Memphis, TN (January 9, 2013): Various legislators and state board members gathered at Southern College of Optometry (SCO) for its fifth annual State Day. The purpose of the event is for students to become more aware of the necessity to become involved with the legislative processes of our profession, which was exemplified by speeches, presentations, and panel discussions throughout the morning. The afternoon was dedicated for more one-on-one conversations with the state and national leaders in attendance, and most state board members hosted dinners for the students who are involved in their associated state clubs at school.
Picture below: Steve Loomis, OD (speaking) and LA State Senator David Heitmeier, OD (sitting)
After SCO President Dr. Richard Phillips welcomed all those who attended, Dr. Steve Loomis, AOA Secretary-Treasurer, began the morning with an insightful presentation on how our profession has developed through the years. In particular, Dr. Loomis talked about the types of medications and treatments optometrists can prescribe as a direct result of the involvement of optometrists with legislators.
During panel discussions, state legislators spoke candidly on the the past, present, and future relationship between legislation and optometry. An emcee fielded questions from the students in the audience for the panel to discuss with each other and the students. Other members of the audience included the state board members and (self-proclaimed) lobbyists who also tapped into the Q & A segment, which was highly beneficial, as it gave another perspective on the marriage of politics and optometry.
However, not all speeches and presentations focused solely on legislation. Louisiana State Senator David Heitmeier, who is also an optometrist in the New Orleans area, touched on the importance of developing friendships with the peers in each class, as he recalled how his classmates from school contacted him to lend a helping hand after Hurricane Katrina destroyed his practice in 2005.
Students were able to network with the state legislators and officials during the afternoons at designated booths in the SCO Activity Center. This was a great opportunity to ask questions on any topic, whether or not they were covered in the morning’s presentations and discussions. Most conversations were carried over to dinners during the evening since state clubs also made reservations for various restaurants in Memphis to conclude the day’s event.
The event was highly beneficial for both the students and leaders who attended. SCO started the event five years ago, and some schools have already implemented similar events. I strongly encourage all schools to hold an event such as State Day, so all students can gain an early appreciation for the hard-working leaders of our profession and take early strides in adapting to our changing world to ensure optometry stays as a top tier profession.
- Alabama: Martha Rosemore Morrow, OD ’74, Mark Shirey, OD ’00, Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow
- Arkansas: Vicki Farmer, Rusty Simmons, OD ’83, Matt Jones, OD ’09
- Colorado: Steve Loomis, OD – AOA Secretary/Treasurer
- Georgia: Tom Spetalnick, OD, Kelly Spetalnick, OD
- Illinois: Michael Hortsman, Charleen Marsh, Jeff Kempf, OD ‘01
- Iowa: Amanda Wood, OD ’02, Jarod Wood, OD ’02
- Kentucky: Steve Compton, OD ’78, Amanda Higdon, OD ’07, Brett Abney, OD ’99
- Louisiana: James Sandefur, OD ’65, William Gordon, OD ’82, State Senator David Heitmeier, OD
- Missouri: Former Rep. Terry Swinger, OD ’64
- Mississippi: Greg Loose, OD ’06, Brad Thompson, OD ’99
- Tennessee: Tonya Reynoldson, OD ’01, David Talley, OD, Rep. Gary Odom
- South Carolina: John W.L. Smith, OD ’80, Michael Campbell, OD
- West Virginia: Rebecca St. Jean, OD ’97
- Texas: Mario Contaldi, OD ’84, Fred Farias, OD ’87
- AOA: Stacey Liles, Rick Savoy, OD (Former Faculty Representative to AOA)