AOA encourages members to participate in expert panels

AOA secures position within FDA Network of Experts

Optometry has a unique opportunity to contribute its medical expertise to the federal government. The AOA is calling on members to get involved.

"This is an honor for both the AOA and its members."

The Food and Drug Administration's (FDA's) Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) for the first time is including the AOA in its Network of Experts. The panel of 33 medical organizations provides CDRH with outside expertise on medical, scientific or engineering issues. The intent is to respond quickly to CDRH questions so that it may broaden its scope on scientific views. Participating organizations do not offer opinions or external policy advice.

To participate, the AOA had to get recommendations from both the FDA and the other organizations. An agreement signed between FDA and AOA in early October finalized the AOA's participation in this panel of experts.

AOA took steps to make this happen 
AOA had been engaging the FDA in this issue for some time, says Michael Dueñas, O.D., the AOA's chief public health officer.

Over the past five years AOA has worked very closely with the agency on innovative AOA public health initiatives.

"These collaborations have highlighted the AOA's expertise in primary eye care, in addition to our role as the preeminent national voice for the optometric profession," he says. The FDA came to the realization that AOA members "could meaningfully assist the U.S. government, most especially as their knowledge intersects new medical device technologies."

As web-based ophthalmic telemedicine devices enter the market, "an AOA member's expertise of crucial components of an examination may be extremely valuable to the FDA application process, assuring that the device is safe and effective for its intended use," he explains.

"This is an honor for both the AOA and its members," Dr. Dueñas adds.

How participation will work 
The FDA will provide AOA with "issue areas" and accompanying rationale for seeking input from the Network of Experts.

The AOA in turn will select members with experience that matches the needs expressed by the FDA. These chosen members will serve the FDA as individual experts. This means they will provide scientific views that are based on their expertise, independent of the AOA.

The AOA will soon develop Web-based tools to assist this process of selection.

Why it's crucial for ODs to participate
AOA members have significant knowledge of vision and eye health and the emerging and intersecting fields of science and technology, Dr. Dueñas says. They engage patients across the full spectrum of eye care delivery. Their knowledge can better protect public health and safety as it relates to new medical devices.

For AOA members, participating in the FDA Network of Experts provides opportunities to strengthen their public health practice through identifying community health problems and assist in reaching solutions that protect public health and safety, he says.

Interested AOA members are encouraged to send an email stating their initial interest in participation to Dr. Dueñas at with a subject line "FDA Network of Experts."

Read more about how AOA members participate on federal government panels in the June issue of AOA Focus.

October 22, 2014

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