Excerpted from page 5 of the June 2018 edition of AOA Focus.
My tenure as AOA president is winding down, and I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to serve our great profession.
I hope each one of you feels the same sense of pride in being a doctor of optometry. Providing essential health care to our patients and maximizing what is universally recognized as the most precious sense-sight-truly is a privilege. What we provide to our patients takes just as much skill and expertise as any other medical specialty, so please don't underestimate how we positively impact the lives of patients.
The opportunities for our great profession have never been clearer. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report in 2016 estimated that almost 16 million Americans live with visual disabilities that are correctable. An estimated 1 in 5 preschool children have vision problems. Only optometry can address these identified gaps in the nation's health care delivery system. The AOA's support of the Think About Your Eyes campaign is making a difference in getting these patients to optometry offices for care. The program has been successful in driving millions of patients to get needed care, and I urge every state affiliate to join the 42 states that have already committed and become a leadership state to strengthen and expand the program.
The AOA is working tirelessly to keep our profession great. We recognize the threats to the doctor-patient relationship created by untested and unsafe technologies that hide behind the cloak of telehealth. There can be only one standard of care, a standard that protects patients from segmented and incomplete tests masquerading as the equivalent to comprehensive eye examinations. And comprehensive care needs to be protected from profiteers who would segregate optometry from health care by controlling patient access and interfering with independent decision-making by doctors.
We face these challenges while recognizing the need to expand the professional services we provide. Optometry's strides over the past 40 years have been remarkable, but the need to continue this path is no less compelling. The unfettered, contemporary practice of optometry is only currently recognized in a handful of states, so much work needs to be done in updating state laws to reflect the modern education and training of doctors of optometry. It's a challenge that can only be met by grass-roots engagement in the political process in concert with state affiliates.
And how does AOA continuously out punch our weight in keeping optometry great? It's because we have an incredible team that is committed to our profession's continued success. It starts with great leadership from a dedicated AOA Board of Trustees. It's the work of our great staff in the Washington and St. Louis offices under the ever-vigilant leadership of AOA Executive Director Jon Hymes and Associate Executive Director Renee Brauns. It's the work of our dedicated volunteer community and our affiliate leadership that keeps the AOA pushing forward. And finally, our progress is due to our members. Optometry is a great profession, not only for what we do but for who we are-compassionate, dedicated, patient-centric and humble.
It has been my honor to serve and my pleasure to pass the leadership baton to President-elect Samuel D. Pierce, O.D. Dr. Pierce is an outstanding leader, dedicated, passionate and clear-minded about the future of our great profession. The future is bright.
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.