AOA president Robert Layman, OD, prepares to open the exhibit hall at Optometry's Meeting, held late last week at McCormick Place in Chicago.
CHICAGO—Thousands of eyecare professionals, industry executives and students converged at McCormick Place in Chicago late last week for the annual Optometry’s Meeting organized by the American Optometric Association (AOA). The meeting, which opened Wednesday, drew nearly 4,000 doctors of optometry, optometric students, paraoptometrics and others, and also marked the first time that many AOA members had been together since the 2019 meeting in St. Louis, as last year’s meeting in Denver was smaller by contrast.

The four-day event for the eyecare profession concluded Saturday. The charge for the meeting was firmly planted by AOA president Robert C. Layman, OD, during his welcome address. “To my optometry family here today, it’s my pleasure to offer you my greatest, heartiest thanks from Optometry’s Meeting 2022,” Dr. Layman said. “I can’t tell you how much appreciation I have that we are able to come together today. This represents the start of what will be known as a great week filled with world-class education, opportunities to connect with colleagues, conduct the business of our association and reenergize ourselves for the work we want to accomplish together for this great profession.”

He also noted that while the COVID-19 pandemic had “cast its shadow across the world,” optometry continues to look forward with insight and strategy to navigate any obstacle and set a clear path for what is best for the profession and our patients.

 AOA officers await the opening of the exhibit hall at last week's Optometry's Meeting at McCormick Place in Chicago.
In fact, he said, optometry has come out on the other side of the challenges stronger than ever.

In addition, almost 300 volunteer advocates for the profession—doctors of optometry and paraoptometrics who belong to the AOA committee structure—met during Optometry’s Meeting to plot a course for the organization and optometry going forward. This initiative was informed by a discussion on “scope modernization and future practice initiation,” AOA said, and the organization’s Future Practice Initiative was launched to bolster the efforts of affiliates to expand scope in their states.

That discussion was led by Jacquie Bowen, OD, a member of AOA’s board of trustees, Johndra McNeeley, OD, AOA’s state government relations committee chair, and Lisa Gontarek, OD, a member of AOA’s coding and reimbursement committee.

“So many of you have been hyper-focused and vigilant in moving scope of optometry forward,” Dr. Layman said. “This mission is critical as our scope of practice truly influences the strength of our profession from state to state.”

On Thursday, the second day of the meeting, the AOA House of Delegates got under way. AOA leadership reinforced the invaluable benefits that the AOA delivers to its members, as affiliates’ delegates convened for official business.

Following the opening night AOA awards presentation, Optometry's Meeting attendees visited Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry for a tour and reception.
In his address to delegates at the 125th annual AOA Congress, AOA executive director Jon Hymes spoke to the strong state of the organization, its high standing among members, the profession and the American public, and future opportunities for growth and continued advocacy. Citing a March 2022 consumer survey, Hymes noted that over three-quarters of surveyed Americans responded that they have more confidence in an eye doctor who is an AOA member, and among those who had visited a doctor of optometry within the past two years, 80 percent expressed more confidence in an AOA member.

“The AOA brand is strong and it is a tremendous member benefit,” Hymes said. “Our priorities are moving forward, our support is growing, our influence is increasing, our leaders are bold, decisive and highly accomplished. Optometry is advancing.”

On the opening night, AOA honored seven members with its prestigious awards in various categories.

The awards were presented to Student of the Year, Araba Otoo; Paraoptometric of the Year, Loretta Eriks, CPOT; Optometric Educator the Year, Andrew Kemp, OD; Young Optometrist of the Year, Saysha Blazier, OD; Optometrist of the Year, Jeffrey Michaels, OD, and Distinguished Service awardee, Capt. Dawn Clary, OD. VMAIL reported on the award winners and their affiliations earlier this spring, and posted here.

Following the awards presentation, which was supported by Johnson & Johnson Vision, attended took buses to Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry for an evening of recognition and celebration.