APHA highlights optometry’s role in public health
(From left: Xinzhi Zhang, O.D., chair elect of the APHA Vision Care Section (VCS), and APHA Immediate Past President Melvin Shipp, O.D. Dr.P.H., MPH, congratulate APHA VCS awardees Asel Ryskulova, M.D., MPH, Susan Evans, Marc Taub, O.D., and Norma Bowyer, O.D., MPH, with the assistance of VCS Awards Chair Glen "Bubba" Steel, O.D., and VCS Chair Gregory Wolfe, O.D., MPH.)
At the American Public Health Association's (APHA) 141st annual meeting Nov. 2-6 in Boston, optometry's role in public health was in clear focus.
Top public health policymakers joined with leading optometrists to consider "The Future of Vision in Public Health" at a special forum of the American Public Health Association's (APHA) Vision Care Section (VCS).
The public health community should seize this historic opportunity.
The forum was organized by incoming VCS Chair-Elect John Crews, DPA, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Vision Health Initiative. Anthony Di Stefano, O.D., MPH, of Salus University; Paul Lee, M.D., J.D., of the University of Michigan; and Jinan Saaddine, M.D., MPH, of the CDC Vision Health Initiative, led a discussion on opportunities for advancing vision care in public health practice and policy.
The pediatric optometric care benefit represents one such opportunity. "The ACA provision of essential pediatric vision care is an 'eye opener' for public health," said AOA Chief Public Health Officer Michael Dueñas, O.D. Dr. Dueñas spoke during the VCS's annual Eye Open Breakfast and Awards Ceremony, sponsored by the AOA.
Only 7 percent of American children receive an eye examination before they enter first grade, he noted. "The public health community should seize this historic opportunity and positively promote the utilization of this eye exam benefit among the 8 million to 18 million U.S. children who are gaining this new vision care benefit and who are presently going without vision care," he said.
Optometry's growing role
"This has been a historic year for APHA, the Vision Care Section and the profession of optometry," said Gregory Wolfe, O.D., MPH, VCS chair. "Not only have we convened the first ever session focusing on the future role of vision in public health at APHA, but we've brought together major leaders in the vision care and public health community."
APHA Immediate Past Chair Melvin D. Shipp, O.D.—the first optometrists ever to lead the world's largest public health association—marked the end of his tenure as an association officer. Likewise, past VCS Chair Debbie Hettler, O.D., MPH, marked the end of her term as an APHA regional affiliate representative governing councilor.
However, optometrists continue to serve at many levels in the APHA. Representatives of new vision care sections formed by state public health associations in Maryland, Ohio, and Tennessee were present at the meeting, too, noted VCS Council member Lori Grover, O.D.
APHA awards for research and service
This year's APHA VCS awards included:
- Outstanding Scientific Project Award—Marc B. Taub, O.D., and Ashley Gentrup, O.D.
- Morton W. Silverman Outstanding Student Paper Award—Lekha Samuel and Susan Evans of the Southern College of Optometry
- Melvin D. Shipp Best Abstract Award—Asel Ryskulova, M.D., MPH, Rosemary Janiszewski, and Rebecca Hines
- Distinguished Service Award—Norma Bowyer, O.D., MPH.