Optometrists Gather for Annual AOA ‘Optometry’s Meeting’ and Look Toward the Profession's Future

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CHICAGO—Optometrists from throughout the country attended the American Optometric Association’s “Optometry’s Meeting” at McCormick Place June 27 to July 1. Highlights of the event included the AOA’s launch of a wholly owned subsidiary known as AOAExcel and two unanimous votes by the AOA House of Delegates to defend the status of optometrists as physicians in federal law.

Optometry’s Meeting also featured the induction of incoming president Ronald L. Hopping, OD, MPH, FAAO, the annual Essilor-sponsored Varilux Optometry Student Bowl XXI, a half-day event about “Philanthropy’s Role” in optometry, and the Essilor-sponsored opening general session titled “Hollywood Comes to Chicago” that brought movie executives out to discuss the technology of making 3D movies plus a half-day CE event about 3D as well.

Overall, the conference also consisted of continuing education courses, an exhibit hall, AOA committee meetings, the gathering of the AOA House of Delegates, events held by the American Optometric Students Association, meetings of other optometric organizations and much more for optometrists and other eyecare professionals (ECPs).

During the opening general session, outgoing president Dori Carlson, OD, discussed her “20/20 Tour” in which she spent the year visiting optometry schools throughout the country as a means of encouraging students to renew and maintain their AOA membership even after graduation. She then presented awards to leading eyecare professionals. The Paraoptometric of the Year Award went to Vera Kohler, CPOA, secretary/treasurer of the Pennsylvania Paraoptometric Association. Chris Wroten, OD, of the Bond-Wroten Eye Clinic in Louisiana won the Young Optometrist of the Year Award. Melvin Shipp, OD, MPH, DrPH, dean of the Ohio State University College of Optometry, was named Optometrist of the Year. Rear Admiral Michael Mittelman, OD, won the Distinguished Service Award. And a new award, Optometric Educator of the Year, went to Tony Carnevali, OD, associate professor of the Southern California College of Optometry.

As the opening general session was taking place, news of national significance that will impact the optometry profession for years to come was also happening—the Supreme Court upheld the majority of President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Soon after, during the AOA House of Delegates session, outgoing AOA president Carlson said in response to the decision, “Our advocacy team stands ready to help each and every state with whatever you need. We call for all optometrists to stand together. Our practices and our patients deserve nothing less.”

The House of Delegates meeting then continued and included a “recognition of industry” by Carlson, who acknowledged corporate sponsors of the AOA, stating, “. . . education would not be possible without the support of corporations.” Among these corporations were diamond level sponsors Alcon and Vistakon and platinum level sponsors Essilor and Luxottica.

That afternoon, immediate past president Joe Ellis, OD, announced the launch of a new AOA venture known as AOAExcel, that he described as “a wholly owned subsidiary of the AOA dedicated to supporting the business and career needs of the AOA members and reported on last week by VMail.

On Saturday June 30 the AOA House of Delegates passed two resolutions reaffirming the AOA’s commitment to defend the status of optometrists as physicians in federal law. Both resolutions were approved on a roll call vote with every vote cast in favor. The first calls for the AOA Board “to reaffirm and defend the physician status of optometrists by any and all available means.” The second resolution calls upon the American Optometric Society (AOS) to join the AOA in petitioning a federal judge to correct his June 12, 2012, order stating optometrists “are not physicians.” That statement was included in a summary judgment ruling issued by U.S. District Judge A. Howard Matz in a lawsuit filed by the AOS against the American Board of Optometry.

AOA president Carlson said the two unanimous votes show the profession is united in its concern about the consequences of the lawsuit and the lawsuit’s potential to set back decades of successful advocacy by the AOA to advance the profession. “While most of the American Optometric Society lawsuit against the American Board of Optometry has been defeated even before going to trial, the lone remaining claim will damage the profession and disrupt AOA advocacy,” said Carlson. “The AOS lawsuit is no longer about board certification, rather it is about AOS legal tactics threatening our core identity and our future standing in all aspects of health care. Thus, no matter your personal opinion about board certification, the line has been crossed by the AOS, either by design or failure to consider the dangerous consequences of placing our status as physicians in jeopardy.” (For more, see Carlson’s message dated June 21, 2012 “AOS court case threatens our physician status.”)

Other activities during the AOA’s Optometry’s Meeting were a gathering held by the Optometric Historical Society, the annual board of directors meeting of the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry, an all-day seminar presented by the College of Optometrists in Vision Development Optometric Vision Therapy, the annual meeting of the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education, the Shamir-sponsored exhibit hall grand opening wine and cheese reception, the National Optometry Hall of Fame and Induction Ceremony, the Alcon-sponsored Contact Lens and Cornea Section awards reception, and many other events. Next year’s Optometry’s Meeting will be held June 26 to 30, 2013, in San Diego.

jsailer@jobson.com