While fanfare characterized the first day of Optometry's Meeting® in Washington, D.C., day 2 was about getting down to business with a full day of continuing education (CE), seating of the profession's policymaking body and crowning a champ.
House of Delegates convenes
The 120th session of the House of Delegates was called to order by AOA Immediate Past President Steven A. Loomis, O.D., on Thursday as affiliate delegations settled in to discuss and vote on business matters of the association, including updates from AOA and industry, and recognition of special guests.
In her year-in-review address, AOA President Andrea P. Thau, O.D., told delegates that AOA made incredible strides this past year in informing legislators and influencers about optometry's priorities, and educating the public about eye health, vision care and the importance of the doctor-patient relationship. These advocacy efforts include:
- Championing the bi-partisan Dental and Optometric Care Access Act (H.R. 1606), and upholding existing laws that assure access to in-person, comprehensive eye examinations, and a ban on discrimination by ERISA and other plans;
- Battling online vision tests in the name of patient safety; and,
- Pushing back against the Federal Trade Commission's proposal to impose new mandates on doctors under the Contact Lens Rule, and backing legislation that would force online contact lens sellers to adhere to patient safeguards.
"At a moment when everything in the health care policy landscape is changing and our Senate is deciding its future direction, there is no better time than now for doctors and students to make sure that that our frontline and expanding role is understood and that our priorities, focused on protecting the doctor-patient relationship, are front and center," Dr. Thau proclaimed.
Additionally, Dr. Thau extolled initiatives that reinforce continuing education, such as Optometry's Meeting, the inaugural AOA+ and the revamped AOA learning resource, EyeLearn. Along those lines of AOA member resources, Dr. Thau also highlighted AOA's input on the landmark National Academies of Sciences, Engineering & Medicine report on American eye health, as well as publication of AOA's evidence-based clinical practice guideline, Comprehensive Pediatric Eye and Vision Examination.
Finally, Dr. Thau noted AOA's expanded public awareness efforts that include increased Think About Your Eyes support, and proactively countering attacks by new technologies.
"It has truly been an honor to serve as your AOA president," Dr. Thau said. "I couldn't have done it without you because we are truly better together."
AOA MORE update
Zach McCarty, O.D., AOA Quality Improvement & Registries Committee, provided delegates an update on AOA MORE (Measures and Outcomes Registry for Eyecare) enrollment and progress.
Since the beginning of the year, more than 6,700 doctors have enrolled in the AOA member benefit, in addition to the 5,500 who enrolled in 2016. That rush in enrollment precipitated an expansion of AOA MORE information and resources, including materials related to the new Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS). A forthcoming resource, the MIPS: Guidebook, will offer doctors a checklist for both EHR and non-EHR users in meeting MIPS requirements.
AOA MORE offers not only an easy-to-use dashboard for navigating MIPS requirements, but also actionable data on quality performance among the profession. This data is crucial for advocating for optometry, Dr. McCarty says, and therefore all AOA members are encouraged to enroll.
"We need our members to help collect this data," Dr. McCarty told delegates. "AOA MORE will help us with MIPS and help prove we're providing quality care.
"Finally, Dr. McCarty announced the first two EHR vendors, ExamWriter and Practice Director, are onboarding doctors' 2017 data in the coming two weeks with other vendors following later this summer.
Special guests speak to delegates
Throughout the House of Delegates' morning agenda, several notable special guests were welcomed onto the stage and presented AOA awards. Taking time out of their busy schedules, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) delivered messages that hit home to delegates, discussing the importance of eye health and vision care services and their own personal intersections with optometry. Rep. McMorris Rodgers was presented with the AOA Presidents' Award, while Rep. Thompson and Sen. Booker were presented with AOA Health Care Leadership Awards.
Award recipients celebrated
Dorothy Hitchmoth, O.D., of the Armed Forces Optometric Society, and Jeffrey Sonsino, O.D., AOA Contact Lens and Cornea Section (CLCS) chair, were both named 2017 Advocates of the Year. Presented by David A. Cockrell, O.D., AOA Advocacy Group Executive Committee chair, the Advocate of the Year award recognizes AOA members for their exceptional efforts to advocate for the profession.
Dr. Hitchmoth was named a 2017 Advocate of the Year for her tireless work ensuring the Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes the essential care optometry provides for America's veterans. While Dr. Sonsino was named a 2017 Advocate of the Year for his work with CLCS in advocating for the safety of contact lens patients.
Additionally, Richard Montoya, New Mexico Optometric Association executive director, was named recipient of the Virgil Deering Award given to the AOA's outstanding executive director.
Cross-Pacific myopia forum
Optometry's expertise positions the profession at the forefront of efforts to better understand and control myopia's development. That's why Optometry's Meeting hosted an international forum to discuss the growing epidemic.
The "Chinese and U.S. Myopia Control Symposium" brought together leading Chinese speakers, including Jia Qu, Ph.D.; Peiyin Xie, M.D., Ph.D.; Hao Chen, M.D., O.D.; and Liang Hu, M.D., O.D.; alongside U.S. speakers, Jeffrey Cooper, O.D.; Thomas Aller, O.D.; Barry Eiden, O.D.; and Andrew Morgenstern, O.D.; for a three-hour CE workshop that demonstrated the myopia management methods utilizing contact lenses.
"This one-of-a-kind, innovative symposium brings together U.S. and Chinese experts, presenting their innovative work sessions, data, methods and research to educate doctors of optometry and paraoptometrics on this rapidly advancing, global health concern," Dr. Morgenstern noted.
Read more about myopia control efforts and initiatives.
Student Bowl crowns winner
Taylor Harris of Illinois College of Optometry hoisted the coveted crystal trophy in victory Thursday night at the 26th annual Essilor Optometry Student BowlTM. The "Spirit Award," honoring the school with the most energy, greatest costumes and flashiest entrance, was captured by University of Missouri-St. Louis College of Optometry. The highly competitive, high-speed test of optometric intellect is one of the highlights of Optometry's Meeting, attracting cheering students and alumni alike.
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.