Last week, optometrists and students from across the country gathered in Boston for Optometry’s Meeting, the American Optometric Association’s biggest conference. Attendees had opportunities to strengthen their careers through continuing education classes, events, and networking. OptometryStudents.com had a strong presence, with our editors and writers in attendance. There were many student-only events, along with celebrations and ceremonies including the AOA Annual Awards Ceremony, the Varilux Student Bowl, and the Celebration of Optometry. Here’s a quick, day-by-day recap of the conference.
Wednesday, June 29 – OD Talks & Opening Ceremonies
On Wednesday afternoon, the second annual “OD Talks” were presented. Similar to TED talks, this event featured three individuals whose experiences with optometry and vision led them down unconventional paths. Daniel Kish, founder of World Access for the Blind, spoke about his experience using echolocation in “seeing” the world, and how he used his methods to teach others worldwide. Sue Barry, Ph.D., spoke of her experience being an esotrope at a young age and how vision therapy allowed her to experience stereo for the first time at age 50. Clark Elliott, Ph.D,. described how a traumatic brain injury caused him to lose much of his higher functioning and was able to regain visual and mental function through vision rehab and progressive changes in his glasses. These presentations gave insight into the care, recovery, and improvement in quality of life that optometry can bring, and informed attendees of the wide-reaching opportunities of the profession.
After the OD talks came the Opening Ceremonies and General Session. Everybody who registered was able to attend this event. Highlights of this event were the AOA Annual Awards Ceremony, which honored the top optometrists, paraoptometrics, and educators in the profession, along with the Distinguished Service Award. The keynote speaker of the event was Dr. Buzz Aldrin, who was part of the historic 1969 Apollo 11 mission to the moon. Dr. Aldrin spoke about continuing the mission of space exploration through the expansion of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) education.
Thursday, June 30 – Exhibit Hall & Varilux Optometric Student Bowl
The biggest event for all attendees was the Grand Opening of the Exhibit Hall. There were booths and vendors for every business and topic imaginable. Whether you were a student, a practicing optometrist, or a paraoptometric member, there were new products and services for you to learn and experience. OptometryStudents.com had a booth at AOA Central where we hung out and chatted with students!
The highlight for students in attendance for the conference was the Varilux Optometric Student Bowl. Each school or college of optometry had a single representative. There was lighthearted competition between the schools as the representatives raced the clock and each other to answer questions ranging from optics to glaucoma meds to pathology. Congratulations to Evan Andrews from Ferris State Michigan College of Optometry for winning overall, and to Southern College of Optometry for winning the Spirit Award! The after party featured a catered dinner, live music, and a raffle in celebration.
Friday, July 1 – CEs & Luxottica Live!
Friday was a busy day for everybody! During the day, the Exhibit Hall and continuing education classes were in full swing. Students attended the AOSA general session and trivia challenge. Afterwards, those interested in pursuing a residency were able to chat with Directors from various residency programs. At night, there were parties and receptions for many of the optometry schools. Luxottica sponsored their annual student-only party, Luxottica Live! at the Royale nightclub, where students enjoyed a “silent disco.” We wore headphones that played the music, rather than an overhead speaker system, and was a great time to relax and enjoy the company of other students.
Saturday, July 2 – Celebration of Optometry
The main events of the conference came to an end with the Hoya-sponsored Celebration of Optometry. After a reception, Broadway entertainers Laura Osnes and Jeff Pew performed a medley of songs from different performances. The AOA and AOSA Boards of Trustees announced their members for the 2016-2017 year (President Andrea Thau, OD at right), and complete results can be found here. The conference came to an end, with a continuing education classes continuing on Sunday. It was a great opportunity to learn, connect, and experience all that the profession has to offer!
Now that you know all about what happened at this year’s meeting, it’s time to start planning for next year’s AOA+ conference in Washington, DC. Registration is forthcoming, but save the dates for June 21-25, 2017. Hope to see all of you there!