U.S. Congress Authorizes First Optometrist for Advisory Panel on Improving Healthcare Systems

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WASHINGTON, D.C.—For the first time, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) has appointed an optometrist to its advisory panel on Improving Healthcare Systems. On Tuesday, Feb. 25, the board of governors of PCORI approved the American Optometric Association’s (AOA) chief public health officer, Michael R. Duenas, OD, for a three-year term on its advisory panel on Improving Healthcare Systems.

The panel, authorized by the U.S. Congress, guides national priorities for research and improving health care delivery. It is one of four PCORI panels established April 1, 2013 in accordance with federal law to prioritize clinical research that helps develop the best evidence-based information for patients and caregivers to reference and make informed decisions that lead to an overall improvement in health care outcomes. While PCORI's advisory panels do not make policy, their guidance helps the institute refine its research and other activities to improve health care delivery and outcomes nationwide.

Nearly 300 systemic diseases have ties to vision and eye health, but without the evidence base, those ties are not as tight as they may need to be to protect and preserve the public health, according to Duenas. His research includes public health and epidemiology, linkages between chronic disease and visual impairment, environmental health, risk assessment, disease prevention and measuring access to care to improve quality of life at all life stages.

“This is a well-deserved recognition for one of our own, Dr. Duenas, for the AOA, and for our entire profession,” said Mitchell T. Munson, OD, AOA president. “Dr. Duenas will be at the table as an equal partner with a wide range of other health care stakeholders as this new panel takes on its national role in improving health care delivery and outcomes.”

Dr. Duenas was selected from among 331 applicants to fill an open seat on one of two panels and will be recognized as a “clinician” with AOA being his “primary affiliation.” He brings more than 30 years of experience in private clinical and hospital-based optometry practice, in addition to his service with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Commission on Vision and Health.

“I believed in the importance of PCORI as I watched its conception in the U.S. Congress,” Duenas said. “I knew then, as I know now, that a patient-centered comparative research agenda, with a vision and eye health overlay, would be critical to informing our developing health systems. I am pleased to provide this overlay."