Optometry’s Meeting® gets down to business, crowns champions

June 22, 2018
See the latest updates: AOA House of Delegates, Student Bowl and more.
See the latest updates: AOA House of Delegates, Student Bowl and more

Optometry's champions come in all forms, be they the profession's leaders and advocates to crowned Essilor® Optometry Student BowlTM winners. If the fanfare opening to Optometry's Meeting® was all about celebrating the profession's luminaries, then Thursday was all about rolling up sleeves and diving into the profession's business.

Here's a rundown of day 2 at Optometry's Meeting:

House of Delegates convenes, hears reports

The 121st AOA Congress was called to order Thursday by Immediate Past President Andrea P. Thau, O.D., as affiliate delegations settled in to discuss and vote on business matters of the association, including reports from AOA, industry and coalition partners.

Jon Hymes, AOA executive director, introduced reports on AOA initiatives and priorities, and provided a year-end summary of association activities since last House of Delegates. Hymes noted a year of sweeping public awareness of comprehensive eye exams and the importance of optometric care, as highlighted by AOA's efforts positioning doctors of optometry as public eye health resources during the August 2017 solar eclipse and throughout the year.

But that eye health and vision care message was challenged by some online retailers and mobile apps that peddled confusing, misleading messages designed to bolster their company bottom lines at the expense of an established standard of care. Hymes noted AOA, member doctors' and students' efforts to continue that public health education effort during the ongoing Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Contact Lens Rule review, during both the FTC's contact lens workshop and 2018 AOA on Capitol Hill.

Additionally, Hymes noted AOA's championing of H.R. 1606, Dental and Optometric Care Access Act (DOC Access Act), as well as advocates' efforts to position optometry beneficially amidst an unpredictable health care landscape at the federal level.

"The AOA as a relentless, nationwide force for vision and health, as a battle-tested advocacy organization that's rewriting and replacing outdated laws, regulations, attitudes and even biases, as a unified federation of state associations committed to upholding the highest quality of patient care, as a professional association seeking to promote value to our members, we strive 24/7/365 to have an outsized impact," Hymes said.

"Here's to another impactful 12 months for AOA and state associations. There's more work to do, and we can't wait to get started."

In other news, the Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety (APS) provided an update on the advocacy activities of the new eye care industry collaboration. The APS, a policy and information collaboration between leading eye health advocates, including AOA, Johnson & Johnson Vision, CooperVision, VSP 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, noted APS' advocacy activities in 2018 have focused on educating policymakers and regulators on the FTC's review of the Contact Lens Rule, and the patient health and safety considerations of contact lenses. Additionally, APS supported advocacy activities that bolstered the doctor-patient relationship in Congressional briefings, and state and federal legislation.

"It is our job to remember that consumers are patients and that policies affecting contact lenses can have negative outcomes that permanently impact their most precious sense of vision," Dr. Alexander said. "It's our job collectively to do whatever we can to minimize that risk."

The APS intends to continue its advocacy surrounding contact lenses, as well as monitor evolving telemedicine standards.

One year after announcing launch of the AOA Health Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., Steven A. Loomis, O.D., HPI director, updated delegates on the priority issues that the policy analysis group addressed since 2017, including fact sheets and issue briefs on vision screenings, vision care access and other mainstream health care issues. Dr. Loomis noted how the HPI will continue publishing research-grounded insights and resources in the coming year on subjects that will help advance optometry and patient care.

"All this is the name of advocacy to help advance our profession," Dr. Loomis said.

Building awareness

Barbara L. Horn, O.D., AOA vice president, offered delegates a report on AOA's public awareness campaign to promote the value of regular, in-person, comprehensive eye examinations and doctors' of optometry vital role in delivering that care. Dr. Horn emphasized that though three-quarters of Americans know they should have an eye exam, only half visit an eye care professional yearly. That said, 9 in 10 Americans trust doctors of optometry for accurate and reliable eye health information, she notes.

"Americans overwhelmingly trust us for their eye health information," Dr. Horn said. "We are working hard to maintain that trust, get the information out and put actionable solutions into patients' hands."

To that end, in the year since the 2017 Optometry's Meeting, AOA was mentioned in nearly 5,000 articles and broadcast segments that reached more than 3.4 billion people. But this outreach is just setting the stage for a "once-only moment in time, which optometry is uniquely poised to own"—the year 2020.

Dr. Horn announced that AOA will roll out an integrated awareness campaign to educate and inform the public about eye health and exams in the propitious year, including a critical partnership with the Think About Your Eyes Campaign. On the one hand, the 2020 campaign aims to mobilize the profession in examining emerging issues, creating opportunities for discussion and determining actions needed to address future needs of the profession; while on the other, the campaign will magnify AOA's existing, successful public awareness campaign to educate about the importance of eye care.

"2020 is the year we will elevate optometry's voice to an even greater level through public relations activities," Dr. Horn said. "Our year is coming and we are poised to take it on."

Think About Your Eyes, in partnership with AOA, is the public awareness campaign that continues magnifying the importance of regular, in-person, comprehensive eye examinations and optometric care, and is coming off its biggest year yet. Dr. Loomis, Think About Your Eyes campaign chair, announced that the ad campaign generated more than 3.4 million eye exams and $752 million in industry revenue in 2017 alone.

Moreover, Dr. Loomis noted how Think About Your Eyes isn't only driving routine eye care but also promoting routine care of chronic disease—many cases of which weren't previously known. Think About Your Eyes directly attributed to new diagnosis of significant sight-threatening conditions, including:

  • 258,352 new cases of cataract
  • 69,920 new cases of dry age-related macular degeneration (ARMD)
  • 60,875 new cases of background diabetic retinopathy
  • 24,614 new cases of glaucoma
  • 20,875 new cases of wet ARMD
  • 12,830 new cases of proliferative diabetic retinopathy

"We've had a tremendous impact on the market, in our offices and most importantly on the health of Americans," Dr. Loomis said.

The House of Delegates presentation came only days after Think About Your Eyes launched its new summer initiative featuring celebrity ambassador Laila Ali. The "School's Out" summer initiative features Ali discussing the importance of annual eye exams for the entire family, and discussing her family's own needs.

Dr. Loomis concluded by announcing 43 state associations and the Armed Forces Optometric Association have joined Think About Your Eyes as leadership partners

Awards presented

Jennifer L. Planitz, O.D., AOA Federal Legislative Action Keyperson Committee (FLAKC) chair and AOA Advocacy Committee member, was named the 2018 Advocate of the Year. Presented by Advocacy Group Chair David A. Cockrell, O.D., the award recognizes AOA members for their exceptional efforts to advocate for the profession.

Dr. Planitz was named Advocate of the Year for her tireless commitment to ensuring that doctors of optometry are lead voices in advocating for progress in advancing patient eye health and vision care throughout her tenure as AOA FLAKC chair.

Stephanie Parrish, O.D., of Pillager, Minnesota, was awarded the 2018 Dr. W. David Sullins, Jr. InfantSEE® Award, for her community involvement with InfantSEE and outstanding contributions to optometry. An InfantSEE provider since 2013, Dr. Parrish personally reported 287 InfantSEE assessments while working only three days a week. Furthermore, Dr. Parrish has presented InfantSEE to her community health care providers and early childhood centers to support referrals of babies from low-income families.

"Her commitment to, and enthusiasm for the program, doesn't stop with seeing patients in the office," noted Joseph Mallinger, O.D., Optometry Cares®—The AOA Foundation president. "She actively promotes the program and educates her community to the critical value of early eye care for young children."

Additionally, Vickie Farmer, CAE, Arkansas Optometric Association executive director, was named recipient of the Virgil Deering Award given to the AOA's most outstanding executive director.

And the trophy goes to...

David Hurd of Northeastern State University Oklahoma College of Optometry hoisted the coveted crystal trophy in victory Thursday night at the 27th annual Essilor® Optometry Student BowlTM. The "Spirit Award," honoring the school with the most energy, greatest costumes and flashiest entrance, was captured by Southern California College of Optometry. The highly competitive, high-speed test of optometric intellect is one of the highlights of Optometry's Meeting, drawing cheering crowds of students and alumni alike.

Follow the buzz on AOA social media, news

Couldn't make it to Denver? Catch up on all the news that came out of Optometry's Meeting with AOA's daily news roundup at aoa.org/news, and follow the excitement at #OM2018 on AOA's dedicated social media page.

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