CHICAGO—The American Optometric Association’s (AOA) Optometry’s Meeting adjourned Saturday (June 18) after four days of continuing education, important association business and other activities designed to invigorate networking by nearly 4,000 doctors of optometry, optometric students and paraoptometrics attending the meeting here in Chicago. James P. DeVleming, OD, of Washington state, was sworn in Saturday as president of the AOA, becoming the 101st president of the optometric professional organization. Also on the final day of Optometry’s Meeting, the House of Delegates filled vacancies on AOA’s Board of Trustees and ratified resolutions encouraging student participation and resources for expanding scope of practice.

The Board of Trustees helps establish AOA policy and advocates for the profession, both at the state and federal levels; helps broaden optometry’s scope of practice nationwide; protects and defends the profession; and expands the public’s access to quality eye health and vision care.

The results of the Board of Trustees’ election and 2022-2023 Board of Trustees members are:

  • President James P. DeVleming, OD, of Washington.
  • President-elect Ronald L. Benner, OD, of Montana.
  • Vice president Steven T. Reed, OD, of Mississippi.
  • Secretary-treasurer Jacquelyn “Jacquie” M. Bowen, OD, of Colorado.
  • Immediate past president Robert C. Layman, OD, of Ohio.
  • Paul M. Barney, OD, of Alaska (newly elected).
  • Marrie S. Read, OD, MBA, Armed Forces Optometric Society (newly elected).
  • Belinda R. Starkey, OD, of Arkansas (reelected).
Not up for election this year but continuing to serve as AOA Trustees are Teri K. Geist, OD, of Nebraska; Terri A. Gossard, OD, MS, of Ohio; and Curtis Ono, OD, of Washington.

In taking office, Dr. DeVleming reflected on moving the profession forward. As the world and the practice of optometry has evolved, so must the AOA, but not without the backing of a strong board and membership, he said.

“It is time for our association to evolve again,” Dr. DeVleming said in announcing the AOA’s New Practice Success Group, which he described as “our reprioritization [and] a structural realignment of the AOA’s deep bench of volunteer expertise.” The group will:

  • Focus new attention on key payer issues.
  • Bring new data to the forefront to help strengthen AOA advocacy on behalf of practices.
  • Expand membership recruitment strength by offering tangible member benefits.
  • Offer additional support to member doctors.
  • Increase cross-organization collaboration.
“It doesn’t matter how you practice or where you practice, you need to ensure your practice is healthy,” Dr. DeVleming said. “A healthy practice is one that has the best, most educated and efficient paraoptometric staff and the best equipment to allow you to provide the best care. The Practice Success Group activation will deploy new strategies to push back against those that limit our ability to best care for patients by unilaterally closing doctor panels or forcing us to take lesser plans just so we might be able to access the medical plans.”

He added, “It is time we received an increase in reimbursement levels from payers who have profited tremendously from the care we provide while only giving us a pittance of the income they receive from their covered lives. … It costs more to live, work and provide care in the world than it did in the late 1990s, and it is time we get reimbursed at a level commensurate with the changes we have all done for our care and education ... We cannot sit idly by. We are going to work to make fair reimbursement a priority moving forward. It is our association’s duty to help our members grow, and we take that responsibility very seriously,” Dr. DeVleming said.

The reprioritization will mean a change in the AOA volunteer committee structure in order to create even more synergy, creation of tools and resources to help practices succeed, leveraging the AOA’s relationship with its membership management partner agency and continuation of the AOA’s “Eye Deserve More” campaign to educate the public, according to AOA.

In addition, AOA’s House of Delegates adopted a few resolutions at the meeting, including:

  • Support student attendance at AOA+ and other AOA and AOA-affiliate association events. The rationale behind the resolution was the positive appearance by more than 2,300 students of optometry who traveled to Washington, D.C., in 2017 for an inaugural AOA+ event during Optometry’s Meeting.
  • Amendment of Resolution 2011 that the AOA continue to encourage all AOA-affiliated associations to utilize the resources developed by the Advanced Procedure and Future Practice Education Task Force and the Future Practice Initiative. AOA shall encourage all AOA-affiliated associations to promote these resources to their members, and the AOA continue to explore additional ways to assist the affiliated associations in initiatives to expand or defend their optometric practice acts.