Optometry’s advocates strategize to meet professional challenges ahead

February 8, 2017
More than 200 volunteers meet to set AOA’s agenda for advancing patient care and the profession.
Volunteer Meeting—Andrea P. Thau, O.D.

After generating countless conversations and ideas, optometry's advocates came away from AOA's 2017 Volunteer Meeting in St. Louis, Missouri, with the framework for actions to advance the care of patients and the profession in the year ahead and beyond.

AOA President Andrea P. Thau, O.D., urged the 210 AOA volunteers from across the country who attended the Feb. 3-4 meeting to take advantage of the opportunity of being together under one roof, and to keep in mind the AOA's four strategic pillars:

  • Advocacy
  • Tools to help advance optometric practices and provide the best possible patient care
  • Continuing education
  • Public awareness  

"Each and every one of you bring something very, very special to our profession and to our AOA family," Dr. Thau said. "Work together to advance our profession. We have a lot of goals coming up. We're setting professional standards. We're making sure that patient care is rendered effectively and efficiently. We're lobbying our government and other organizations. We're working on research and educational leadership."   

Important takeaways from the Volunteer Meeting

  • The AOA-Political Action Committee had record fundraising during the most recent congressional cycle, thanks to the generosity of members. Still, the AOA must broaden its base of members giving to its political action committee, said AOA-PAC chair Joe Ellis, O.D. "We're going to get bigger and better with AOA-PAC because, as you'll hear from AOA committees, we have a lot going on here. A strong PAC will get us through some of these rough times we are fixing to face here."
  • The Contact Lens and Cornea Section (CLCS) continues its efforts to keep patients safe, through visits to Capitol Hill and major professional meetings nationwide and also through stopillegalCLs@aoa.org, where the public can report complications from online retail sales of contact lenses. "We are facing some of the most challenging times in contact lenses that anybody has ever seen," said Jeffrey Sonsino, O.D., CLCS chair. "And it's only by coming together and becoming an AOA member that we can all move the profession forward."  
  • The Federal Relations Committee reported that the Contact Lens Consumer Health Protection and the Dental and Optometric Care Access bills will be reintroduced. And with the possible repeal, replace or repair of the Affordable Care Act, plus potential Medicaid reforms, the committee will be undertaking a section-by-section review of the act and associated regulations with the Third Party Center Committee. Some parts of the act the committee supports and others it may not, said Clarke Newman, O.D, committee chair. "We'll keep our eye on that to make sure optometry is included, that access to our patients is not impeded and that we are reimbursed at equitable levels," said Dr. Newman of potential Medicaid reforms. Telehealth also will be a "huge" issue on federal and state fronts.  
  • The Evidence-Based Optometry Committee announced it will soon release a much anticipated update of its Comprehensive Pediatric Eye and Vision Examination guideline, which underwent peer review last summer. The guideline will describe appropriate examination procedures of the eye health and vision status of infants and children to reduce the risk of vision loss and facilitate normal visual development. Next on their agenda are reviews and updates of guidelines for diabetes and glaucoma, said committee chair Diane Adamczyk, O.D.  
  • Affiliate Relations and Membership Executive Committee chair Curtis Ono, O.D., shared information about preparations for AOA+, set for June 21 in Washington, D.C., prior to Optometry's Meeting® June 21-25. AOA+ is designed to support the next generation of doctors of optometry by providing the tools to succeed in practice and the opportunity to advocate on behalf of the profession. Further, students and new doctors can participate in Leadership Link, where they will be connected with experienced doctors to develop mentoring relationships.

"This is a new program and new initiative to try to attract new students and new graduates to be able to become part of the AOA family," said Dr. Thau, who encouraged volunteers at the meeting to invite students and young doctors to AOA+ and to serve as mentors.

"All of you in this room understand how important it is to be involved," she said. "We understand that we make a difference, and if we don't take care of our profession and our patients, no one else will do that."

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