Eager to recapture the exuberance of this summer's AOA+ experience, the AOA is planning new events to excite and engage optometric students and young doctors of optometry.
The inaugural AOA+ event, sponsored by Johnson & Johnson Vision, AOAExcel ® and Essilor at Optometry's Meeting ® on June 21 in Washington D.C., attracted more than 2,300 energetic optometry students and young doctors of optometry to the one-of-a-kind experience.
Now the AOA is taking the buzz on the road.
The newest AOA+ event, the AOA Leadership Link Breakfast, is set for Sept. 30 during the Great Western Council of Optometry (GWCO) 2017 Congress in Portland, Oregon. At the Leadership Link breakfast, 40 optometric students will have the opportunity to network with experienced doctors of optometry including members of AOA's Board of Trustees. Amber Dunn, O.D., who practices in King City, Oregon, will facilitate the Q&A session.
"Having mentors helped me become the doctor and person I am today," says Dr. Dunn, who graduated from Pacific University in 2013. "I strive every day to try to be the best mentor I can be in hopes that one day, someone will be able to find their success from my mistakes and advice. This program will facilitate relationships that may be life changing for the students."
GWCO includes 13 state optometric associations: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. More than 1,100 optometrists, allied ophthalmic professionals, and optometry students are expected to attend the event that features cutting-edge continuing education and networking opportunities.
In the future, AOA+ is planning a uniquely branded website and webinars; and more regional and state networking/mentoring events.
Peter Jacques, OptometryStudents.com editor-in-chief, who will graduate from the University of Missouri-St. Louis School of Optometry in 2019, remembers well the excitement of last summer's inaugural event. And he's looking forward to the AOA carrying on the connection.
"I had an absolutely amazing experience at AOA+," Jacques says. "It was unlike any meeting I have ever been to, and certainly unlike any Optometry's Meeting there has ever been. The number of students in attendance is what really set this meeting apart. It wasn't just the optometry students that generally attend meetings."
This summer's immersive AOA+ experience opened with a rally on the U.S. Capitol's West Lawn, as optometry's next generation of leaders marched, cheered and waved signs that read, "optometry is essential care," and "eye exams save lives." Optometry's champions in Congress addressed the rally on the importance of professional advocacy and remaining politically active despite the apparent fissures in government today.
After the rally, students and young doctors returned to the convention center for a pair of New Doctor Panels on making the jump from optometry school to successful practice. The panels delivered real-world practice wisdom. Rounding out AOA+, students and new doctors also heard from Alexa von Tobel, the young entrepreneur and author. During her panel, she shared financial planning advice and fielded several questions from her audience.
Other AOA+ events included fireside chats and mentoring opportunities with Leadership Link. Jacques especially appreciated the opportunity to advocate on behalf of the profession on Capitol Hill during meetings with members of Congress and their staffs.
"It was simply humbling to get to be a part of the process that expands the scope of our profession," Jacques says. "Meeting with legislators, alongside the optometrists in my state, had a particular impact on me. Getting to sit at the same table as our elected officials to represent what we stand for is an experience I will never forget, and helped me to have a better understanding of how critical it is that we meet with our legislators.
"It is absolutely fantastic that the AOA has launched this program and will be continuing it into the future," Jacques says.
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.