AOA volunteers gather to plan for 2019 and big 2020 initiative
Declaring 2020 "the year Americans get their comprehensive eye exams," AOA President Samuel D. Pierce, O.D., told members at the kick-off of the 2019 AOA Volunteer Meeting that there's plenty of planning and work ahead.
The initiative aims to put optometry on the "forefront of care" by mobilizing an energetic profession on issues facing optometry and helping educate the public on improving their health. About 245 doctors of optometry and AOA staff participated in the annual planning event in St. Louis, the biggest volunteer meeting ever.
It all starts with you, Dr. Pierce said, opening the meeting, which was sponsored by Johnson & Johnson Vision, Alcon Vision Care, Essilor, Hoya Vision Care, and the Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety.
"This year and next, we are creating opportunities to engage each other, optometric leaders and visionaries, fellow health professionals, policymakers and the public to develop optometric action plans and advance eye health," he said, noting that the dialogue about the future began last year and intensifies in 2019. "Through these efforts, we will set a road map to lead the country in addressing the eye health and vision care issues Americans face daily."
Beyond media advocacy, the AOA will work with employers to encourage them to make eye health a priority in the workplace and ask the public and doctors of optometry to share their vision of vision.
2020 is coming, Dr. Pierce said.
"We will have laser-like focus on getting more Americans to their AOA doctors to safeguard their health and vision," he said. "We're excited to partner with each of you to kick off this important program."
Other meeting takeaways
Membership Development Committee: Curtis Ono, O.D., chair, spoke to the doctors about the success of AOA's member recruitment campaign. Working side by side with state affiliates the campaign has succeeded in attracting new members. The announcement was met with applause. "We're reaching them," he added. "They do want to join. They do see value."
Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety (APS): The APS, a policy and information collaboration between leading eye health advocates, including AOA, Johnson & Johnson Vision, VSP, CooperVision and Sightbox, seeks to support policy solutions that safeguard public health and heighten awareness of the doctor-patient relationship. Deanna Alexander, O.D., APS chair, told members about the alliance's busy first year and talked about APS' four guiding principles: "We support preserving and advocating for the doctor-patient relationship," Dr. Alexander said. "We advocate for the patient's prescription which is determined through consultation between a patient and a doctor. We are for safe, healthy and effective use of medical devices including advancements in technology to create better patient health outcomes. And lastly, we advocate for enforcement and strengthening of patient health and safety laws and regulations." APS has also developed guiding principles on telehealth.
Optometry Cares®—The AOA Foundation: Brittany Broombaugh, foundation director, told doctors that the foundation is truly committed to serving the profession by increasing access to vision care, educating the public on the need for a lifetime of eye health care beginning at six months of age, and providing financial support to students and doctors. "We are a people-centered charity and you are essential to what we do," Broombaugh said. "Without you as a volunteer, many children would not receive the vision care that they need. Without your commitment to the profession, many communities would not have access to vision care. Without your dedication to high-quality eye care, efforts to raise awareness would be for naught. Without your generosity, optometrists would not get the help they need to rebuild their lives and practices after disaster."
Over three dozen Opportunities in Optometry grants have been awarded since 2021, helping traditionally underrepresented minority groups within the profession apply for optometry school.
In June, the AOA House of Delegates approved changes to the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education that increased the number of members on its board from 11 to 13. The council also announced the passing of the baton to new leadership.
AOA partners with actor, producer, singer and gamer, Jordan Fisher to bring awareness to healthy screen time practices and encourage patients to be seen in person by an AOA doctor of optometry for quality eye care.