Why Join

At the 2015 AOA Volunteer Meeting, President David A. Cockrell, O.D., posed the question, “Why are you an AOA member?” Here’s what some members are saying about joining the AOA—and why nonmembers should join, too.

We should all be AOA members since a group voice (and the bigger the better that voice) speaks much louder to advance, defend and support our profession than any one optometrist could ever do.  Some members are better at advocating legislatively for our profession, some are better at educating the public about our profession and some are good at understanding where we have been as a profession so that they can both advocate and educate those that are up and coming into the profession.  All of us together make this profession strong, relevant to the world of health care and a medical leader into the future.  Each of us, if we remain alone, will be squashed like a bug on concrete.
It may sound simple but it gets back to "If you're not at the table, you're on the menu." And since the legislative "meal" is always being "served," AOA makes sure nothing is taken for granted, everything is anticipated, and advocacy is planned proactively to protect the profession of optometry and all optometrists, members and non-members alike, who provide for the medical-visual needs of our patients. If nothing else, being an AOA member affords the best "insurance" to protect all optometrists against those who would downgrade and outright eliminate our profession and, as a result, the benefits we bring to patients. I am additionally a PAC member who believes it's worth at least "a buck a day" (I give more) for the superb political advocacy AOA provides. For these and so many other reasons, be a member!
Why Should You Join the AOA?
Easy.
Safety in numbers.
We are a small profession with individuals scattered all across the landscape. Outside forces and influences; educational, social, professional, and business have worked against us for over a century. The only group to stand up to those forces and unite us is the AOA with the state affiliates.
The individual optometrist can only accomplish so much. The state organizations bring strength to the individuals. The AOA is a force multiplier.
I'm an middle aged OD now with a healthy dose of optometric paranoia. No other group will defend us like we will defend our profession. Reaching out to work with others is valuable and needed, so sticking our heads in the sand is unwise. But we must always look out for the profession.
And there are many other reasons to join, but advocacy will be our primary function for years to come.
At the volunteer meeting, you asked about why someone should join the AOA ... That's a tough question because everyone has their personal reasons why or why not they belong to an organization.  As a staff member at an association, my perspective is different than that of our members.  I would push back a bit and say, "Why not join the AOA?"
What other organization represents the profession of optometry, protects access to patients, promotes scope expansion in conjunction with education, facilitates discussion around critical issues and provides optometry with a seat at the table alongside other health care providers and policy makers?  What other investments do all that while also provide unique member benefits, such as Think About Your Eyes, InfantSee, discounted services, insurance benefits and cutting edge educational opportunities designed to ensure that members keep up-to-date and continue to provide appropriate care to patients? The return alone of battles won over Medicare fee cuts, inclusion in Medicare/Medicaid and non-covered services more than makes up for the dues investment on a state and national level. 
Despite being a small profession, the AOA has demonstrated time and again how optometry can stand mobilize allies and stand up for every OD.  When you join, you show you have cast your vote for the future of the profession.
My answer is very simple... AOA membership is the best "insurance" you can buy!!  AOA protects our ability to treat patients the way we were trained.  There is no other organization that fights for us to have access to  patients.  AOA is a family of optometrists and the value is priceless!!!
The AOA represents the core of optometry ensuring that the profession has a voice to be heard by the public, the patients we serve, the legislators that make the laws, and other professionals we interact with.  The association is necessary to protect, to promote, and advance our profession.  Non-members and new graduates are needed to make our professional association strong and sustainable.  That's my quick answer while on my vacation!:-)
The AOA and its affiliates are the only ones looking out for optometry on a daily basis.  Life gets busy, and I cannot always monitor legislation, meet with legislators, partner with allies, develop relationships, start a registry, develop clinical guidelines and 100 other things that I know I should be doing for my profession.  My small monthly membership fee gives me a huge team of people doing all of this important work for me so that I can concentrate on taking good care of my patients.  I could never do all these things on my own.
My family, my patients, and my students are counting on me.  I have a lot invested in optometry -- It is my chief livelihood, my life's passion, and my long-term plan.  I cannot afford for optometry to "go away" or to be diminished in its quality.  The AOA works to keep optometry vibrant and moving forward.  How could I not in good conscience support the only organization that is supporting my profession?  It is the right thing to do.
In short, none of us can afford NOT to be a member.
Hi David,

Why I joined the AOA?

As a 2nd generation optometrist, I grew up around optometry.  It was never a question in my mind that I would not be a member of the AOA right out of school.  It was always ingrained in my head that this is my duty as an optometrist. I was fortunate to be exposed to the legislative process and how optometry is a legislative profession. I saw my dad and his colleagues (AOA) fight to get the right to prescribe diagnostics. I saw my dad and his colleagues (AOA)  fight to get the right to prescribe therapeutics. I saw my dad and his colleagues (AOA) fight to get the right to get on health care panels/plans.  He and the AOA fought for the privileges I have now.  And now it's my time to fight to keep my rights and  for those to come after me.  My degree means nothing if I am not allowed to practice to the fullest of my degree.
One voice will not get us anywhere, not with legislators, not with insurers, not with government agencies - if we do not band together as a profession, we simply will not exist. This is why I am a member, just as I am a citizen of the United States and I pay my taxes. One person is not an army. One person is a small voice. But together we can make positive change, influence policies, protect our patients and our patents' rights. 
The profession of Optometry is a calling not a job.  Yes, we worked hard and sacrificed to attain our education, but our education was just baby steps to enter into a calling.  Once entered into our profession the more engagement we have with our patients and our family of peers the more we receive.  (In other words the more we give the more we get)  The profession is filled with genuine, committed individuals, an example of what is good in our society, it is a privilege to belong to the AOA and to associate with this great group of Doctors.
I joined AOA for a few reasons...
1. It is an organization that allows ODs to work collectively to promote and empower optometry;
2. It is an organization that supports specialties, specifically Sports Vision Section
3. Based on the numbers, we can get some good deals on insurances. :)
4. Having the ability to say I am a member is a source of pride and support for optometry
Those are some quick reasons off the top of my head.
OD's should join the AOA knowing that an organization can make changes to a profession better than an individual.  The best way for the profession to evolve is through leadership of a strong association and strength is in numbers which also turns into dollars.  It costs to maintain or change a profession and we all need to contribute.  Plus if an OD feels the need to help make change individually, by being a member, they can volunteer and get more involved on the inside of the profession.
I am a member for one simple reason:  There is no other entity looking out for my profession or my ability to provide the public with the most advanced eye care through a continuously evolving contemporary scope of practice.  The AOA is the department of homeland security for my Optometry license.  It mobilizes instantly to neutralize threats to the public or my practice.  AOA provides the strong voice to third parties, government entities, the media, and the public clarifying the great value we bring in order to enhance the quality of life of our fellow Americans.
Every optometrist benefits from the work the AOA does. For that reason, every optometrist should support the mission of the AOA by being a member and by volunteering in a way that he/she can. People may disagree on the direction taken by the AOA at times, and may feel that some projects don't benefit them. This is an issue on which we must all support the overall work of the association, however, because the AOA is the public face of the profession and is the only organization that is protecting the rights and privileges we have as ODs.
I want to be a part of the only organization that preserves, protects and defends the profession of optometry and our patients.  It is the organization that looks forward to opportunities and risks and develops strategies to deal with those risks and take advantage the opportunities.
The reason I belong is simple.  We are a legislated profession and without AOA and the affiliates being politically active we would cease to exist.  This is despite the need for our services.  The public would be destined to get their primary eye care from ophthalmology which of course would decrease the quality of care.  So I belong to the AOA because it protects both me and the public. 
That being said, having been a member for 42 years the AOA has made some changes in recent years that have dramatically decreased its value to me.  As an educator discontinuing the journal was a major blow.  I am nearing retirement but encouraging younger faculty to belong has become more difficult.  At large university programs final tenure decisions aren't made by senior optometric faculty but those from all different disciplines.  Cutting the number of peer reviewed optometry journals in half is very damaging to my younger colleagues.  If they don't get tenure they lose their job.  I used to use the AOA library extensively as did my students.  Teaching public health/health policy, having O.D.'s employed by the AOA in the St. Louis office was very helpful as a information resource.  Despite these changes I am still a member and will continue to be.  As stated earlier, without the AOA I fear we would cease as a profession.
Reasons I recommend joining AOA:
- receive help and support with Third Party Issues from webinars and email questions and articles from the Third Party Center
- help with Advocacy at federal and state levels to maintain current scopes of practice and work to fully expand our scope of practices to achieve parity in all states.
- member-only benefits such as the new AOA registry, hopefully new smart "apps" that will provide quicker and easier access to new evidence-based optometry guides, member directory, and more.
Straying from why, it'd be nice to include new member only benefits (like downloads of popular coding apps for smart phones in preparation for ICD-10, discounts on apps like ePocrates, discounts on optometry books on Amazon or iBooks). Just some thoughts to add further value (I know there is already plenty, but thinking of more "hooks" to bring people in) to membership.
Why you are a member:

I am a member because I came from a day and an age of collegiality where it was expected that you would join and be part of something bigger and more important than yourself.  My elder partner when I started practice did not insist (as I was already a student member) but it was assumed that I would be part of the state association and AOA and the dues were part of my expenses covered by the practice.  He was a prior state president and although nearing retirement still attended the state meetings and encouraged attendance at the AOA event when it was close.  That being said I wish that all OD's would make that part of the practice anytime they take in new associates or partners.  Considering the cost of membership as just another normal expense like the cost of malpractice insurance that is needed to provide care.  I have grown over the years to see all the things that organized Optometry and the AOA / state affiliates has done in the legislative arena and for the betterment of our profession both as far as practice both politically and in the eyes of the public as an honorable profession and the source of eye and vision care and knowledge. 

Why all of our non member colleagues should join:

Sadly they get all the benefits in the public arena for all the hard work that the members are responsible for either by labor or by funds.  Truthfully they are "Welfare" or "Public Assistance" Optometric providers that are the recipients of others hard labor and finances.  That, however, is not a politically acceptable definition despite how appropriate it may be.

I believe that the AOA provides the current best platform for addressing the needs and concerns of Optometry within the national healthcare system.  It (We) works to protect the rights of our providers to provide care at their highest level trained.  Works to assure that parity exists for the skilled level of care that we provide.  Works to further the public knowledge of the profession and what we are capable of doing.  Works to further our knowledge and prepares us for future advances in eye care.  (All of which will take place with or without the current non-members)  But additionally it provides a platform and a forum for community.  A place where we can be a part of something "Bigger that ourselves."  Something that encourages us to work together to be the best that we can as health care providers.  I see inherent value in that - a group that encourages us to continue to strive to be the best we can as a shared community.  As I said when I took the ABO test to my peers.  "It made me a better Optometrist, NO not better than you, just better than who I was."  At the end of the day shouldn't we all desire to be better providers?  If the answer is no then perhaps its time to find another calling.

Why new optometrists should belong:

I can think of no better gathering of their peers that they could connect with that would aid them in their start of a new profession.  It is a good way to affiliate with others that may be seeking new providers, and one of the key ways to helping them shape their own destiny as an Optometrist.  We have a laundry list of benefits from insurance providers to retirement plans and tons of other things to offer but I would like to think that the most important thing we can offer a new optometrist is to be someone to come along side them in support as they start off their new exciting career in health care, but then again I did say I came from an era that placed high value on collegiality.
Very good questions. After practicing 30 years the answer for me is simple. Why am I a member of AOA?  It is the right thing to do. My Mom has been a member for over 70 years, can't imagine not being a member. 
Why should all non-members join? A unified voice representing all optometrists is the most powerful statement we can have when protecting our right to provide all of the optometric services we are trained in.
Why should new optometrists belong? Supporting your profession through membership is critical to ensure that you will always be able to practice full scope optometry for your entire career.
Thanks for a great interactive planning meeting. We were able to get much accomplished with our face-to-face meetings. 
Because the AOA is the only organization that protects your right to practice optometry and safeguards our profession. 
You are a member for:
Money
(AOA Members make 19% more money than non-members)
Information
(Members get valuable and timely information)
Connections
(Members get connected with stakeholders in the profession)
Engagement
(Members are genuinely interested making a difference in Optometry)
Of course, the four first letters spell "MICE"- not sure if that is a great campaign tag line which is why we probably need marketing help. Although advocacy is a very important part of what AOA does, it is a benefit whether you are a member or non-member.
Why? Because no one else will fight for optometry's inclusion in healthcare reform besides the AOA.  
What are some of the AOA resources available to new grads? What role does the Student and New Graduate Committee play?

Student loans are a huge concern for every new graduate.  The AOA has a loan program that provides reduced interest rates for AOA members. Financial tips and guidance is available online and also from AOA members, let the AOA connect you with the people who can answer your questions.  Malpractice insurance and liability insurance is available at a lower rate for members.   Networking events, attending Optometry's meeting and using Optometry's Career Centre are just a few ways in which you can find a job.  The resources to starting a practice are endless. AOA compass is a guide outlining the steps to succeeding in school, graduating, passing boards, getting your license and getting started in your new practice as an owner or an associate.  If you need practice management advice, members are available to chat with you, courses are available online and at Optometry's Meeting.  The resources are endless and it all starts by logging in online and exploring.    

The Student and New Graduate Committee is made up a group of young optometrists dedicated to helping students and new grad succeed in school and post graduation.  Our focus is to support students, to foster understanding of the AOA and to help show people the value in belonging.

Why should students and new grads get involved in the AOA, and more specifically, the Committee? How can they get involved?
When I think about being an optometrist it is synonymous with being involved with our national association.  The AOA is simply a group of dedicated passionate individuals fighting for all of us to keep our profession strong, to push it further and protect it from those who want to see it fall.  Without the work of these people, we would not have the career we do have.

There are many ways to be involved.  Being a member is the first step.  The funds received through membership dues allow for hundreds of volunteers to work on our behalf.  You can volunteer your time on campus, within your local society, state association or at a national level.  You can contact your local AOSA Trustee or State Association to find out what areas need your help.      

What made you want to become involved in the AOA?

When I was a first year optometry student, my AOSA Trustee was so passionate about our profession and the importance of being involved.  His dedication to our profession was contagious.  I learned very early on that the AOA is the source from which all of us succeed.  Being apart of it and giving back to the profession is just the right thing to do.  As a Canadian Optometrist, I am actively involved in my provincial and national association.  I continue to remain involved in the AOA because of all the support I received from the AOA as a student.  Giving back and working with students to provide them with the support I once received is why I continue to remain involved.  

What are some AOA resources (financial, advocacy, networking, CE, etc) you've found particularly helpful and why?

Resources that I have found very helpful is the ability to network with those more experienced than myself, to be able to ask questions and always be given support and answers.  My practice has grown because of the tips and tools i've picked up over the years attending educational events.  The education at Optometry's meeting is a reason why I keep returning every year.  The people, guidance and education I have received over the years has made me a better optometrist.  


You talk about the support you received from the AOA as a student. Can you elaborate on that support?

Members of the AOA were mentors to be me. They inspired me to work hard, to stay involved, to strive to be the best Practionner I could be and to give back to students once I had a chance to do so.  I met these Amazing ODs at Optometry's meeting and they took me under their wing and guided my education about our profession.  They provided support in the form of guidance and pointed me in the right direction whenever I had any questions. The networking opportunities allowed me to great relationship which ultimately helped me find my first job here in Canada.   I received many tangible benefits from the AOA including clinical tools and flash drives but the education on advocacy and our past far out beat these gifts.  
As a profession, our strength and ability to organize and stand united, speaking with one voice before Congress, before CMS, the FDA, the FTC, the CDC and the hundreds of other federal entities that can impact the practice of optometry is a direct reflection of the strength of our membership. There is no "status quo" and uninvolvement is tantamount to working against the profession. As long as there are threats against Doctors of Optometry, strong and powerful leadership is needed and that comes from a strong and powerful membership.
the short answer to the question is because I am supposed to be a member of the AOA. The AOA is optometry. Without the AOA, optometry as we know it ceases to exist because there would be no one to protect our rights to practice.  I also enjoying sending time with people from across the country and sharing practice information and management tips with my colleagues.
The AOA provides the only unified voice for optometry, as it relates to media, legislation, and representation to 3rd party payers.
We are a legislated profession and we need a United and respected voice representing us when it comes to laws that affect our profession.

The value in membership is that you don't have to spend your time AND money.  The volunteers spend both their time AND money but it is an option for someone to simply passively engage as a paying member and leave the work of the organization up to the volunteers.

Optometry in 2015 is Strong because organized Optometry has worked hard over many years for us. Our generation is responsible for protecting our profession and it's just as challenging now as it has ever been. Optometry is just as great (or maybe even greater) now than it has ever been.
I was initially a volunteer because I felt like giving back was important. I am a volunteer now because I still feel like giving back is important but as much because I benefit in my practice by knowing what's going on in our profession outside these walls.  The interaction I have with fellow leaders of our profession helps me be a better Optometrist.
As you well know, we are a legislated profession.  To be effective in shaping our profession, we must speak to legislators with one voice. The AOA is uniquely positioned to serve as that voice.   It provides us all with our only real opportunity to have a say in our professional future. 
But it's more than just about us.  It's about our patients and the care we are able to provide to them.  Entities are currently focusing on improving their bottom line at the risk of our patient's welfare.   That, quite frankly, makes me mad, which motivates me to serve as an active member of the AOA.
Thank you for all you and the AOA leadership are doing for the good of the profession and those we serve!
We belong to the AOA because we want to be a part of the Voice of Optometry. We would tell nonmembers and recent grads that the AOA advocates for optometry on a state level and a national level.  The staff, the volunteers, the leaders and the members in general make up a tight knit family.  You never feel left out or uninformed when you belong to the AOA.  
I am a paraoptometric and for me personally it would be the level of education I can receive through the AOA. When working for an active AOA doctor member I know that he values his profession and the organization. That would be one of the first thing I would look for when applying for a job with any clinic. The AOA is able to offer staff training and education at the highest level possible. Highly trained staff generate more revenue and is the key to great patient care. Non-member doctors should join because they have access to all materials needed to have a well run office. This gives them more time to focus on what is their most important job; that is patient care. Many non-member doctors are still trying to create the products needed to run a smooth practice and retain employees. As an AOA member we can provide them with what they need and the instruction with how to use it thru the Career Ladder Project that will be available in June 2015. I feel that a well developed plan to reach non-member doctors through their staff is a path we have not tried yet. Maybe develop a work group to try this out. Doctor peer to peer relationships are always important; but with some it may be through what effects their patient care and that is "STAFF".
As a certified paraoptometric volunteer and associate member, I am responding to your question - Why join the AOA?
The first reason that comes to mind is that I feel proud to be part of a national professional association that its goal is to serve the profession of Optometry to the highest level. The second is that I am honored to have the opportunity to serve in my capacity of associate member to further the AOA's commitment to provide to all members the necessary tools and resources so they may render the best care to all optometric patients. The third reason, through the AOA I have the opportunity to further my education and involvement in the profession to best assist Optometrists and their patients. Lastly, as associate member I am part of a professional family which encourages its members to work together for the growth and strength of Optometry.
As associate members we rely on the membership participation of our Optometrists. Paraoptometric's participation enhance the growth of each optometric practice. I would say to each optometrist who hesitates in joining that they are missing an essential opportunity each day from supporting the Association that works to protect and strengthen their profession, and that all paraoptometrics they sign up with their membership, will receive the best training and resources to make their practices much more competitive and successful.
Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts.
Jim Sandefur's  adage ( my guys have heard me say it a thousand times) :  "nothing good ever happens for Optometry except because of the association".
That is why everyone should be a member of AOA.
Why not join the AOA?  Who else represents, protects and promotes the optometric profession from the day you enter optometry to school until the day you retire?  Professionals are proud and dedicated to their profession and are proud to say they are a member and support their national association!
Every right and privilege I have as an optometrist is due to the efforts of the AOA.  When I came into the profession, I could do an undilated examination, "sell" glasses, and "fit" contact lenses.  Some were even providing "free" examinations and significantly marking up the lenses and frames and of course, everyone needed glasses.  When I was in my last year of optometry school, our "pathology" instructor was the only person who could instill an anesthetic prior to tonometry - and he could only do this because he was a nurse before becoming an optometrist. 
While I do not use many of the resources we have at our disposal today, it is important to keep in mind that all of these - including doing a basic examination - could be stripped away.  With backing of the AOA, states are able to see a bigger picture, see what might be happening across all states, and plan accordingly.  All should be aware and take advantage of AOA resources.
Why You Should Be An AOA Member?
The AOA (American Optometric Association) and our affiliated state associations are the ONLY organizations that protect your scope of practice, access to your patients, and payment parity. The AOA and our affiliated associations are your professional license insurance.  Without the AOA and the state affiliates optometrists would be nothing more than technicians within mere months.  Protect your investment in your professional degree and license and ensure your ability to practice full scope optometry, care for your patients, and be compensated fairly by being an active member of the American Optometric Association.
I am a member because I want to make sure that I am able to continue to practice as I was taught in Optometry school. I paid a lot of money for my education and have significant student loans. I am terrified to think that without the efforts of AOA, optometrists may not have a job! I also like being a part of a large optometry family!