I think that older generations, if not all generations, glorify the medical profession. When you're a kid, people always say that if you work hard and do well in school, you can be a doctor, lawyer or the president, etc. There are a number of tv shows, both dramatizations and reality-based, that further serve to place the medical profession on a plateau. When most people think of the word "physician", the idea of prestige, intelligence, wealth, compassion and integrity come to mind...even though those in the profession in this day and age will readily tell you that medicine isn't as prestigious or lucrative as it once was.
And it's not as if optometry (or dentistry or podiatry or any other doctoral health profession) isn't as good. But for the most part, medical schools still sport higher GPAs than its fellow health profession, and in greater numbers. And being a physician is still more lucrative than the other professions (although it's at a cost of time). So basically, the best still go where the money is.
Dentistry, optometry and podiatry can be and are often seen as specialities within medicine. They are all doctoral level professions, but not Doctor of Medicine.
Graduates of dental schools earn DDS or DMD; which degree depends upon which state the dental school is in. For example, in NY it is DDS, in Mass and Pennsylvania, DMD. They mean exactly the same thing with respect to licensing and practice.
Optometry school graduates earn the OD (DO is Doctor of Osteopathic medicine) and specialize in diseases of the eye and vision correction. In many states now ODs are, by training and law, encroaching on areas such as prescribing medications (except eye surgery) previously limited to ophthalmologists, who are MDs.
Podiatry is another doctoral profession (Doctor of Podiatric Medicine, DPM). DPMs specialize in foot and lower limb medical problems. By law, foot only in some states, foot and lower limbs in others. They may practice surgery.
Chiropractic is also a four year professional education leading to the Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) and usually requiring the same science courses for admission as for MD, DDS/DMD, OD, DPM professional schools.
Applicants to medical [osteopathic and allopathic], and podiatry schools take the MCAT, to dental schools take the DAT.
Osteopaths go through residencies, some of which are MD residencies, many dentists (especially dental surgeons) do postgraduate medical education, as do many optometrists and podiatrists.
It is all too well known that MD is king of the hill when it comes to perceived prestige.
Dentists and others in the doctoral health professions often have incomes comparable to MDs, usually pay less for malpractice insurance, work more reasonable hours, have fewer emergencies and less stress.
All doctoral health professions schools are four year undergraduate professional educations with the same course admission requirements as for medical school. Graduates usually take different exams for licensure.
If "prestige" is very important, you pay for it in length of education, malpractice insurance, and stress. If you can find satisfaction with being a health professional with "doctor" after your name, with probably having a less stressful, more satisfying family life and yet be a medical professional, and can live without "prestige" consider these other doctoral professions. In all, including medicine, you will be "helping people."
On the whole, competition for acceptance to these professional schools is not as intense as for MD schools.
When you go to the supermarket, cinema, theatres, etc, you get in line like everyone else, including college professors, high school dropouts, welfare recipients, paroled criminals, lawyers, kindergarten teachers, everyone and anyone except maybe big time politicians and the President of the USA. Now there is a prestige occupation! Long gone are the days when, especially in the old country, professors and medical doctors were moved to the front of the line. "Prestige" is all in your mind not necessarily in the eye of the beholder.