Awards honor optometry’s advocacy champions

For advocacy to work, advocates need legislative champions who listen to them and craft laws accordingly.

With that in mind, the AOA honored optometry's champions at the jointly held AOA Congressional Advocacy Conference and State Legislative and Third Party National Conference. AOA doctors and students heard directly from many of Capitol Hill's most prominent health policy leaders, whom the AOA recognized with AOA Healthcare Leadership Awards.

"The level of care and attention one receives from optometrists is so much more than eye health."

Awardees included Rep. Michael Burgess, M.D. (R-Texas), the key architect of AOA-supported legislation that would repeal and replace Medicare's flawed sustainable growth rate (SGR) payment formula. Rep. Burgess noted the AOA played a leading role in shaping the House SGR reform bill and called on the AOA and its members to lead the effort in the U.S. Senate to prioritize a long-term solution to the threat of annual Medicare payment cuts.

Others honored as champions of optometry included:

  • Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), the first and only Asian female senator. "Optometrists perform so much more than eye exams," she said. "The level of care and attention one receives from optometrists is so much more than eye health."
  • Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) who recently visited a mobile eye clinic in his home state. "You perform your services better than anyone in the world," he said. "Thanks for dedicating your lives to helping people."
  • Rep. Brad Wenstrup, DPM, (R-Ohio), a podiatrist whose father is an optician. "There are many health care needs in America," he said. "And there's roles for all of us ... I thank you today for fulfilling so many of those roles."
  • Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), a dental surgeon and past vice chair of the American Dental Association's Council on Government Affairs. He said health care should be based on four principles: competition in the marketplace, tort reform, tax reform and public health reform.
  • Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.), a former president of the National Roofing Contractors Association. "If you don't like the circumstances you see, go do something about it," he said. "What you do matters."

AOA Public Service Awards went to:

  • Rep. James Beverly, O.D., from Georgia
  • Sen. David Curtis, O.D., from North Carolina
  • Sen. David R. Heitmeier, O.D., from Louisiana
  • Rep. Deborah A. Long, O.D., from South Carolina
  • Rep. James McClendon, Jr., O.D., from Alabama
  • Sen. David Parker, O.D., from Mississippi

September 17, 2013

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