lenses as well.

Opticians’ education includes a diploma in opticianry. Opticianry programs are usually offered by a polytechnic or technical college and involve two years of training combining classroom, home study, and work experience.

Our History

The Manitoba Optometric Society was created in 1909 when the Optometry Act established and regulated the practise of optometry in Manitoba. This was the second act of its kind in Canada, proclaimed on March 10, one day after a similar act was proclaimed in Quebec. It called for a Board of Examiners consisting of “five reputable and practicing optometrists.” The first registered optometrist was Wellington Graham Maybee, Chair of the Board. Members H. Nott, R. Butchart, J. Bartlett, and F. Leach joined, thus beginning the Manitoba Optometric Society.

1916/17 – The first constitutions and Bylaws of the Manitoba Optometric Society are approved by membership.

1920 – The Optometry Act is amended to require all “holders of certificates” to become members of the Manitoba Optometric Society, incorporating the Society, requiring a Council of 5 members, and requiring a one-year apprenticeship under a Manitoba optometrist before beginning practise.

1925/26 – “College of Optometry of Ontario” is established, a 2-year optometric course affiliated with the University of Toronto.

1941 – Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO) is established, and would be incorporated and formalized through a federal Act in 1948.

1941/42 – Formal offer of services to armed forces as part of the war effort.

1972 – Optometrists given the right to the title “Doctor.” 

1978 – School of Optometry affiliated with the University of Waterloo is established, offering a 5-year OD (Doctor of Optometry) program, after an independent review of optometric education recognizes the program as a profession comparable to medicine and dentistry.

1978 – CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind) formally recognizes Manitoba optometry with the addition of an optometrist to the provincial CNIB Board.

1980 – Dr. A. H. Basman, Optometrist, becomes MOS’s first Executive Director. In 1992, the A. H. Basman, OD Scholarships would be established and named in his honour.

1983 –  The Optometry Act is amended to allow optometrists to administer Diagnostic Pharmaceutical Agents.

1984 – CNIB Low Vision Clinic is established. Dr. Robert Lecker, Optometrist, was instrumental in advocating for an optometric/interdisciplinary clinic at CNIB, and Manitoba optometrists have continually provided services at the Low Vision Clinic since 1984. In 2016, the clinic continues to offer services from nurses, counsellors, social workers, mobility specialists and optometrists.

1992 – The name of the Manitoba Optometric Society (MOS) is changed to the Manitoba Association of Optometrists (MAO).

1994 – Canadian Examiners in Optometry (CEO) is formed to establish Canadian national board exams for optometry practise. The first Canadian national exam sitting was held in June 1995.

1995 – Optometrists in Alberta are given the authority to prescribe Therapeutic Pharmaceutical Agents. Even though all Canadian optometrists have the same education and pass the same national board exams, Manitoba optometrists would not be given this authority until 2013.

1996 – Manitoba Health deinsures routine eye examinations for Manitobans 19-64. Coverage is maintained for seniors, children under 19, and Manitobans with specific medical conditions.

2009 – MAO celebrates its 100th Anniversary and begins a tradition of recognizing optometrists for milestone Years of Service. The Manitoba Historical Society presents MAO with the Centennial Organization Award.

2011 – MAO establishes an Occupational Vision Care (OVC) program in Manitoba.

2013 – The Optometry Amendment Act comes into force authorizing Manitoba optometrists to prescribe therapeutic drugs to treat eye disease.