Protect and Grow YOUR Profession: Congressional Advocacy Conference 2015

Many of you may have been to Optometry’s Meeting, AAO, or Vision Expo, but have you been to the most important conference of them all? The one that directly impacts your future, what you’ll be able to do in the exam room, and the access to care that your patients have? Students from all over the country have arrived in Washington, D.C. for the 2015 Congressional Advocacy Conference (CAC).

If you haven’t attended the CAC yet, you absolutely need to go at least once in your optometry student career. Here’s why:

  1. Participating first hand in the advocacy that you always hear, the AOA, and the AOSA talk about will leave a lasting impression and give you more of an appreciation for the profession. We need as many future ODs as possible to have this experience so they’re motivated to be active AOA members for life. It’s vital to our profession! If you’re a 1st year student thinking about going, do it! You don’t have to be an expert clinician to CAC Dinnerexplain the necessity of the bills we support and just how important optometry is to health care, and you’ll have your state leaders and other upperclassmen there to give you any advice on how things work the day you go to the Hill.
  2. The CAC may be the best networking opportunity out there, better than a majority of the conferences you’ll attend. You don’t just have a quick 5 minute conversation with an OD, or a chance encounter. You sit down with leaders from your state, successful and involved ODs, for a full dinner (or two) and sometimes see them while you’re on the Hill on Monday. It’s way more face time you usually get at other conferences. Many of these ODs are past or present presidents of their state’s optometric associations…they have connections!
  3. Aside from the legislative side of things, CAC is a great time! I personally had a blast meeting students, doing some sightseeing, and checking out some of the D.C. bars and restaurants. It’s just a different atmosphere to be in, go see for yourself!

This year, students and ODs will be supporting:

  • Optometrists’ full recognition as physicians in any Medicare reform.
  • Our inclusion in the National Health Service Corps (H.R. 1312), which gives ODs loan forgiveness while practicing in underserved populations. ODs were previously included in this program but were removed.
  • Defending against anti-optometry bills, such as one attempting to repeal the nondiscrimination law that the AOA worked so hard to get enacted (which establishes that insurance plans can’t discriminate when to provide coverage to patients for optometrists’ services).

If you’ve never been to CAC, here’s a short documentary we shot jointly with the AOSA at CAC 2013:


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