AOA election results new Board

AOA’s 2020-21 officers, trustees elected in historic vote

Challenging times called for an historic response as the AOA's 2020-2021 Board of Trustees election and swearing-in ceremony took place virtually after the global coronavirus pandemic required cancellation of Optometry's Meeting® 2020.

On Saturday, a swearing-in ceremony for the AOA board, along with the installation of William T. Reynolds, O.D., as AOA president, was conducted via webinar. The necessary cancellation of Optometry's Meeting 2020 in National Harbor, Maryland/Washington, D.C., due to the current public health emergency prompted many key elements of the profession's premier meeting to be reconfigured virtually, including the board election and a reimagined online education experience-the AOA 2020 Virtual Learning Livecast, June 24-27.

The election was also shown via a special webinar broadcast profession-wide on June 22, after affiliate members cast electronic ballots, validated and tallied by the accounting firm BKD. 

The results of AOA's 2020-2021 Board of Trustees election are as follows:  

Officers

President William T. Reynolds, O.D. (Kentucky)
President-elect Robert C. Layman, O.D. (Ohio)
Vice President James P. DeVleming, O.D. (Washington)
Secretary-Treasurer Ronald L. Benner, O.D. (Montana)
Immediate Past President Barbara L. Horn, O.D. (South Carolina)

Trustees
 
Terri A. Gossard, O.D. (Ohio)
Curtis A. Ono, O.D. (Washington)  

Not up for election this year but continuing to serve as AOA Trustees are Jacqueline Bowen, O.D., Colorado; Teri K. Geist, O.D., of Nebraska; Lori L. Grover, O.D., Ph.D., of Illinois; and Steven T. Reed, O.D., of Mississippi.  

President's inaugural address

In his inaugural speech, Dr. Reynolds spoke about the challenges now facing the profession. 2020 was supposed to be the year of the eye exam and registration for Optometry's Meeting was on a record pace, he said. Instead, via the webinar, he was sitting at home in his tie, a jacket and white dress shirt rather than in the House of Delegates at Optometry's Meeting.

The greatest challenge is due to coronavirus.

"The world has changed," Dr. Reynolds said.

During this time of uncertainly due to coronavirus, he said, the AOA was working hard to make sure optometry's essential role in the health care system was recognized. AOA advocacy ensured that doctors of optometry qualified for government relief funds, as well as provided members with the resources they needed to seeing themselves through the continuing crisis..

"I'm also proud of our profession," Dr. Reynolds said. "About 80 percent of doctors of optometry provided urgent/emergent care through the pandemic, reducing the burden on (hospital) emergency departments. "Almost all the office remained open at a loss to serve their patients in the community."

Other challenges noted by Dr. Reynolds were a new and burdensome Federal Trade Commission ruling on paperwork and record-keeping, stagnant vision plan reimbursements, a challenge to scope expansion in Arkansas, and practices needed transition from its traditional business income model to a contemporary model.

"We need to provide more medical and specialty care, update the way we utilize our personnel more efficiently and delegate tasks to appropriately trained staff," Dr. Reynolds said. "We need to focus on vision development, eye health and overall health care as we expand into the modern practice of optometry. We cannot move the practice of optometry forward without expanding our advocacy efforts."

"So much is uncertain right now but I want you to know that AOA is there for you," he later added. "We're working day and night to get you the help and support you need to continue caring for your patients. This is a great profession with a long history of coming out of crisis and moving forward. I have faith we can face these challenges together and create a thriving future for the next generation of optometrists. I am ready and excited to move forward with all of you."

Positives amidst 2020's challenges  

In opening remarks for the AOA's virtual election, outgoing president Dr. Horn acknowledged the great opportunity for optometry's banner year-2020-and the early successes from the AOA's ambitious, multi-pronged awareness campaign centered on the essentialness of routine eye care from doctors of optometry.  

"We built tremendous momentum coming into 2020 to position the profession of optometry and ensure that every American made eye health and vision care a priority by getting an eye exam with an AOA doctor of optometry-and we made great strides," Dr. Horn told attendees.  

In partnership with affiliates, the innovative "Start with Eye" campaign encouraged Americans to prioritize their eye health and engaged more than 50 organizations, accounting for nearly 375,000 employees and reaching more than 15 million member individuals, in an employer pledge to make comprehensive eye exams part of their annual health routine. So, too, Dr. Horn highlighted a successful, first-ever initiative to host AOA board meetings on optometry campuses, engaging students and faculty at five schools nationwide.

"As we all know, the strong movement we had in the first couple months of 2020 was cut short," Dr. Horn said. "We read news stories and watched through January and February as a foreign virus quickly became an international health issue. Into March, it became the pandemic that has changed our work and lives in ways we still don't fully comprehend. The illness we, today, wearily refer to as COVID-19 has caused us all to reflect on what was and what is going to be moving forward."  

Adapting to the change brought on by the public health emergency, the AOA and optometry rallied without hesitation as AOA ensured the full recognition and physician role of doctors of optometry in the federal crisis response and AOA member doctors, themselves, pivoted to providing urgent and emergent care when it mattered most.  

Dr. Horn, honored with a board resolution on Saturday for her service as president during an unprecedented year, noted the AOA's all-out program reprioritization to support the profession during COVID-19, including offering doctors and optometry practices with crucial information on federal relief, telehealth options, reopening guidance and other resources through the #AskAOA COVID-19 webinar series and AOA COVID-19 Crisis Response webpage, as well as a media advocacy campaign to ensure the public knew the important role optometry played.  

"While it isn't over, as we have opened up, we are relearning what we mean to our patients-we all talk about those patients who are coming in and just want to connect," Dr. Horn said.  

"We persevered and we will continue to do so, no matter what COVID or other obstacles thrown at us. Because AOA members are resilient and strong, and I am so proud of this incredible family."

AOA President, Dr. Bill Reynolds

AOA Board installation 2020-2021

June 25, 2020

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