New AOA president thankful for members’ support, ready to advocate on their behalf

New AOA president thankful for members’ support, ready to advocate on their behalf

Andrea P. Thau, O.D., elected AOA president, at A Celebration of Optometry.

“I’m asking each and every member to step up to the plate and do just a little bit more.”

Purpose and passion for the optometric profession are just some of the qualities new AOA President Andrea P. Thau, O.D., will bring to the post. Dr. Thau was sworn into office Saturday on the final day of the 119th Annual AOA Congress & 45th Annual American Optometric Student Association Conference: Optometry's Meeting® in Boston, Massachusetts.

"I want to express my gratitude to the many, many people who helped me achieve this day," Dr. Thau said, citing her family, friends, mentors, professors, students she trained, and staff and colleagues at her practice.

Dr. Thau, of New York, shares what inspires her and discusses advocacy on behalf of AOA.

After a year as president-elect, how does it feel to be AOA president?

I am honored to be inaugurated as president of the American Optometric Association. It's a trust that I don't take lightly, and I have a dedication to really want to help advance our profession. I think each one of us has to be able to contribute back to our profession at the highest level that we possibly can. So what I'm going to bring is my passion, my love for the profession, my focus, my ethics, my morals and my goal to try to make optometry as good as it can be and to help care specifically for children, which I have a very special interest in, and also to be able to communicate to the public the wonderful things that all of us as optometrists do.

Family is really important to you. Can you tell us about yours?

I've been married to my husband John Lieberman for 32 years, and he has been my partner throughout this entire process of going through all the chairs in both the city, the state and the national association. And together we've had two wonderful children: My oldest son, Evan, who became a physician just a few weeks ago. We're very proud of him. And my younger son, Richard, who is 23 and is working in film and television production. Doing great.

Who inspired you to make optometry your career?

My father (the late Edwin C. Thau, O.D.) inspired me to want to be an optometrist. He absolutely loved practicing optometry and caring for his patients. So, for me, he was my mentor, not just my father.

So it took cow eyes to seal the deal?

In seventh grade, I did a science project on the eye and how it functions, and my father was able to secure some cow's eyes from a neighbor who was a butcher. And I was able to dissect the cow's eyes and actually won second prize in the school science fair. And that's when it really kind of sealed it for me—that I was interested in optometry, and I wanted to pursue that field.

What role does advocacy play in advancing the profession?

My dad was a very low-key person, but when it came to optometry he was never shy. In fact, he was really kind of progressive. He used to rent space to a state assemblyman and had other relationships with politicians and legislators to help advance our profession. So I understood that it was an obligation for each and every one of us to be involved and active, and also an obligation to pay it forward. Then I became aware that I had to do something; I had to use my unique talents to try to advance the profession. And each and every one one of us needs to do that. That's how optometry got to where it is today and how we continue to grow and develop in the future.

What are your priorities during your presidency?

We can summarize AOA's work into four key areas: advocacy, continuing education, advancing our practices and being successful in practice, as well as public awareness—getting our message out to the public.

In the area of advocacy, we're working not just on the state level, but we have new federal legislation and initiatives as well.

We hope that you took advantage of continuing education at Optometry's Meeting® this year. We had fantastic availability of courses, and we hope that you will learn from our great courses and workshops.

Our third area is practice management and advancement of our practices, and AOA has given you many new tools to help advance the success of your practice, whether it's participating in our new registry, AOA MORE, the ability to be able to be compensated and able to e-prescribe, and a whole host of new ways that you can be successful in your practice.

Our fourth area is messaging to the public, and AOA has taken on a new initiative, a new communication plan to ensure that our message can get out to let America know that America's primary eye care doctors are optometrists.

This year, I'm asking each and every member to step up to the plate and do just a little bit more. We'd like you to check your emails regularly. We'd like you to be able to participate in your local state association meetings. We'd love you to come and participate in our national meetings as well, from Optometry's Meeting to our national advocacy meeting. And we want you to be ready to speak and meet your legislators, both on the state and national level to make sure your legislators know who you are and what optometrists do. We need your help in being able to advance our causes.

Click here to see Dr. Thau's full inaugural speech.

July 5, 2016

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