Optometry’s Meeting 2014 in Philadelphia: we came, we saw, we learned...and had a fantastic time doing so! Like any major event one tirelessly prepares for, now that it is but a memory, we can thankfully take pleasure in the immense relief and satisfaction that comes with a successful outcome and job well done.
Pennsylvania had not hosted an AOA meeting for over 50 years. What an opportunity! When the POA first learned that Optometry’s Meeting was to be held in Philadelphia in 2014, we knew there was much work ahead of us. I personally understood that this event would also be a major defining element of my presidential year. What an exciting honor it was to address my colleagues at the beginning of President’s Council, and later that day, officially welcome everyone to Philadelphia at the Opening General Session. I offered not only sincere greetings on behalf of the POA members, Board and staff, but also provided those in attendance a history lesson about the famous Philadelphian, John McAllister: the father of American Optometry. You can learn more about the “first family of American Optometry” in a short history written by Dr. Robert Owens at poaeyes.blogspot.com
There are several highlights I would like to share from the meeting. At the Opening Ceremony, I was thrilled to share the stage with “one of our own,” Roberta Beers. I have often said that the PA Paraoptometric Association and the paraoptometric profession in this country would not be what it is today without Roberta, specifically due to her enthusiastic dedication and perpetual volunteerism. The American Optometric Association obviously felt the same and selected her as the 2014 AOA Paraoptometric of the Year. Little known fact: Roberta is the fifth paraoptometric professional from Pennsylvania to receive this award! The ceremony concluded with a keynote presentation from Olympic gold medal winner, ice skating commentator, and cancer survivor Scott Hamilton.
Bright and early Thursday morning the House of Delegates began with the traditional procession of state flags, each one being carried by the president of each respective state affiliate. I proudly waved our state coat of arms walking beside the president of Hawaii, whom I have gotten to know through the past several President’s Council meetings. If you read my first editorial, you will recall my passion for the 50th state! Pennsylvania was well-represented by 18 delegates that were made up of POA Board members, past POA presidents and local society presidents. To hear more about the House of Delegates – what topics were discussed, resolutions voted on and who was elected as the new AOA Board trustee – look for the article written by Dr. Richard Christoph, to be published in the next Keystoner.
The POA member reception was held on Thursday evening in the Marriott hotel. Thanks to the generous support of the Philadelphia County Optometric Society, we had a very special guest at our reception: Benjamin Franklin! In addition to enjoying dessert, coffee and photo-ops with the iconic inventor of bifocals, another historic figure “worked” the room: John McAllister (rather, Dr. Robert Owens donning his finest colonial attire as the father of American optometry). During the reception we recognized the 2014 POA award winners and Roberta Beers for her AOA award. Attendees left with a special souvenir to commemorate Optometry’s Meeting 2014: a unique lapel pin designed for the event displaying the POA logo surrounded by a liberty bell. Dr. Richard Christoph did the major design of the pin’s logo, but production was made possible by the support of the Berks County, Lehigh Valley and Northeastern Pennsylvania Optometric Societies, as well as Dr. Barbara Yanak.
On Friday morning, Dr. Charles Stuckey, Dr. Richard Christoph and I hosted the Northeast Optometric Forum breakfast meeting. These meetings are attended by the President, President-Elect and Executive Director of each northeast state affiliate and Ohio. Due to POA’s proficiency in the area of third party issues, this was the primary meeting agenda topic and triggered lively discussion. We also had the opportunity to interview Dr. James DeVleming, an optometrist from eastern Washington state running for the open one-year AOA trustee position. To end the meeting, attendees were challenged with a short Philadelphia trivia contest whose questions were developed by yours truly!
I cannot help mentioning a unique opportunity that was bestowed upon me and fellow POA Board members Dr. Steven Eiss and Dr. Rebecca Wincek-Bateson. We were asked by the AOA Board to act as local ambassadors to dignitaries from Canada (Dr. Paul Geneau, president of the Canadian Association of Optometrists, and Dr. Barry Thienes, president-elect of the CAO and Dr. Susan Cooper, president of the World Council of Optometry) on Thursday evening; and from China (Mr. Cui Yi, chairman of the China Optometric and Optical Association, and fellow Chinese optical colleagues and optometric educators) on Friday evening. It was truly a testament to how respect, camaraderie and laughter know no language or cultural barrier!
After sitting in continuing education lectures or the House of Delegates all day, there were thankfully events that helped us end Friday and Saturday with some collegiality and entertainment. Many POA members attended the Pennsylvania College of Optometry reception and student outreach program fundraiser on Friday evening at the National Constitution Center. The Celebration of Optometry was held on Saturday evening in the ballroom of the Convention Center. Sponsored yearly by Hoya, this year’s event featured famous actor and comedian Martin Short. He sang, danced and showcased some of his beloved characters from Saturday Night Live and the movie Father of the Bride. It was a fitting way to end a spectacular conference!
Finally, I must take this opportunity to thank the POA staff; especially Ilene Sauertieg, Deb Blanchard and Kelsey Rodkey for the months of hard work preparing for Optometry’s Meeting in Philadelphia, but also for their support and oversight during the event. Of note, I received very positive feedback from President’s Council attendees regarding the Philadelphia Finder emails (listing must-see attractions, where to eat, shop, etcetera) developed by our POA staff from member suggestions, and sent out to all state affiliates prior to the meeting.
For those of you who attended Optometry’s Meeting this year, I hope you left Philadelphia with additional knowledge and many good memories. It was wonderful to personally hear from many out-of-state optometrists who enjoyed their time in the “city of brotherly love.” I know it was a week that the POA staff and Board will not soon forget. So, on to Optometry’s Meeting 2015: Seattle…the Pennsylvania Optometric Association certainly set the “state host” bar high. Good luck, Optometric Physicians of Washington!
Marianne Boltz, O.D., F.A.A.O.