‘Optometry always comes together:’ Members support AOA during COVID-19
While immense challenges posed by COVID-19 prompted the AOA’s multifaceted response to provide crisis relief and recovery assistance to members, many nationwide chose to return the support.
In March, the AOA Board of Trustees approved an unprecedented, $5.5 million support plan to fully align the AOA’s efforts behind a comprehensive COVID-19 response that included not only a dues and assessment freeze through 2021 but also a two-month AOA dues waiver in 2020 while optometry practices found their footing. Those actions came as the AOA stepped up its advocacy in Washington, D.C., for optometry’s inclusion in physician relief measures and emergency laws and regulations—and members took notice.
Citing this all-out realignment to support AOA members and the profession in such a turbulent time, over a hundred doctors of optometry across Wisconsin and North Carolina opted against taking the two-month COVID-19 dues waiver and chose to offer their full support. In fact, over 20% of Wisconsin’s total member doctors decided to forgo the waiver in a generous act of support for the AOA’s efforts.
“I am very proud of our members for the support and compassion they have shown to their fellow doctors, and their state and national associations, throughout these past several months—it is truly astonishing,” says Amber Dentz, O.D., Wisconsin Optometric Association (WOA) president. “Optometry has always come together during challenging times and this pandemic is no exception; this is why optometry is such an amazing profession and family, and I am proud to be a part of it.”
In 30 years of service, Peter Theo, WOA executive vice president, says it’s moments like this that impress upon him the immense dedication that members have for their profession. Each time a member called or emailed the WOA to decline the waiver, doctors emphasized how much the WOA and AOA have done for them, Theo says.
“What makes this all the more incredible is the fact that many of these same doctors are themselves struggling to keep their practices viable and their patients, staff and families safe throughout the pandemic,” Theo says. “These selfless acts are part of why organized optometry has remained strong and relevant for 120 years.”
In addition, several other state affiliates implemented their own dues waivers for member doctors adapting to the sudden closures and cancellations dealt by COVID-19 public health measures. In North Carolina, a total of 6% of the state’s membership decided to reverse AOA’s COVID-19 waiver—a testament to how greatly members appreciate the support and advocacy, says Adrianne Drollette, North Carolina Optometric Society (NCOS) executive director.
“We are so grateful that so many of our members are giving back and supporting the NCOS during this challenging time,” Drollette says. “NCOS leadership and staff have worked hard to demonstrate the value of membership over the past few months and support our members in every way that we can. It shows that our efforts are being noticed by our members that so many feel the need to support us in this way.”
Even as the COVID-19 public health situation continues to evolve, the AOA continues working closely with affiliates to determine specific further steps that could be needed in the weeks and months ahead. While the pandemic has created innumerable challenges, the AOA has the strength, resources, reach, determination and know-how to be the relentless advocate doctors need to help the profession navigate this crisis.
“Equally important, though, is that we are united as one profession, with colleagues committed to helping and supporting colleagues. That’s why our powerful message—that we are essential care doctors committed to serving our patients, our communities and our country—will continue to be heard and resonate with policymakers, the news media, payers, our fellow physicians and the public,” noted then-AOA President Barbara L. Horn, O.D., and then-AOA President-elect William T. Reynolds, O.D., in an AOA-wide members notice in March.
As the profession’s sole advocate, the AOA and state associations advocate for the profession 24/7/365, ensuring that members are listened to and heeded in Washington, D.C., state capitals and the third-party arena. The support of AOA members helps make these victories possible.
But what else does AOA membership gain doctors and their staff?
Exclusive members-only resources, content
Better resources mean better care. The AOA is at the forefront in developing clinical tools, practice guidance and best practices to advance and elevate the care doctors provide to patients. Membership grants doctors—and paraoptometrics as AOA associate members—access to a wide array of resources, education and content that can optimize every facet of the practice, including:
- Clinical care resources. AOA members can access a digital library of clinical care publications and resources relating to patient care, quality assessment and improvement, evidence-based optometry and more. Find the latest recommendations for the diagnosis, management and treatment of patients with various eye and vision conditions with the AOA’s clinical practice guidelines or access AOA’s traumatic brain injury manuals—Volume 1A and Volume 1B—and the latest optometry-specific COVID-19 information.
- Practice management resources. Through AOAExcel®, AOA members can access a wealth of resources to help better manage the business of optometry. AOAExcel’s endorsed business partners offer services tailored specifically to doctors of optometry to help you finance, protect and grow your practice.
- AOA Marketplace Discover tools for educating patients and marketing your practice at AOA Marketplace. Here, AOA members receive significant discounts on patient education materials, brochures, posters and displays, and other branded promotional items, such as business and referral cards, practice forms and staff training resources.
Exclusive continuing education for the whole practice
Meeting continuing education (CE) requirements can be an ongoing challenge for busy doctors of optometry, but the AOA’s commitment to educational opportunities makes it easy and affordable for doctors and staff to stay abreast of the latest research, techniques and technology. As an AOA member, you have access to several different options for your continuing education and professional development needs, including:
- EyeLearn Professional Development Hub. AOA members’ centralized education portal offers an ever-expanding online catalog of educational modules, webinars and resources to help advance clinical proficiencies and practice management expertise for doctors, students and paraoptometrics. Additionally, EyeLearn now offers 54 courses from the AOA’s 2020 Virtual Learning Livecast, as well as the virtual ePoster sessions that members can view for their professional development needs.
- Paraoptometric Resource Center, certification. Give your staff the training and certification they need to enhance patient care and improve satisfaction—enroll your paraoptometrics as AOA associate members, at no additional cost to the AOA member doctor, and unlock the benefits of AOA’s Paraoptometric Resource Center. This staff hub offers a wide range of courses to improve clinical skills and knowledge and business acumen. Encourage staff toward paraoptometric certification and help grow not only their careers but also your practice.
- Optometry’s Meeting® AOA members receive significant discounts on the profession’s premier meeting, offering the latest in optometric CE, advocacy opportunities, entertainment and an industry-wide trade show. What’s more, state affiliate meetings allow members the opportunity to connect with doctors in their home state and build a network they can rely upon.
Promoting awareness, driving exams
Complementing the AOA’s advocacy efforts is its mission to elevate the profession in the public perception, which is why the AOA works tirelessly to promote optometry with integrity and demonstrate how doctors of optometry care for patients’ eye health both in the exam room and in everyday life. The AOA’s media advocacy and public awareness campaigns not only seek to educate Americans about the importance of regular, in-person comprehensive eye exams by AOA family doctors but also direct prospective patients to the care you provide.
AOA membership grants you access to the AOA’s newly redesigned “Find a Doctor” online search directory, allowing prospective patients a quick, easy way to find your eye health and vision care services. Update your MyAOA online profile today to reap the benefits of this tool.
Additionally, make use of AOA’s Public Education & Campaign Materials for exclusive resources, multimedia and graphics, and news releases that doctors can customize to reach your local media and communities.
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