Excerpted from page 5 of the September 2017 edition of AOA Focus.
Doctors of optometry practice in a wide variety of settings: independent, affiliated/retail, educational and multidisciplinary settings. In community health centers. In government. In nursing homes. In VA hospitals.
Despite these diverse settings, when the exam door closes and we offer care to our patients, we have far more in common than not.
We care first and foremost about the eye and visual health, diagnoses and treatment of our patients. Our practice setting matters comparatively little considering the big issues that face optometry and the nation's health care system.
The AOA fights every day to remove the barriers that preclude doctors of optometry from providing the best care possible to patients. We care about protecting patient access to optometric care, preserving the doctor-patient relationship and eliminating discrimination so we can provide that care. We care about the inappropriate and deceptive use of technology that potentially prevents our patients from receiving care. We care about expanding doctors' scope of practice so more patients can have access to quality optometric care. These are the issues that should matter most to all of us, not the minor logistical differences we experience in our practice settings.
Yet, on occasion, I have heard from doctors of optometry that our common shared interests were somehow overshadowed by practice setting. Call it a divide between doctors of optometry who own their practices and those who work in alternative settings. Some doctors in alternative settings say they don't feel welcome in the AOA, that their views aren't heard or considered. Some doctors who own their own practice may not have been as welcoming of their colleagues who practice in alternative settings.
Given the challenges we face, neither of these perspectives will help advance our profession. We must all recognize that the profile of our profession and all health care professions is changing and will continue to evolve. Due to the 24/7 advocacy efforts of the AOA, doctors of optometry have greater access to patients and a wider scope of practice than ever before. This has led to exciting, new professional opportunities for doctors of optometry and allowed traditional modes of practice to lead to professional success.
To both sides of this division—to those who have felt slighted and those who may have done the slighting—I say that we need to close ranks. Respect and embrace our diverse practice settings and, at the same time, come together to support the issues AOA is fighting for, for all doctors of optometry and our patients. The AOA's voice is more powerful when the sound is at its fullest and richest. All hands are needed on deck!
At the AOA, we care more about how doctors of optometry practice rather than their practice settings. All doctors' interests are the interest of the AOA.
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.