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2020 Is a Year ODs Can Be Proud of Despite Challenges, AOA President Says

‘AOA has adapted, and we are now set to move forward and accomplish even more for the profession.’

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2020 has been filled with challenges, but optometrists have risen to the occasion, says William T. Reynolds, president of the American Optometric Association.

Faced with the COVID-19 crisis, social unrest and a turbulent election, the profession has persevered.

“AOA has adapted, and we are now set to move forward and accomplish even more for the profession,” he said. Reynolds delivered his state-of-the-profession address at the virtual 123rd Annual AOA Congress on Dec. 3.

In March, with the pandemic intensifying, the AOA and affiliates announced a crisis relief and recovery plan. The plan included:​

  • Immediate AOA dues relief. All AOA dues waived for two months for all members.
  • Dues and assessment freeze. AOA membership dues and assessment to be maintained at current levels at least through 2021.
  • Direct program reprioritization. The AOA has dedicated an organization-wide response to the immediate crisis-related concerns of doctors and affiliates, extending all AOA advocacy activities (federal, state, payer and media), communications, AOAExcel, practice tools and more.
  • Direct affiliate support. The AOA established a $500,000 fund to assist distressed affiliates.
  • Long-term relief for doctors. The AOA set up an AOA Foundation Optometry Recovery Fund to aid optometry practices, in partnership with industry friends.

Optometrists have been important in providing essential care. AOA notes that in March, when the CDC issued guidance that limited doctors’ care to only urgent and emergent, optometrists cared for more than 206,000 patients in a one-month period.

“The care doctors of optometry provided significantly reduced overcrowding in emergency rooms all across the country,” Reynolds said. “We should all be proud of how the AOA and the entire profession responded during this time of crisis.”

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He noted that AOA and its affiliates are working with state authorities to ensure doctors of optometry are recognized for their primary eyecare provider role and included among the Phase 1a distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We also recognize that doctors are well-positioned to increase the public’s access to these critical immunizations,” he said. “While some states, such as Kentucky and California, permit doctors of optometry to provide vaccinations, the current public health crisis has prompted policy leaders to recommend that states evaluate and expand their health care teams with regard to providing vaccinations.​”

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