New AOA president to focus on advancing optometry, improving care
ST. LOUIS – Barbara L. Horn, OD, who practices in South Carolina, will be inducted as the 2019-2020 American Optometric Association president on June 22 during the association’s annual meeting.
Horn spoke with Primary Care Optometry News about her plans for her presidency and the relevance of the AOA to practicing optometrists.
PCON: What are some existing initiatives that you look forward to spearheading during your term?
Horn: AOA Future Practice Initiative. With doctors of optometry in more than 10,000+ communities across the country, we are a critical key to primary eye health care for all Americans and could make access a reality for 99% of our nation's patients. This is why the AOA Board of Trustees set an agenda to expand optometric scope of practice throughout the country by establishing the Future Practice Initiative (FPI). FPI reflects a long-term commitment to expand support for states who lay the groundwork and make the decision to modernize their state laws to enable doctors of optometry to practice to their full skill set. The AOA is working with interested states to improve their chances for victory with legal, legislative, grassroots advocacy, strategic and lobbying support through AOA’s expanding State Government Relations Committee.
In the sophomore year of FPI – 2020 – I’m dedicated to continuing to provide state affiliates with resources to fight for access, ensure continuity of patient care, and keep the practice and profession of optometry on the leading edge.
Focus on m embership. AOA membership will be a major focus for the AOA in the upcoming year. I’m looking forward to carrying on the "United in Possibilities" nationwide membership campaign, which is getting noticed by not only prospective members but also industry leaders who recognized AOA's campaign for excellence, innovation and achievement. On May 1, the American Society of Association Executives announced that the initiative earned a 2019 Gold Circle Award in the Membership Recruitment Campaign category.
This award, like all that the AOA achieves, reflects the essential, high-quality care our doctors of optometry deliver every day in communities across America. We will maintain a laser-like focus on serving our members and their patients while supporting the continued advancement of the practice and profession of optometry.
PCON: What new projects or programs do you intend on introducing?
Horn: #2020EyeExam. Given the tie-in with 20/20 vision, we are seizing the year 2020 to spotlight optometry’s essential and expanding role in health care and to leverage the collective power of AOA doctors and students to educate the public about the importance of comprehensive eye exams. We plan to utilize every possible mode of communication to get the word out, while engaging members, health care providers, employers and the public in that message: Let’s all work together to make 2020 the year to get your in-person, comprehensive eye exam with an AOA family doctor of optometry.
Engaging with c olleges and s chools of o ptometry. My goal is to inspire future leaders and increase the student transition to lifelong membership. There is an opportunity to get them informed to help increase public awareness and contribute to the professional standing of the profession. This is why I’m eager to invigorate students and young ODs and keep them involved in organized optometry. To that end, the AOA will be holding board meetings on campuses of optometry schools and colleges, working directly with them to include the faculty and show students the value of involvement. We plan to hit as many schools as we can, to get them enthusiastic about the AOA’s opportunities for education, networking, career and profession advancement
PCON: What do you see as the AOA’s role and value to practicing optometrists?
Horn: AOA is the leading authority on quality care and an advocate for doctors of optometry as well as our nation's health. AOA’s mission is centered on improving the quality and availability of eye and vision care. Doctors may underestimate the extent to which AOA advocates for the profession and serves optometrists in meeting the eye care needs of the public.
I wish everyone could see the inner workings of the AOA, its groups, committees, staff, etc. The details of what the AOA does 24/7/365 for our patients and the profession is overwhelming and impressive! If doctors could see even just 10% of what an AOA officer sees of our successful organization, they would undoubtedly be amazed. AOA is the only organization that safeguards, advances and continues to represent and protect us all. By supporting AOA with membership, ODs are supporting their own livelihood. We all need to be members to keep optometry strong for our patients.
PCON: How can the AOA do a better job going forward?
Horn: We must prioritize key opportunities to advance and protect optometry. In effect, the AOA is working with doctors to continue to improve and identify innovative solutions to some of the greatest challenges ODs face today.
For instance, we recognize the threats to the doctor-patient relationship created by untested and unsafe technologies. As America’s primary eye care providers, doctors of optometry are called upon to educate patients, regulators, legislators and policymakers on the differences between technologies that advance patient care and those that ultimately act as a barrier. The challenge for us will be to develop forward-looking optometric action plans by embracing new technologies that are evidence-based and maintain and even elevate the standard of in-person care for our patients.
Leading up to and during 2020, AOA is mobilizing the profession in examining emerging issues, creating opportunities for discussion and, most importantly, determining the actions we need to take to address the future needs of the profession. These key areas include technology, scope of practice, health care provider engagement and public awareness. While the fight may seem formidable, optometry is perfectly poised to take it all on thanks in large part to the work of the AOA. The future of the industry will depend on how we rise up to meet these challenges. United together with our state affiliates and active members, we are committed to advocating for our profession and for change. – interviewed by Nancy Hemphill, ELS, FAAO
Disclosure: Horn is incoming president of the AOA.