AOA Congress elects 2021-2022 Board of Trustees, approves resolutions

June 26, 2021
The 124th Annual AOA Congress elected the association’s 100th president alongside the 2021-2022 board and approved resolutions on diversity, inclusion and genetic therapy among others.
House of Delegates 2021

Robert C. Layman, O.D., becomes the AOA’s 100th president as the AOA Congress ratifies prominent resolutions ranging from diversity within optometry to the emerging field of biomedical therapy.

Concluding the final day of Optometry’s Meeting® in Denver, Colorado, the 124th Annual AOA Congress elected the AOA’s 2021-2022 Board of Trustees to help establish AOA policy and advocate for our profession, both at the state and federal level; help broaden optometry’s scope of practice nationwide; protect and defend our profession; and expand the public’s access to quality eye health and vision care.

In taking office as the AOA’s 100th president, Robert C. Layman, O.D., of Ohio, reflected on the extraordinary challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, but remarked how the AOA helped ensure optometry emerged from the crisis in a better position than before. But that achievement didn’t come without sacrifice and a hard assessment, both on a practice and association level.

“There can be no great victories in life unless you can overcome great adversity,” Dr. Layman said in quoting Woody Hayes, famed coach of The Ohio State University Buckeyes. “While true for optometry through my career, it also defines the year we just put behind us. The pandemic forced us to uncover deeper emotional resilience and rearrange our priority list.”

AOA Board of Trustees election

The results of AOA’s 2021-2022 Board of Trustees election are as follows:

Officers

  • President Robert C. Layman, O.D., of Ohio.
  • President-elect James P. DeVleming, O.D., of Washington.
  • Vice President Ronald L. Benner, O.D., of Montana.
  • Secretary-Treasurer Steven T. Reed, O.D., of Mississippi.
  • Immediate Past President William T. Reynolds, O.D., of Kentucky.

Trustees

  • Jacqueline M. Bowen, O.D., of Colorado.
  • Teri K. Geist, O.D., of Nebraska.
  • Belinda Starkey, O.D., of Arkansas.

Not up for election this year but continuing to serve as AOA Trustees are Lori L. Grover, O.D., Ph.D., of Illinois; Terri A. Gossard, O.D., of Ohio; and Curtis Ono, O.D., of Washington. Learn more about our 2021-2022 AOA Board of Trustees. Learn more about the 2021-2022 AOA Board of Trustees.

Moving the profession forward

In his inaugural address before the AOA’s House of Delegates, Dr. Layman noted that coincidentally it wasn’t his first time leading in a centennial moment. In recounting his circuitous path to becoming the AOA’s 100th president, Dr. Layman also served as president of the Ohio Optometric Association in its 100-year anniversary. Now, Dr. Layman stands to serve at an equally momentous time in the profession’s history as a global pandemic subsides.

This moment comes as contemporary optometric practice advances in states nationwide coinciding with a growing population of Americans, 65 and older, with chronic health conditions. So, too, paradigm shifts seem likely with patients’ familiarity in telehealth increasing and imminent discussions about expanding Medicare to include a vision benefit. At the same time, Dr. Layman notes, payer issues, vision plans and review of the VA’s national practice standards remain ever-present advocacy challenges.

“It’s imperative that we stand up to the forces that drive a wedge between our doctor-patient relationships, trying to push disruptive technology of dubious value under the guise of patient convenience or telemedicine,” Dr. Layman said. “They willingly compromise patient safety for return on their venture capital investment. We have to push back.”

And that’s precisely what the AOA is doing, Dr. Layman noted, with a new public affinity campaign. The See and Be Seen campaign is optometry’s national outreach to tell the story of who doctors of optometry are, the breadth of care they deliver and the close relationships they have with their family of patients. These compelling stories not only share the criticality of care that optometry provides but also inspire new generations of doctors. Similarly, Dr. Layman acknowledged the strides in growing optometric leaders through the AOA’s Leadership Institute.

“My vision for optometry is that we successfully inspire and equip all doctors to practice full-scope contemporary eye and vision care,” Dr. Layman said in closing. “I see a new generation of 21st century advocates who are better leaders in their spheres of influence on behalf of our profession. I envision the public and health-policy decisionmakers understanding and respecting our unique contribution to the nation’s health.”

AOA Congress approves resolutions

Additionally, the AOA Congress approved the adoption of several resolution amendments, as well as an altogether new resolution, including: 

  1. Amendment of an existing resolution that directs the AOA to encourage greater representation of underrepresented groups in the profession. Delegates approved changes to an existing resolution, titled, “Building a Diverse Profession.” The resolution recognizes the need for more intensive, extensive and inclusive programs to recruit underrepresented groups in optometry given the shortage of optometrists from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds and directs the AOA to continue working with affiliated groups and members of underrepresented groups to increase their representation not only in the profession but also in leadership roles. Also, the AOA is to increase the availability of financial aid sources available to support access to optometric education.

    The new language explicitly notes the need for renewed efforts to address gaps in access to education due to the ongoing impact of past discrimination, as well as the availability of the new AOA/AOSA Opportunities in Optometry grant program to provide financial assistance to undergraduate students from underrepresented groups applying to optometry school.

  2. Amendment of the optometric oath to include more diverse and inclusive language. The paragraphs in question now read (emphasis added): “I will provide professional care for the diverse populations who seek my services, with concern, with compassion and with due regard for their human rights and dignity.”

    Additionally, the oath was amended to add a paragraph stating: “I will work to expand access to quality care and improve health equity for all communities.”

  3. Amendment of an existing resolution regarding activities of the AOA Board of Trustees and volunteers. Delegates approved select changes and wording that outlined required provisions for AOA volunteers or elected officials to recuse themselves when necessary and deemed who could determine conflicts of interest.

  4. Approved a new resolution regarding biomedical therapy and the role of vision rehabilitation. Given developments in the emerging field of biomedical therapies, such as epigenetics, gene therapy and cellular therapy, delegates approved a resolution that commits the AOA to inform the public and stakeholders about the need for continued eye care, including vision rehabilitation, when biomedical therapy is considered or provided.

    Additionally, the resolution directs the AOA to urge organizations, agencies and providers of biomedical therapy to partner with optometry to best address evolving patient needs as patients are assessed, and as visual systems change when the biomedical therapy is considered or administered.

The latest updates from Optometry’s Meeting

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