Excerpted from page 5 of the April/May 2018 edition of AOA Focus.
'Politics isn't everyone's cup of tea,' so goes the familiar trope. However, I'd argue, as doctors of optometry, this is one drink we all must stomach.
"It is our individual efforts that drive our collective advancements."
Optometry is a legislated profession; a couple strokes of the pen and everything can be undone. That's the load we shoulder—whether we care to admit it—as a profession whose very practice is defined by the letter of law in this country.
In February, I stood before some 200 AOA volunteers and staff in St. Louis for AOA's 2018 Volunteer Meeting and recalled my own experience coming to this realization. It was New Jersey's pitched scope of practice battle in the early '90s. That fight was one mired by misinformation and a degradation of our profession and our clinical education—many of you have experienced the same.
Then, in 1992, we succeeded. There was sweet, personal satisfaction knowing I helped advance our profession, and I became the first doctor of optometry to prescribe a therapeutic medication in the state of New Jersey. It is our individual efforts that drive our collective advancements.
Every day optometry works to improve the lives of our patients, and we are richly rewarded by doing so. Yet, we cannot get complacent with how far we've come. There are a lot of challenges facing optometry, and as such, boundless opportunities. This April 22-24, AOA-member doctors and optometry students will once again be on Capitol Hill, addressing these obstacles with our nation's leaders. AOA on Capitol Hill 2018, what we formerly called our Congressional Advocacy Conference, is building upon the momentum we generated with last year's record-breaking AOA+ and advocacy program at Optometry's Meeting ®
AOA on Capitol Hill is optometry's single-largest annual advocacy event—a centerpiece of the profession's national lobbying efforts. This is where our profession's determined advocates convene and let optometry's voice be known in meetings with legislators and regulators. We encourage every advocacy-minded AOA-member doctor and student to participate in helping determine our future; but that's not the only way you can contribute.
The AOA Political Action Committee (AOA-PAC) is one of the most effective ways to help reach our advocacy goals, as AOA-PAC is the only federal political action committee dedicated to fighting and winning for this profession. I implore each and every one of you to do what you can to help support AOA's advocacy by making a contribution to AOA-PAC. You can decide the level of support you feel is appropriate, but I assure you that any support will be impactful. If optometry doesn't speak out in force now, we risk allowing our detractors to decide the fate of our profession, dictating how doctors of optometry practice and care for patients. The profession needs your help.
So, how about that drink?
Congress’ Sept. 15 deadline for bill language passes with lawmakers backing key guardrails that AOA’s advocates say must be in place for a workable benefit. Yet, price tag developments may forestall efforts.
A September deadline means now is the time for AOA members to act. Attend an upcoming special advisory group session for the latest legislative information and contact your members of Congress.
The AOA continues its support of optometry students, advocating for a temporary suspension of student loan debt due to the pandemic, as well as a long-term avenue toward loan forgiveness and repayment.