Photo courtesy of Tom McKenzie
Excerpted from page 20 of the July/August 2017 edition of AOA Focus.
Trace back optometry's major legislative advances in Michigan over the past five decades, and Roger Seelye, O.D., is bound to have played a part.
Michigan Optometric Association (MOA) Legislative Committee chair since 1992, and AOA State Government Relations Committee member since 1994, Dr. Seelye is a tireless advocate for optometry, both at the state and national level. That passion for advocacy propelled Michigan through major scope battles, including gaining authorization for diagnostic pharmaceutical agents (DPAs) and then therapeutic pharmaceutical agents (TPAs), as well as advancing the ability of doctors of optometry to use topical glaucoma drugs.
He has served on the MOA board and is a past president, and was one of the founding organizers of Grassroots Optometry in 1996, where he continues his service as team leader and financial supporter. Dr. Seelye has been an AOA Keyperson and has served on numerous professional boards and committees, including the state board of optometry and the Association of Regulatory Boards in Optometry. Additionally, he has served on the Federal Committee on Rehabilitation—appointed by President Gerald Ford—and the Michigan Health Council and Michigan Health Occupations Council.
In an excerpt from an interview with AOA Focus , Dr. Seelye, the AOA's 2016 Distinguished Service Award recipient, talks about professional advocacy and what it means to fight for optometry.
Is there an advocacy achievement in your career of which you are especially proud?
Achieving the privilege of using and prescribing TPAs, including the treatment of glaucoma. I am proud because it took so long to achieve and because the level of the fight was so intense. It took 10 years to pass TPAs from the date we achieved DPAs. At that time ophthalmology invested considerable time and resources into mounting a substantial resistance to our effort, but we were ultimately able to prevail despite their extreme opposition. I think that it proved, once and for all, that persistence and continued political pressure eventually do pay off.
How important is advocacy to the profession today? How has advocacy changed from when you first became involved?
Advocacy is everything. All else falls in line behind it. As health care providers, access to patients depends on a lot of things but most importantly on: 1) high levels of scope of practice so that we are legally able to provide needed medical services to our patients; 2) having access to insurance provider panels so patients can have access to us for needed treatment; and 3) being recognized as an important member of the health care delivery team in America. None of that happens without advocacy. Successful advocacy has granted doctors of optometry access to new and innovative treatment modalities, access to insurance provider panels and being a recognized valuable member of the health care provider team. Advocacy has not changed much in approach, concept or methodology. What has changed is our recognition of how important it is. Our very existence as a profession literally depends on it.
What advice would you give colleagues about advocacy?
Constant and consistent involvement in advocacy is as important to optometric providers as having practice liability insurance or fire insurance protection for their office and equipment. Advocacy protects our livelihood—our ability to earn a living and to provide for our families. We could lose everything we have gained over the past three to four decades, virtually overnight, by ignoring advocacy and not being involved in the political process.
As far as being involved with the AOA: it is the only game in town. The AOA is our labor union. The AOA, and its state affiliates, are the only organizations that defend us against attacks and promote us for advancement. There is power in numbers. Numbers speak louder and more effectively than individuals.
to join the AOA Federal Keyperson Network to serve as a conduit for the profession.
Consider donating to AOA-PAC, one of the most effective ways to get involved in the advocacy process.
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.