Attendees dive in on first day of 2017 Optometry’s Meeting®

June 22, 2017
AOA pools learning, leading, connecting and advocating into its five-day national conference.

The 2017 Optometry's Meeting® opened with a splash on Wednesday, June 21, with a celebratory awards ceremony, an inspiring keynote address by Olympic swimming champion Dara Torres, and a spirited rally by students and young doctors of optometry on Capitol Hill.

Those were just some of the events attendees dived into on day one of the 120th Annual AOA Congress & 47th Annual American Optometric Student Association Conference: Optometry's Meeting in Washington, D.C., June 21-25.

Dr. Andrea Thau, O.D., outgoing AOA president, told the audience during the Opening General Session to take advantage of all the unique experiences the meeting offers: continuing education, the Exhibit Hall, hands-on workshops and networking with colleagues.

"This city is a very important place for our profession," Dr. Thau said. "We have a very full schedule this week. We kicked off our meeting with the groundbreaking AOA+: Emerging Leadership Experience, attended by more than 2,300 optometry students and new graduates."

Diving in

Optometry's Meeting began with a rally by a record number of optometry students attending AOA+ on Capitol Hill, a welcome by Dr. Thau and a celebration of recipients of AOA's annual awards. The opening session was sponsored by Johnson & Johnson Vision.

"The individuals we honor this evening inspire all of us to take our efforts to a higher level because that's exactly what they have done," Dr. Thau said.

Recognized were:

  • Optometrist of the Year, Paul Barney, O.D. , of Alaska
  • Young Optometrist of the Year, Angelique Sawyer, O.D., of New Hampshire
  • Paraoptometric of the Year, Sally Greeley, CPOT, of Maine
  • Optometric Educator of the Year, Elizabeth Steele, O.D., of Alabama
  • Distinguished Service Award, Dale Heaston, O.D., of Washington
  • Dr. W. David Sullings Jr. InfantSEE®, Reena Patel, O.D., of California.

Against the current

A 12-time Olympic medalist, Dara Torres ended a storied career in swimming earlier this year at the age of 45 after failing in a bid to make a sixth U.S. Olympics team. Many swimmers often peak in their teens and early 20s, but Torres defied her age.

She was named one of the "Top Female Athletes of the Decade" by Sports Illustrated. Today, she is an author, fitness enthusiast and television personality.

During her inspirational remarks, Torres cited her ability to shut out the pressure, her competitiveness and her preparation for her swimming success against the current. At the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, Torres became the oldest swimmer, at age 41, to compete in the Games, taking home three silver medals.

Torres said she gave it her all, noting that the water in the pool was oblivious to her age.

After her final Olympics swim, when asked what she would tell her daughter about her career, Torres said, "Not to put an age limit on your dreams."

New frontiers for doctors of optometry

Inspired by the popular TED Talks online series, this year's "OD Talks" presentations focused on how new, non-optometric technologies are impacting optometry and its patients.

The event, "Virtual and Augmented Reality," (VR), featured presentations by:

  • James Blaha, CEO and founder of Vivid Vision, who discussed how his company is utilizing VR to enhance amblyopia treatment, and its future applications in health care, education and business as well as optometric concerns with these exciting new technologies. Blaha grew up with amblyopia and strabismus, and his company now provides software to amblyopia.
  • Kyle Sandberg, O.D., professor at Rosenberg School of Optometry, spoke on how the school had incorporated VR into curriculum. "Simulators teach the student everything from properly holding the lenses to making complex, clinical decisions based on pathological findings in "virtual patients."

  • Margo Adams Larsen, Ph.D., research director of Virtually Better Inc., talked about how the integration of virtual and augmented realities are "bursting through into new medical training and treatment frontiers. Multisensory experiences for the learner or patient are bringing the impossible and impractical into the office setting, reducing costs and lengths of many types of patient care.
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