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Optometry’s Meeting Closes With Historic Declaration of Support for Black Optometrists

The four-day affair included a trip to ‘Blink Land,’ hours of education opportunities, and the swearing in of a new AOA president.

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Optometry’s Meeting Closes With Historic Declaration of Support for Black Optometrists
Members of the AOA Board of Trustees met with the Black EyeCare Perspective executive team for the first time in person at Optometry’s Meeting 2023 in Washington, D.C.

Optometry’s Meeting wrapped up Saturday after four days of meetings and education in Washington, D.C.

This years’ annual gathering of American Optometric Association (AOA) and American Optometric Student Association (AOSA) members certainly will be remembered as an historic one:

  • A new AOA president officially was recognized.
  • The AOA pledged its support of the 13% Promise to help increase Black representation in the industry.
  • The AOA’s first mobile game was a hit with attendees.
  • The AOA House of Delegates agreed on four measures that reaffirmed existing resolutions.

New President Elected

Ronald L. Benner, OD, was elected AOA President on June 24 during the 126th Annual AOA Congress & 55th Annual AOSA Conference.

Optometry’s Meeting Closes With Historic Declaration of Support for Black OptometristsDr. Benner previously served on the AOA Board of Trustees, having been elected to that post at the 118th Congress. He also is a past president of the Montana Optometric Association (MOA), earning numerous career service awards from the group.

“As president, I will continue AOA’s mission as the only voice for the entire profession,” Dr. Benner says. “The AOA will remain the leading and uniting force for advancement and protection of the profession. Devaluation of our care by vision plan practices, disrespect of our doctor recognition by medicine and needless mandates by overreaching government agencies will meet AOA head on this next year. We will not back down, concede or pause our advancement and expanded care for the public at the state or federal levels.”

Dr. Benner owns and operates his private practice in Laurel, MT, just west of Billings, the state’s largest city with a population near 120,000. He is a graduate of Pacific University College of Optometry.

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Pledge of Support

The AOA Board of Trustees meet with the Black EyeCare Perspective Executive Team for the first time in person. The key topic of discussion was how to proactively improve and create opportunities for Black optometrists.

The groups made an historic agreement pledging to work together.

New AOA President Ronald Benner committed the association to the 13% Promise alongside Black EyeCare Perspective leaders Adam Ramsey, OD, Darryl Glover, OD, Essence Johnson, OD, and Jacobi Cleaver, OD.

“This is an important moment for us because the AOA has been deliberate and thoughtful in everything we do when it comes to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in our profession, today and in the future,” says Dr. Benner.

Black EyeCare Perspective was created to promote diversity in the eyecare industry. Currently, more than 13% of the U.S. population identifies as Black or African American. Less than 2% of practicing optometrists in the nation can say the same.

You can learn more about the 13% Promise here.

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It’s Game Time

The AOA’s new mobile game Blink Land was one of the highlights of the event.

Attendees enjoyed playing the association’s first foray into the mobile gaming space in Eye Care Square. The game, which is part of the AOA’s Eye Deserve More campaign, was designed to educate as it entertains.

Players learn about the connection between eye heath and screen time as they play the game.

Optometry’s Meeting Closes With Historic Declaration of Support for Black Optometrists

AOA House of Delegates members from across the country elected a new president and a host of new Board of Trustees during Optometry’s Meeting 2023.

Board of Trustees 

During the final House of Delegates session, members from across the country inducted a new Board of Trustees.

  • Steven T. Reed, O.D., (Mississippi) as president-elect;
  • Jacquie M. Bowen, O.D., (Colorado) as vice president;
  • Teri K. Geist, O.D., (Nebraska) as secretary-treasurer;
  • Robert C. Layman, O.D., (Ohio), immediate past president;
  • Terri A. Gossard, O.D., M.S., (Ohio), reelected trustee;
  • Curtis A. Ono, O.D., (Washington) reelected trustee; and
  • Tad R. Kosanovich, O.D., (Florida) newly elected.

Continuing their terms are Belinda R. Starkey, O.D., (Arkansas), Paul M. Barney, O.D., (Alaska), and Marrie S. Read, O.D., MBA, (Armed Forces and Federal Optometric Services).

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Resolutions Approved

  1. Calls on all stakeholders to evaluate the impact of current health and vision plan compensation models on the potential future availability of the highest level of patient care. The AOA and its affiliate associations are asked to work with state and federal legislatures and agencies to ensure enforcement of current laws regulating health and vision plans, and to take steps to ensure reasonable plan structures and valuation practices for health and vision plan benefit.
  2. Reaffirms AOA’s position that vision therapy is an integral part of optometric practice only to be practiced by doctors of optometry, ophthalmologists and other qualified professionals and that vision therapy and orthoptics by an unlicensed person, unless supervised by a qualified health care professional, is contrary to the best interest of the public.
  3. Encourages student/new doctor attendance at future AOA+, AOA and affiliate events as well as lifelong membership.
  4. Spotlights AOA’s highly successful Eye Deserve More public awareness campaign. A fifth resolution clarifies the definition of “federal government employee” for membership eligibility in the Armed Forces Optometric Society.

Check out the Optometry’s Meeting news page for more from this years’ event and upcoming news and updates.

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