Black History Month is annually celebrated in February as a celebration of the many contributions made in the United States and around the world by those of African descent. UIWRSO is a very diverse school and this may be why our National Optometric Student Association (NOSA) chapter is always so active. To continue tradition the RSO student chapter of NOSA hosted its 3rd annual Black History month celebration event. This year, the students invited a well-known guest speaker from the San Antonio area. He is the founder and CEO of one of the nation’s top education corporations, The National School Improvement Corporation (NSI) as well as an internationally-recognized motivational speaker, author, and training consultant for corporations, school districts, and organizations worldwide. Dr. Ron Kelley is a charismatic speaker that captured the audience’s breath. I have read about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. many times, but I have never heard the story of his life before he became a civil rights activist. Dr. Kelley brought MLK’s story to life and it was very inspirational.
How TOA helped developed my networking and leadership skills
My political optometry involvement grows concurrently with my public health efforts. I am drawn to the legislative side of optometry because many life changing vision programs like the InfantSEE® program was established due to optometrists lobbying and networking with state representatives and senators.
I’ve been to multiple optometry board meetings with the Texas Optometric Association (TOA) and I would like to explain the organization of the optometric societies in America. Every state has a board that represents all the optometrist residing in that state. The board may include optometrists, public health advocates, administrators, accountants, membership directors, etc; together the board runs the association with or without dues from participating/supporting optometrists in the state. These optometric associations are formed to ensure that those who have earned the title of Doctor of Optometry have the opportunity to practice their profession to the fullest extent possible.
Many optometry students do not realize that the state optometric associations and the American Optometric Association (AOA) are closely connected. AOA board members will visit and sit in on the state meetings while state associations presidents gather at least twice a year at the Optometry’s Meeting or the Presidents’ Council Meeting. Also the student optometric associations at each school can support the state associations by encouraging students to lobby or educate fellow students about the laws that the state is trying to pass, as well as donate or pay dues to support their cause. Optometry students often join the American Optometric Student Association (AOSA) and in doing so they are also supporting and a member of their state student optometric association. Before my experiences with the TOA, I had no idea that there is such an organized network that keeps our profession strong. If you would like to read more about the history of optometry please click here for a timeline.
I am an officer of the Student Texas Optometric Association (STOA) because I want to take an active part in the political association that opens doors for optometrists as well as improves the visual welfare of the people. Jason Ngo (President, STOA) and me (Treasurer/Secretary) are invited to the Texas Optometric Association board meetings to keep up to date about what the TOA board is planning and learned of their successes or what needs to be changed. I was impressed by the leadership and organization that they possessed; they are encouraging and positive when discussing their agenda and I can feel how their camaraderie fuels the team’s success! The board also taught me the importance of networking with other leaders. The board members would introduce themselves to us, and I’m grateful because I was really nervous at my first board meeting. I appreciate this opportunity to learn from these leaders. I would also like to mention that any optometry student in Texas can attend these board meetings if they let their STOA officers know in advance. I hope that optometry students can take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.
The Texas Optometric Association (TOA) mission statement: “Doctors of Optometry working together to advance excellence in eyecare for every Texan.” To show our support, the UIWRSO STOA created hoodies that incorporates the TOA mission statement.
This video follows my journey through Optometry’s Meeting 2014! To read my blog on OM13 please click here.
Summary of student events in Optometry’s Meeting:
The largest event at the 117th Annual AOA Congress & 44th Annual AOSA Conference: Optometry’s Meeting is the Varilux® Optometry Student Bowl™ XXIII and Reception. This event reminds me of a large-scale academic decathlon, where optometric questions are asked and the contestants must buzz in and answer correctly for points.
UIWRSO’s contestant to the student bowl was Joey Allen, Class of 2015! Joey fought through the first round but eventually got knocked out in a 3 way tie! This year David Nguyen from SCCO was the Varilux® Optometry Student Bowl™ contestant who took home the championship trophy! The students from MCPHS University were raising the roof and earned the Spirit Award, meaning they get to create the official rules video for the student bowl. The students from NSUOCO claimed the Virtual Spirit Award, hence had front row seats to the event. Congratulations to PCO for winning the t-shirt contest!
For more info on the Optometry Student bowl please watch my other video.
I would like to thank UIWRSO alumnus and blogger Linh Phan for accommodating UIWRSO students. I would also like that thank Allergan for generously providing me a travel grant to OM14! Finally, thank you UIWRSO students who attended and made this year’s RSO representation in Optometry’s meeting so fun and strong!
On July 19th, I drove the UIWRSO van full of volunteers to Morgan’s Wonderland, an amusement park for mentally and physically handicapped people. I was glad to see the number of happy volunteers willing to wake up so early on a Saturday morning to help screen the special needs population in and around San Antonio. I thought back to the time when our pediatric professor, Dr. Garcia, educated the class about the extra care special needs patients may require, and I knew that this is going to be an experience that I will not forget. The van pulled up to the front gate of Morgan’s Wonderland located on 5223 David Edwards Dr, San Antonio, TX 78233. We were greeted by the Morgan’s Wonderland managers and they led us to our screening site located inside their event building. The students unloaded the screening materials and efficiently set up the screening stations!
The stations were manned by a couple of students, where the students were encouraged to rotate between stations in order to gain more experience. We had stations for visual acuities, cover test for eye alignment, inspecting the internal structures of the eye, retinoscopy (estimate refractive error), eye pressures, 3D vision, and the final station that the patient would visit was an individual consultation with Dr. Garcia.
The screening was scheduled for 9am-12pm (the park opens at 9am). Since we set up early, the managers gave the students permission to explore Morgan’s Wonderland. Student interns Marianna Konradi, Denisse Lopez, and myself started off the exploration by entering the Butterfly Playground. This park playground was unlike anything that I have seen before because in addition to traditional swings there are also adaptive & wheelchair swings. The butterfly motif decorated the park benches, statues, and even the rides.
I realized that the attendees are not here for another doctor’s appointment; however I’m glad that our school made an effort to still come out because many of the people who attend the park do not necessarily get an opportunity to have their eyes checked due to more pressing health problems. This park is dedicated to Morgan Hartman. While she is recuperating on a ventilator in ICU after an extremely complicated surgery, Morgan still made sure all those around her were comforted through her unforgettable smile or an occasional thumbs up to let everyone know she was alright. It is Morgan’s fervent hope that “everyone with special needs – young and old, healthy or ailing, introspective or outgoing – will be touched in a very special way by this park.”
During my undergraduate career, I was part of the Pathway for Students into Health Professions (PSHP) program, which provided career development and mentoring to undergraduates who are considering careers in the health professions. This includes students pursuing careers in medicine, dentistry, nursing, public health, social work, and other professions in the social/human services. Optometry wasn’t even listed under the description of a health profession under this scholarship, but they still admitted me! The program has a strong emphasis on public service to mothers, children, and families, which confirmed my desire to go into pediatric optometry. PSHP is administered by the Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities, which is affiliated with the UCLA School of Public Health and School of Medicine. It was enriching to participate in graduate level public health courses and since then, I knew I wanted to learn more by obtaining an Master of Public Health (MPH).
While applying to optometry school, I wanted to attend a school that carried the same public health mission that I had in mind; much like the American Public Health Association (APHA)‘s mission: to improve the health of the public and achieve equity in health status. University of the Incarnate Word Rosenberg School of Optometry (UIWRSO) stood out to me because of their mission and what they stand for: To educate and prepare future leaders in optometry through excellence in education, patient care, and vision research. This is achieved in an environment committed to personal growth within a context of faith, human dignity and social justice. I clearly remember my UIWRSO optometry school interview with Dr. Coates, the Chief of Vision Therapy Services, Director of Outreach Programs, and Assistant Clinical Professor. During my interview, he asked me about my public health mission trip to Honduras and why I decided to go, after I answered, he told me about his experiences with mission trips and how he wanted to start these trips with our school. Dr. Coates worked hard and stayed true to the UIWRSO mission and now these optometry students have multiple opportunities to go on these trips. I’m really happy that I can be a part of a school that has taken public health to a global level! We have an upcoming trip to Panama, and one last year to Sierra Leone, Africa.
Optometry is definitely an undeserved health profession in the public health sector due to the fact that optometry and public health are not as intertwined as the other health professions. To me, this needs to change! Because most of the efforts to spread vision care has been done through public health programs such as the InfantSee program.
I made this video with the intent to spread the word, so that optometry students can learn how to be effective leaders with a public health background.
This video was filmed at Optometry’s Meeting 2014 at Philadelphia. With the help of optometry student leaders who are interested in public health, we were able to arrange a time to meet and shoot an impromptu video! Many thanks to Dr. Di Stefano, PCO; Lili Liang, PCO 2016; Dr. James Deom, PCO; Feyi Aworunse, SCO 2016; and Janis C. James, IAUPR 2016!
Anthony F. Di Stefano, OD, MPH, FAAO
Professor & Director
Master in Public Health Program
AOSA National APHA Liaison
American Public Health Association
VIDEO PRODUCED BY: Susan Ly
UIW Rosenberg School of Optometry, Class of 2016
UIWRSO APHA Liaison (American Public Health Association)