AOA’s New President, Ronald L. Hopping, OD, MPH, Discusses Plans to Be Implemented During His Leadership

CHICAGO—As the first second generation president of the American Optometric Association, Ronald L. Hopping, OD, MPH, belongs to a family devoted to the profession. Not only is his father an optometrist who served as AOA president, but Hopping’s wife is also an optometrist, and his son is in his fourth year of optometry school. Vision Monday sat down with Hopping on the eve of his inauguration at this year’s Optometry’s Meeting in Chicago to discuss his plans for leading the AOA into the future.

Please tell us a little about yourself and your plans for the AOA.

 Ronald L. Hopping, OD, MPH
RONALD L. HOPPING, OD, MPH: I grew up in an optometry family. There are a lot of families that are optometrists, so it doesn’t surprise me that optometry finally has a father-son combination. I think that’ll happen more in the future as well.

I worked in the AOA Washington office while I was in optometry school, and I’ve been involved over the years in different parts of the AOA. Clearly the most important thing AOA does is advocacy, and that will be our number one focus for the coming year as it has been in the past. The Supreme Court ruling opens the gates for change. My goal is to help our members adapt and be successful.

The other areas we need to continue working at are outreach to the students and help with our transition rates into the AOA membership. We’re at our highest membership ever now at AOA, nonetheless, it’s an area that needs constant attention.

Beyond that, I’ve changed the committee structures quite a bit. For example, I’ve divided up communications. We have one committee that’s looking at how we can better communicate with our members and our affiliates. But mostly we need to make sure that at the end of the day we’re all one family and all working together.

VM: How have things been restructured?

RH: In communications, we used to have one overriding committee that handled everything. We’ve broken it up. One committee looks at public perception, what’s our message to the public, what’s our message to legislators and those outside our profession. We have one committee that looks at how we can do a better job of communicating internally in the profession. We have one committee that looks at publications and education and how we can meld those together.

The volunteer engagement committee is designed to work with our traditional committees to help create e-workgroups, which would be peripheral to the traditional committee to help support it and handle projects. For example, the health centers committee oversees community health centers and our committees on school-based health centers. I can envision that they would develop an e-workgroup of all or most of the ODs across the country that work in community health centers. When an issue comes up on community health centers, you’ve got the six or eight people in the committee room figuring stuff out, but they could easily then reach out to 100 or 200 doctors around the country.

The purpose of the volunteer engagement committee is to facilitate that resource and additional expertise. It’s truly a cultural change for our volunteer community. It will allow more members to participate in the activities and the mission and goals of the committees in the AOA.

VM: What are your plans for engaging the students?

We’ve been very successful over the last couple of years, and Dr. Carlson’s done an awesome job in engaging students with her “20/20 Tour.” I am looking closely at how we can better connect with the schools. Each of the board of trustees has been assigned as liaison to a school or schools, and we’ve budgeted for and expect at least one visit per year to each school from a board member. Also, we’ve invited AOSA to participate in our periodic updates.

What does being a second generation president bring?

RH: Several things. Number one, the fact that I have lived, grown up and been in optometry my entire life has fostered a true love of the profession. My father, as AOA president, was very committed. Many times he was up at five in the morning and went to bed at 2 a.m. working on optometry. The fact that my wife is an optometrist gives me a perspective on that gender and their contributions to optometry. My son being an optometry student puts a little more pressure on anything we do. I’ve got a lot of wisdom from others that I can draw on and having that historical perspective helps me figure out how we can move forward.

–John Sailer