AOA gathers optometry’s leaders for open discussion on accreditation of continuing education

September 22, 2016
More than 110 doctors of optometry and state and national optometry association leaders participated in Optometry's CE Summit 2016 in Dallas, Texas.

One of the most well-attended, profession-wide work sessions held to focus on continuing education (CE) for doctors of optometry has yielded a proposed framework for an independent, inclusive, financially transparent and effective accrediting body.

More than 110 doctors of optometry and state and national optometry association staffers participated in Optometry's CE Summit 2016, held Sept. 16-17 in Dallas, Texas. Attendees included leaders from the Association of Regulatory Boards of Optometry (ARBO), the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry, the American Academy of Optometry, the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education, the American Optometric Student Association, the Armed Forces Optometric Association, the AOA and nearly every state association. All of the organizations have a stake in the continuing education of doctors, yet there had been more attention recently on organizational differences than on points of agreement. 

Organized by the AOA, the gathering succeeded in creating a renewed commitment to cooperation and resulted in strong support for each of eight core principles that were thoroughly discussed and shaped following presentations and panel discussions by various experts in the delivery of continuing optometric education.

"As a result of Optometry's CE Summit 2016, we hope to have an accreditation process for continuing education that we can all be proud of, that can ensure the advancement of our profession and ultimately provide patients with the best care possible," says Andrea P. Thau, O.D., AOA president.

AOA President-elect Christopher J. Quinn, O.D., who led the summit's discussion, added, "Continuing education for optometry should accomplish education, professional advancement and ultimately the development and advancement of the profession of optometry. As we strive for parity (with our physician colleagues), there is a responsibility that accompanies that equity—a responsibility to hold ourselves to the highest standards."

After frank and rich discussions, the groups agreed to the following principles:

  • Principle 1: A defining feature of a profession is establishing its own educational standards.
  • Principle 2: Ongoing post-graduate education is an essential component of the development of the individual professional and of the profession.
  • Principle 3: Professional development is necessary to provide the highest quality care for patients. Accredited continuing education activities should include diverse content and innovative learning techniques and experiences.
  • Principle 4: Commercial influences and bias should not be part of any educational program, and, likewise, oversight of continuing education activities by the profession should be revenue neutral for the accreditor.
  • Principle 5: Post-graduate continuing educational standards should be developed by stakeholders with broad representation within the profession.
  • Principle 6: Continuing education activities should qualify for Maintenance of Licensure requirements.
  • Principle 7: Oversight and accreditation of continuing education should have educational standards and a governance structure equivalent with other independent doctoral level health care professions.
  • Principle 8: A profession's regulatory body should evaluate educational standards established by the profession for compliance with federal and state law.

A number of speakers from different organizations presented on each principle; they were given the latitude to respond from their vantage points. All proposed changes were reflected in the adopted principles.

"We are glad to be here and glad we are having this conversation," Gregory S. Moore, O.D., president of ARBO, said at the summit. "ARBO, through our proposed task force, wishes to find common ground through COPE that will allow meaningful input by all stakeholders and meet the statutory requirements of our member boards who use CE almost exclusively for maintenance of licensure."

As the meeting closed, AOA leaders expressed their eagerness to work with ARBO on a special task force to focus on assuring inclusiveness, transparency and independence. 

"The summit's decisive adoption of the core principles and the warm and productive spirit of the meeting demonstrates that our profession stands ready to move forward, together, on this issue. Although CE accreditation is a difficult issue that in the past caused division, every AOA doctor can be very proud of the positive results of the CE summit and of the open dialogue, informed discussion and commitment to profession-wide consensus that we fostered along the way," Dr. Quinn says.

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