James Deom, AOSA Trustee PCO and AOSA National Liaison to AOA PAC
2012 has been a record setting and historical year for the AOA. The Affordable Care Act will potentially add millions of uninsured Americans into the mix to receive vital healthcare services they may have otherwise gone without. . Many who would undoubtedly benefit from our services will now have a much easier time accessing quality vision and eye health care. Optometry is poised to provide key primary intervention and preventative care aiding in the early diagnosis of diabetes and heart disease, which will help decrease the overall cost of health care. With our nation facing an epidemic of metabolically associated syndromes, Optometry’s ability to speed diagnosis through comprehensive dilated exams, timely communication with other physicians, lifestyle change recommendations and other interventions will continue to positively affect the health care system.
Within the health care debate, otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act, pediatric eye care has also been a hot topic. The AOA has backed and pushed for a pediatric vision as a part of the Essential Benefits Package. Providing a comprehensive vision exam benefit that can be used before a child begins school enables parents to be confident their children’s visual system is ready to learn. It also removes the disadvantage of not having a simple pair of glasses or vision therapy to correct a potential learning impediment. These changes have been accomplished because of the efforts of the AOA. The AOA Board of Trustees under the leadership of Immediate Past President Dr. Dori Carlson coupled with the money raised by AOA-PAC have given AOA’s Advocacy Groups and Washington Office the tools and resources to fight and win these battles for the entire profession and Optometrists everywhere, nationwide
This year was historic for another notable reason—students from across the nation recognized more than ever the importance of standing side-by-side with their future colleagues in supporting AOA-PAC. In January, the American Optometric Student Association set out to establish a network of AOA-PAC Representatives consisting of 3rd year students. We asked them to come up with fun and exciting ways to engage students in political dialogue about our profession while inspiring them to get active and support the efforts of our PAC in Washington.
An added value for those students who became members of AOA-PAC was the opportunity to attend AOA’s Advocacy meeting in Washington, D.C. AOA provided housing of those students who felt passionate enough to fund their own travel to attend the Congressional Advocacy Conference and lobby on behalf of our future profession. Almost all optometry schools rallied, and the student support was clearly evident. A record number of students were in attendance at this year’s meeting. These 400 students outnumbered practicing Optometrists in attendance! It was very clear from the student donations to PAC, the number of students in attendance and the participation of students walking the halls of Congress in conjunction with AOA’s Keyperson network that the future of our profession will be in good hands. The students in attendance showed a clear understanding and willingness to meet the current battles as well as future battles that the Optometric profession will have to participate in head on. This next generation of O.D.’s appears willing to carry forward their passion for the profession in numbers to continue to move the profession into the future.
The strength of the student presence at AOA’s Washington D.C. Advocacy Meeting was quite evident. The Congressional offices with whom we visited and shared our passion for our profession took note as well as the participating O.D.’s at the Congressional Advocacy Conference. There was so much excitement towards the AOSA participation that the AOA-PAC Board decided to incentivize and reward those schools that had been outperforming the other schools. AOA PAC’s Board of directors came up with a recognition program based on the percentage of participation at each school coupled with the average donation from that school. Levels were set to recognize those schools that had high performance levels.
For optometrists donating at the State Affiliate level to AOA-PAC there is a merit/ recognition program that allows AOA PAC to recognize those individuals that donate at high dollar levels each year: $365 (Dollar-a-Day), $500 – $999 (Congressional Level), $1000 – $1999 (Presidential Level) and $2000 – $5000 (Visionary Level). These high donors can be recognized by the distinct lapel pins that most wear at Optometric gatherings. AOA-PAC created lapel pins for the new AOSA School levels that are similar in color and shape but are awarded based on school participation and donations not individual giving. Generally student donations are $20/person/year.
The school reward levels are: Representative (25%), Senator (35%) and Advocate (50%) with the appropriate pins rewarded to AOA-PAC participants at the high performing schools. This new program was introduced at Optometry’s Meeting in Chicago and the lapel pins were distributed for the students to wear just as proudly as their high donating AOA colleagues. Student money donated to AOA-PAC goes in the AOA PAC federal account, which is used to support pro-optometry candidates and incumbents running for federal office.
The dollars the students were able to donate this year was astounding compared to previous years. The total AOSA donations were large enough to eclipse and suggest to some state affiliates that they need to raise more PAC dollars. The students banded together even in the face of increased loan repayment percentages and rising tuition costs to donate more dollars than 45 individual state affiliates had raised at the time of the meeting! Furthermore several of the stellar schools (below) independently raised more than 7 individual state affiliates! This as an extremely positive effort from the future of our profession but is also a call to action for practicing optometrists throughout the country. The 6,000+ AOSA members at the Colleges of Optometry look up to you to guide us both professionally and politically. We count on you to continue to lead by example and continue to move Optometry forward – we as future Optometrist need your guidance and leadership.
The most impressive and rewarding moment of this year’s Optometry’s Meeting for those students who supported AOA-PAC this year was the announcement that for the first time, the AOA-PAC Key Person of the Year was awarded to the AOSA. This award is given to the individual, through their work and effort exemplifies the relationship building necessary to create and maintain congressional contacts. The award was accepted by Jen Sidun (AOSA President, UMSL ’13) and James Deom (AOSA Trustee and AOA-PAC National Liaison, PCO ’14) on behalf of all of the students. Both recognized the work of the PAC reps and the AOSA trustees at all the schools that coordinated and helped to make the participation and support of AOA PAC possible. All the students donating to AOA PAC deserve the thanks and recognition for this year’s record setting donation of more than $17,400. Their decision to invest in their future and become an optometry activist and not just a student is what made the difference.
Congratulations to the schools listed below for reaching the participation percentage requirements for recognition in the new AOA-PAC student Advocacy program.
Jen Sidun, AOSA President and James Deom, AOSA Liaison to AOA PAC accept the Key Person of the Year award from AOA President Dr. Dori Carlson at Optometry’s Meeting
The Michigan College of Optometry at Ferris State: Adovocate Level
Pictured is: MCO’s AOA-PAC rep Nina Glauch and Tom Hubbard AOSA trustee
Not pictured: AOA-PAC Rep-elect Brian Tatsak and Ray Yalldo AOSA Trustee-elect
The University of Houston College of Optometry: Senatorial Level
Pictured (L to R): AOSA Trustee-elect Stephanie Lechlitner, AOSA Trustee Megan Hangartner, Brittney Probst, AOA- PAC Rep and Amanda Browning Tucker, AOA-PAC Rep-elect
The Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University: Representative Level
Pictured (L to R): AOSA Trustee and AOA-PAC National Liaison James Deom, AOSA Trustee-elect Jennifer Turano, AOA-Pac rep-elect Hieu Hyuhn, AOA-PAC Rep Taylor Babcock
University of California Berkeley School Of Optometry: Representative Level
Pictured (L to R): Alfred Vong AOA-PAC Rep Elect, Esmeralda McClean AOA-PAC Rep, Jazzi Junge AOSA Trustee, and Michelle Man AOSA Trustee-Elect
The State University of New York College of Optometry: Representative Level
Pictured : Colleen Dye AOSA trustee and Matt Vaughn AOA-PAC-rep
Not Pictured: Stefan Levay-Young AOSA trustee-elect
The Ohio State University College of Optometry: Representative level
Pictured: AOSA Trustee Danny, AOSA Trustee-elect Andrew Steele
Not Pictured: AOA-PAC Rep Katherine Bickle and AOA-PAC Rep-elect Harmin Chima
Northeastern State University College of Optometry: Representative level
Pictured: Blake Carlisle AOA-PAC Rep, Leslie Faulkner AOSA Trustee
Not Pictured: AOSA Trustee elect Casey Dillard