- Associated Press - Friday, April 22, 2016

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) - There’s a difference between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist.

An optometrist treats the vision - prescribing glasses, for instance, to correct a patient’s sight. An ophthalmologist treats the eye - diagnosing and treating disease, prescribing medications and performing eye surgeries if necessary.

But there is another difference between those two professions, one that may prove costly for a Eugene optometrist if recent allegations made against him are true. And it all comes down to two little letters: M.D.

Paul Olsovsky is a licensed optometrist at the vision center at the Walmart store on West 11th Avenue in west Eugene, and he also has a practice in Portland. He now is facing multiple felony charges of practicing medicine without a license after allegedly adding “M.D.” - a doctor of medicine - after his name on his business sign and website.

In April last year, an advertisement in Portland’s Hollywood Star News for “Paul J. Olsovsky, O.D., M.D.,” states that “Dr. Olsovsky has been practicing optometry for over 20 years and is accepting new patients into his practice in the Hollywood district. Dr. Olsovsky is certified in diagnosis and management of ocular disease, therapeutic pharmaceutical agents and certification in systematic ocular therapy.”

An M.D. designation would apply to an ophthalmologist who has to be licensed through the Oregon Medical Board, but not to an optometrist, or O.D., according to the Oregon Board of Optometry. A search of the Oregon Medical Board’s license verification produced no results for Olsovsky. The Board of Optometry shows him as “active” in its registry.

In a statement he shared Thursday evening, Olsovsky said “there’s absolutely no basis in fact whatsoever to the charges.”

“Unfortunately, people get ophthalmology and optometry confused all the time,” Olsovsky said. “This may be one of those cases.”

Olsovsky was arrested at 2:40 a.m. Thursday by Eugene police on a warrant issued Monday in Multnomah County. He was out on bail in three hours, jail records indicate.

According to court records, Olsovsky was investigated by the Oregon Medical Board and sanctioned by the state Board of Optometry in 2010 for using the title “doctor” in his advertising. Five years later, he was found to again be using “M.D.” on his website and on a sign hanging in front of his Portland office, court records show.

That’s when the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office became involved, leading to the recent arrest warrant.

Olsovsky “wrote a letter to the board (of optometry) admitting his conduct and signed a stipulated settlement with the board admitting to the violations,” the documents state. He wrote that “he didn’t intend to mislead the public,” and had taken down the sign in question at his Portland office in December. His website has been inactive since October, the court papers show.

The settlement stated he would discontinue all advertising that included the title “M.D.” until licensed with the appropriate professional regulatory board; pay $2,000 for each violation within 30 days; waive his right to a hearing; and obey all laws governing the practice of optometry in Oregon for the next five years. If there were any new violations, he would be required to pay an additional $2,000 for each one.

The settlement agreement, however, did not prevent Olsovsky from being investigated criminally.

According to court records, Olsovsky has been licensed as an optometrist since 2007. He holds a medical degree from Ross University in Dominica, West Indies.

Olsovsky’s attorney, Jesse Alan Merrithew of Portland, on Thursday called the prosecution and arrest of Olsovsky “an absurd waste of tax dollars.”

“From our perspective, the (Multnomah County) district attorney’s office is trying to prosecute someone for a felony crime for putting two letters next to his name that signifies a degree that he does in fact hold,” Merrithew said.

Merrithew said there are no allegations that Olsovsky ever actually practiced medicine and called the charges “overreaching,” noting that Olsovsky already had settled with the Board of Optometry.

Although arrested in Lane County, there have been no charges filed locally, with each alleged offense occurring in Multnomah County. It was not clear if Olsovsky performed any duties of an ophthalmologist on patients.

___

Information from: The Register-Guard, https://www.registerguard.com

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