In late 2014, your POA board, staff and committee volunteers recently spent a day in Hershey making plans for the next year, as we have done annually for many years. With 25 committees and over 75 individual volunteers, it is impossible to outline all the initiatives and goals we have set forth. However, I do want to give you some highlights.
Our Student Membership Task Force has expanded their focus to include doctors who graduated within the last five years. We have made great inroads with the students in terms of educating them about the importance of professional association membership, but we still find we are only retaining about 50% of them as members beyond the fourth year after graduation. They have already started developing programs to get our newest members engaged and active so that they understand the benefits of membership right from the beginning of their careers.
The Pediatric Vision Care Committee has been tasked with evaluating the requirements for children to have eye examinations prior to starting school. As you are all undoubtedly aware children in Pennsylvania are required to have a dental exam before beginning school, but the only requirement for vision is a screening performed by the school nurse. In the past, we have made great progress in improving the quality and effectiveness of those screenings by working directly with school nurses, but now we are going to take a fresh look at requiring a comprehensive exam by an eye doctor.
The Third Party Center, in addition to their ongoing work ensuring that optometry is treated fairly by third party payers, has been studying the legislative initiatives in other states to limit requirements placed by vision plans. Working closely with the AOA legislative team and other state associations they have developed a legislative initiative that you will be hearing much more about in the near future.
The Legislative Affairs Committee has also been working with the AOA legislative team to keep appraised of action in other states. One of the issues that has been popping up in other states is refractive kiosks and online “examinations.” Obviously there is no eye health component to these “exams,” which puts the public at risk. We are evaluating our current statues to determine if additional legislation is required to regulate this practice. The committee is, of course, continuing to work to protect our current scope of practice and to remove the outdated restrictions that exist in our current Optometric Practice Act. Expect to hear more details about these efforts in the near future.
I’m very proud to announce that our committee chairs and volunteers raised over $10,000 in POPAC donations at our planning meeting. The Board of Directors and most of the committees have committed to a minimum of $500 per year in ongoing support for POPAC. If we want to pass legislation it will require that same level of commitment from the rest of you. If you aren’t already giving on a monthly or quarterly basis, please call the POA office and make the pledge.
I’m looking forward to a very active year as the POA President. With an ambitious agenda, and an energized committee structure, I’m confident we will make great strides in advancing our profession. I hope to see all of you at a POA function, or local society meeting this year, but if you have any questions or concerns feel free to contact me any time via email at DrChristoph@verizon.net.
Richard Christoph, O.D.