Optometry’s Meeting® 2020 canceled due to COVID-19 pandemic

April 9, 2020
Attendees’ health, safety—and that of their families and patients—the top priority as Optometry’s Meeting® canceled; AOA weighs reconfigured House of Delegates and education.

OM 2020 Canceled Due to Corvid-19

Out of an abundance of caution amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the AOA has canceled the in-person portion of Optometry's Meeting ® 2020 with key elements to be reconfigured virtually.

Optometry's Meeting, the annual meeting of both the AOA and American Optometric Student Association (AOSA), was originally scheduled for June 24-28 in National Harbor, Maryland/Washington, D.C., but global spread of the new coronavirus has forced the first-ever cancellation of the profession's premier meeting. This difficult decision is in keeping with the AOA's commitment to prioritize the health and safety of its members, students, staff, exhibitors and other Optometry's Meeting attendees, notes AOA President Barbara L. Horn, O.D., and AOSA President-elect Alex J. Bennett in an April 9 announcement.

"This is the first time that Optometry's Meeting has been canceled, and while this is the right decision to make for everyone's health, it is heartbreaking," Dr. Horn says. "We want to thank everyone for their continued patience, support and partnership during these difficult, unprecedented times as we move through this united together."

While the in-person schedule of events for Optometry's Meeting is canceled, the AOA and AOSA recognize the importance of several key elements of the annual meeting that will be reconfigured, including a virtual experience for members to continue their professional development. Although details are still in flux, select changes to these key elements include:

  • Education. Optometry's Meeting 2020 was prepared to deliver over 140 continuing education and 60 paraoptometric courses-education that doctors and staff are still seeking. The AOA will proceed in offering education for doctors and paraoptometrics using a virtual platform.

    As always, AOA's professional development hub, EyeLearn, offers members access to content online where and when they need it. These courses come with AOA credit for completion that many states accept for continuing education hours.

  • House of Delegates. The preeminent assembly of our profession's leaders and decisionmakers, the AOA House of Delegates will be called for a one-time, special meeting for the purposes of the AOA Board of Trustees elections and installation to reflect the usual and customary practices for an AOA election. This special meeting of the House will be held in June 2020, while most typical agenda items included within the House will be postponed to a later meeting with dates to be determined.

  • AOA+. This year-long, annual initiative is an incredible opportunity to deeply engage the profession's next generation, and while Optometry's Meeting planned to welcome over 2,020 students and new doctors, the AOA looks forward to continuing the AOA+ efforts later in 2020 and beyond.

  • AOA on Capitol Hill. Although the AOA's single-largest, annual federal advocacy meeting, AOA on Capitol Hill, also is canceled as part of Optometry's Meeting 2020, the crisis advocacy mobilization will continue. The AOA just issued an immediate call to action in support of AOA-backed, bipartisan legislation (S. 3559, Sens. Barrasso-Bennet/H.R. 6365, Reps. Schrier-Roe) to provide new federal grant and loan support for doctors of optometry and optometry practices. Visit the AOA's Legislative Action Center or text 'AOA' to 855.465.5124 for how you can help build AOA's advocacy momentum as Congress mulls its next crisis relief bill.

  • Meeting, event registrations. Additionally, all Optometry's Meeting and Optometry Cares 5K Run/Walk registrations will be canceled on attendees' behalf and, if applicable, will be refunded the fees in the same method they were made. For example, if an attendee paid via credit card, their credit card will be refunded and a confirmation email sent.

  • Hotel reservations. All hotel reservations booked within the Optometry's Meeting block will be canceled on attendees' behalf. As the credit card was only used to hold a reservation and not charged, a refund is not necessary. Attendees who booked a room within the block will receive an email confirmation once the cancellation is processed. Attendees who booked outside the Optometry's Meeting block will need to cancel their own reservation.

The AOA will confirm dates and times on these new elements as they're finalized. So, too, the AOA recognizes this decision creates many questions for attendees and partners, but more information will become available at optometrysmeeting.org and questions can be directed to askAOA@aoa.org. Or, access a list of frequently asked questions.

For more information about the AOA's response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the steps AOA is taking to support members during this crisis, visit AOA's COVID-19 crisis response and resource page.

Historical precedent

Although Optometry's Meeting 2020 is the first instance of the AOA's annual meeting being canceled, it's not the first time world events have impacted the meeting. In 1945, the AOA convened "a strictly wartime meeting of the House of Delegates" in Cincinnati, Ohio, June 24-27, to comply with the AOA's constitution and bylaws.

Toward the conclusion of World War II, the now-defunct U.S. Office of Defense Transportation limited attendance to AOA's Congress, permitting only "forty-nine delegates or persons in any way connected with the AOA to come from outside the immediate Cincinnati area," per AOA's journal. Memorably, those delegates in attendance arranged their tables in a "V for Victory" shape as V-E Day was only a month earlier.

The AOA will provide additional details on the rescheduling of this year's AOA House of Delegates at the earliest convenience.

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