The actions we take today will make a difference tomorrow—is there any better credo for our profession's advocates? Every day the AOA, our volunteers and partners work toward ensuring our profession and patients incrementally occupy a better space in the American health care system than it did the day before. And throughout 2018, we kept this charge central to our mission as we advocated and set a framework for our future.
Consider the juncture at which the optometric education enterprise finds itself presently, not only as new programs jockey for the privilege to educate optometry's future but also as institutions themselves become embroiled in unprecedented challenges to their autonomy. This past year, AOA firmly vocalized its support for maintaining the high bar on optometric education standards that have set a precedented standard of excellence expected of the profession.
We cannot waver on education standards that ensure our profession continually occupies a position of public trust, which is why the AOA was deeply troubled that a corporation, frequently at direct odds with priorities advocated for by ourselves and our partners, briefly concluded terms for naming rights of one of our educational institutions. Clearly, the AOA wasn't alone in its concern. We heard the profession—I heard, personally, from many of you—in our appeal for reason, and our message found agreeable ears.
The same is true of our endless work on Capitol Hill in 2018. Despite the Federal Trade Commission's insistence on its wholly unnecessary Contact Lens Rule proposal, the notorious prescription paperwork mandate, AOA and our allies have rallied unparalleled support from members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, thought leaders and consumer advocates. This mounting pressure to abandon the burdensome mandate in favor of stricter enforcement of illegal contact lens sales and substitutions cannot be discredited.
The AOA also rallied record numbers of lawmakers to our Dental and Optometric Care Access Act. The DOC Access Act, legislation that would target detrimental vision and health plan mandates and restrictions, gained an incredible 103 co-sponsors in the 115th Congress—our most supporters ever—and we look to build upon that success in the year ahead.
So, too, this past year, the AOA began in earnest preparations for our 2020 Vision for the Future, a monumental public health and awareness campaign to roll out in that auspicious year ahead. But more on that later. Succinctly put: Your AOA is alive and well, and working on behalf of our profession to ensure every day is better than the last. There will be challenges. There will be barriers. But with your help, with your ownership, we can leave this profession better than we entered it.
In a virtual kick-off, the AOA launches Leadership Institute with 130 doctors of optometry from across the country. A project of the AOA Leadership Development Committee, the Institute is a yearlong program designed to grow and support the next generation of leaders in the profession.
At the 2021 Leaders Summit, AOA-member volunteers set priorities for the year and launched new initiatives to lead the profession forward.