The AOA – Working For Your Future & Our Profession

I said it before and I will say it again…

…the profession of optometry faces pressures from the federal government, state governments, other medical professions and from optometrists themselves and it is the American Optometric Association (AOA) that keeps our profession healthy, growing and moving in a positive direction. To sum it up, if you want a strong optometry profession you need a strong AOA.

After attending several AOSA and AOA meetings I have begun to realize more of what the AOA does for optometry and they really take on an impressive responsibility.

The AOA is basically your insurance policy for your career as an optometrist. All that money and time you spent on undergrad and optometry school is a HUGE investment so it makes sense to support an organization that insures your future and your investment in yourself.

By the way, you are already a member of AOA because of your unified membership with AOSA. So take the opportunity to read this article to see what great resources the AOA has for you.

Also a quick note to pre-optometry students: Do your research on the AOA, for when it comes time for your interview, it looks really good to have an idea about the organization that has kept our profession around for over 100 years.

At SUNY Optometry I had some great exposure to the AOA, learning about the organization not only from fellow students but also from lots of my professors. Last spring, Dr. Barry Barresi, the executive director of the AOA came to our school and took us all out to an open bar and dinner event at a local venue in the city and brought with him a few of the local doctors and staff from SUNY. It was a night of “behind the scenes” fun and laughs, learning about the profession, hearing great stories and meeting some of the more influential individuals in optometry. At the end of the night Dr. Barresi had a word with the students in the corner of the venue, back by the pool tables, drink in hand. What he said that night I will never forget and neither will the students who were nodding their heads in agreement with his message about Optometry being our profession and how we hold the key to its future. This guy was actually the former Dean at SUNY, and was a faculty member at SCCO and NECO so he really empathizes with the students combine excitement and anxiety about the future.

(One story Dr. Barresi told us was about how he wrote down all his clinical gems over 4 years of school, when he was finished, he had enough to write a text book shown here!)

Aside from that experience I also had the pleasure to stop by the St. Louis AOA office while doing some summer traveling. I was able to meet some of the staff members and hang out with the individuals who have done so much for the students since 1898. It was really cool to meet them and to see the HUGE amount of work and effort that goes into making sure Optometry is not only safe and sound but also growing and prospering. If you are ever in St. Louis for some reason, give me an e-mail and I will see if I can get you a tour of the building and a meet and greet with some of the staff, they are all SUPER nice and down to earth people. Seriously just shoot me an e-mail, I got you 😉

The American Optometric Association represents approximately 36,000 doctors of optometry, optometry students and paraoptometric assistants and technicians. Together, the AOA and its affiliates work to provide the public with quality vision and eye care. Now the sentence “represents 36,000 doctors of optometry” is very broad, so read below to see what I mean.

New Health Care Reform
To show an example of how the AOA has a positive impact for our profession lets look at the recent health care overhaul in Washington. The AOA lobbied in Washington for many months to make sure that optometry made big advances for the new 2014 health care system. Here is a list of these recent positive changes brought by the AOA.

  • Establishment of the first ever, Federal standard of provider non-discrimination act. This expanded patent access to optometric care by saying “no health plan or insurer may discriminate against any health provider acting within the scope of that providers license or certification.”
  • It protects doctors of optometry from being unfairly excluded by insurance companies from practicing under the capacity of their training and licensure on a federal level.
  • Recognition of vision care in school-based health clinics and designation of children’s vision care as an essential health benefit.
  • Exemption for eyeglasses and contact lenses from a 2.9% medical device tax, saving money for patients and making vision care more affordable.


  • Our Future As OD’s- The AOA has a huge federal advocacy effort, giving us students (and OD’s) a voice in organized optometry, making sure that any federal legislation being passed in Washington has a positive effect for optometrists. Many other medical professions have efforts to slow optometry’s growth, but the AOA has focused all of their efforts on expanding optometrists’ scope of practice.

  • Optometry Career Center- This one is for the students and recent grads! Simply put, this is such a good resource for trying to find a job. It takes the guesswork out of finding the right practice for you to work at and possibly own one day!
  • Dr. Carlson Optometry School Tour – The President Elect  of the AOA is coming to all the optometry schools to speak with the students about Optometry and to provide her professional advice on success. Be sure to read her blog to see when she is coming to your school!

  • Practice Resources- provides educational programs for optometrists and staff that are designed to teach them clinical and practice management essentials. This area also provides services in the areas of marketing & purchasing, human resources and practice management. Lastly this feature gives members savings on valuable business, finance and insurance products and services for your practice.

  • AOA TV- This is such a sweet resource for when you want optometry news without reading, (we do enough reading when study). This is a monthly video that gives professional news and advice about everything going on in optometry. Check this one out FOR SURE!
  • – This is a web-based resource for information and free webinars about procedure and diagnosis codes. This is a great one for students fresh out of school that need to brush up on coding and billing. I have heard from so many OD’s that the way to MAKE MONEY in this profession is to really understand coding and billing so check this one out. Also they provide expert advice via e-mail to coding pro’s who can answer all your questions.

  • AOA Practice Transitions- A comprehensive one-day course covering the fundamental steps to successful change in management at a practice. This one is so great for students to check out. This has really great info if you want to buy a practice, and really covers all the bases.

  • AOAconnect- membership to a great online social network just for optometrists and optometry students. (The Facebook of optometry)
  • Ophthalmic Resources On-Demand- This resource is an online application that offers access to valuable ophthalmic product information, patient assistance programs, patient education tools and clinical product information tools. You can do cool stuff like request product samples which is great for when you are just getting into practice.

  • Optometry’s Meeting- For students this one is about having 3-4 night, crazy fun adventures in the month of June with students from optometry schools all over the country. For OD’s the same except they get a chance to keep up with some of the BEST continuing education courses provided.
  • AOA Electronic Health Records Preparedness Program- This is a continuing education course that provides all the information necessary on how to get electronic health records into your practice.

  • Optometric Clinical Practice Guidelines- this is great resource for updating your knowledge about the current and most scientifically backed way to perform clinical procedures. It really represents the most up to date guidelines for current optometric care.

  • News- The AOA gives you great new resources about what is going on in optometry. and

  • Vision Web- The AOA hooks you up with a third party that offers the largest network of ophthalmic product suppliers and medical insurance payers in the industry, making it easier to order products and process claims.

  • Publications- Providing publications, periodicals and information of events that effect optometry so you can stay on top of your game.

So that is really just some of the cool stuff that the AOA does for you.

I highly recommend you get you join the AOA facebook group because its the easiest way to see interesting AOA updates.

Also check out their other channels like AOAconnect so you can network with OD’s and students from other optometry schools.

I am sure that over the years I will have more exposure to the AOA and I hope they come around to more of the Optometry schools to tell us more about what they do. I mean they have been around since 1898 so I am sure they have a pretty sweet story to tell. All in all I think that the simple fact that they win political battles for us optometrists and make sure our profession is growing is more then enough to be a member. To sum it up, if you want a strong optometry profession you need a strong AOA.

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[ Sources of information: and the AOA Annual Report 2009-2010 and AOA Online Magazine]

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