5 things AOA membership brought me
Photography by Steve Craft
Excerpted from page 56 of the November/December 2021 edition of AOA Focus.
As an AOA member, you are an integral part of two powerful organizations—the AOA and your state affiliate—connecting you to valuable clinical, business and career resources, as well as the collective wisdom and influence of more than 46,000 optometry professionals nationwide.
Meghan Elkins, O.D., staff optometrist at the Hershel “Woody” Williams VA Medical Center in Huntington, West Virginia, is a member of the AOA’s Membership Development Committee. Dr. Elkins shares what membership has given her.
I never felt like I truly belonged somewhere like I did when I started school at Southern College of Optometry; my AOA membership was a huge part of that connection. Within the AOA, I found a family. I found people willing to offer whatever I needed to see my career grow beyond what I thought possible. Because I saw that type of enthusiasm in others, I knew I also wanted to give of myself to our profession, to my peers, to our communities and to younger doctors.
People might know me as a gal who loves the AOA House of Delegates or going to lectures—I know, not the most fun thing for a lot of doctors of optometry, but I just can’t get enough of it! When it comes to more traditional types of fun, I have met some incredible people through the AOA, and we have done fun things. I’ve been rock climbing with two optometrists I met at meetings. I have gone to early morning CrossFit workouts with doctors I met through social media. Being able to experience life beyond our careers has been incredible.
Anyone can go to work, say our favorite optometry catch-phrases and help people see the leaves on the trees. What happens when burnout sets in? What happens when we all find it tough to make it through the 2 p.m. “crazy hour”? I think finding meaning in our jobs helps ground me in my work. Being at a VA hospital, my calling is to our nation and veterans. I have been able to see firsthand how the AOA has committed itself to work with the Armed Forces Optometric Society (AFOS) and veteran groups to protect our standards of care and grow a footprint on a national level. So many things happen behind the scenes that not a lot of people know about—I’ve been lucky to watch it in action.
As a “dreamer” and a “starter,” I find it hard to see projects through completion. My membership and leadership positions in AFOS and AOA have kind of forced me to lean into my peers to get stuff done. I don’t think I would have had my comfort zones pushed without AFOS and AOA. The t-shirts and discounts are obviously a fun perk, but the commitment I have made to our organizations is what I have found I am most proud of—I’ll give everything I’ve got for optometry.
I love patient care and I love my VA hospital. Sometimes, though, I think I like my involvement in AFOS and the AOA more than I like going to work. I find AOA membership adds to the greater good of enjoyment in our careers. I simply love being an active participant in the past, present and future of optometry.
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