First RSO student appointed a National Liaison Position with AOSA

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I applied to be a national liaison (NL) because I wanted to be more involved with the American Optometric Student Association (AOSA). A national liaison represents an allied association within the AOSA, much like how the American Optometric Association (AOA) has members for their allied optometric association. An allied association may focus on a specialty like sports vision, InfantSEE program, optometry in public health, etc.

It was an exciting moment when I got the email from the AOSA President 2015-6, Hunter Chapman, saying that I was selected for the student national liaison for the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO). In fact, I was the first person from RSO to be selected for a NL position. This year only 15 students were selected from the nationwide optometry student applicant pool to be liaisons of: ASCO, AAO, APHA, NBEO, COVD, OEP, CLS, and etc. Read more about NLs and their respective allied organizations here: http://www.theaosa.org/about/2015-16-allied-associations-and-national-liaisons/

I would also like to talk about the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO). Prior to my position, I had no idea that this organization was in charge of the Optometry Admission Test (OAT) among other things. ASCO  is the academic leadership organization committed to promoting, advancing and achieving excellence in optometric education. ASCO represents all accredited schools and colleges of optometry in the fifty states and Puerto Rico. ASCO’s affiliate members include the Canadian schools of optometry, other foreign schools, allied organizations, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. ASCO’s activities also cover a wide range of programs including applicant development and diversity, faculty and executive development, advocacy, residency promotion, data development and communications. Since joining in on ASCO’s meeting, I have discovered how broad optometry education really is. Please read more about ASCO 0n their website: http://www.opted.org/

RSO gives a 1 week break in the summer so that students can go to Optometry’s Meeting. This year Optometry’s Meeting took place in Seattle, Washington. I knew that our school has always supported RSO students who engaged in extracurricular activities. However, our Dean, Dr. Wingert, also actively partakes in leadership roles. It was no surprise that he was the current chair of the ASCO Student Affairs Committee. The members of ASCO include the optometry school Deans and Presidents, who meet a few times a year via phone conference call, emails, and/or in person at big meetings such as Optometry’s Meeting to discuss the long list of ASCO activities listed above. Deans can also run for leadership positions within the different committees in ASCO. During this meeting each committee leader would present their updates and progress of their group. I had the honor to present to all the Deans about AOSA. I won’t lie, it was nerve racking. However after the presentation I received warm comments from Dr. Wingert (RSO Dean) and Dr. Buzzelli (Past RSO Dean, Current Dean of the University of Pikeville, College of Optometry).

Deans convene in ASCO meeting!
Deans convene in ASCO meeting!

 

I would also like to congratulate Mr. Marty Wall, MPA, CAE and ASCO outgoing-Executive Director for his many years of service. It was a pleasure to meet such a wonderful person and great leader.

A luncheon was held in honor of Mr. Wall's service to ASCO and the field of optometry!
A luncheon was held in honor of Mr. Wall’s service to ASCO and the field of optometry at OM15!

 

UIWRSO Optometry Student Bowl

Every year, students attend Optometry’s Meeting, which will be held in Seattle from June 24-27 this year. During that meeting, Essilor sponsors the National Optometry Student Bowl, where students answer optometric questions to win the national title. In order to see who will represent RSO at this national competition, UIWRSO holds an AOSA Optometry Student Bowl. Not only does it prepare the students for the national level, but it also gives RSO students an opportunity to win travel grants to the Optometry Meeting itself! This year, five students competed at the chance to have a spot in Seattle: Alicia Chacon, Sam Bohl, Melanie Kane, Van Do (all third year students), and Amy Cuevas (second year student).

Let’s see if you can answer the first (test) question:

“Who is the sponsor for the National Optometry Student Bowl?” If you were paying attention like the participants were, you should’ve gotten it right. The answer is Essilor!

That’s when Round 1 started. Round 1 questions were 1 point each (10 questions), Round 2 were 2 points each (10 questions), and Round 3 questions were 3 points each (5 questions). The final round was similar to “Final Jeopardy” in that the students had to wager how many points they wanted to gamble with and try and get ahead.

The set-up was very creative! Students sat in a table-like panel and even had “buzzers” which were lights that turn on when you touch them. There was a timer, Minati Desai, and she was helped by Bobby Olivarez (RSO’s new Trustee-Elect for AOSA) to decide who “buzzed” in first. Students had 10 seconds to answer the question, which was handled by Reid Cluff, AOSA Trustee-Elect for 2014-2015. He also handled the scoreboard. The star of the show, however, was our very own faculty member, Dr. Narayanan, who hosted the Student Optometry Bowl!

Throughout the whole competition, it was a pretty close game between the participants. Professors, as well as students from all years, came to support the contestants, and I even saw someone in the crowd who had a poster that said “Class of 2016!” It was great to see and hear the encouragement from the crowd. In between the rounds, AOSA gave away raffle prizes including Starbucks gift cards and t-shirts (things that all optometry students love). Food from Freebirds was also provided to students, so everyone was excited about that!

After 3 grueling rounds and many points lost and gained with the wager in the final round, the winner of the RSO Optometry Student Bowl was announced: Melanie Kane! She will be representing our school in Seattle in June, and received a grant to attend the event. The runner-ups also got smaller grants for the trip, as well, so everyone was a winner that night. UIWRSO says good luck Melanie and win that national title!

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AOA Visits UIWRSO

The AOA (American Optometric Association) is one of the most important organizations an optometrist can join in their lives. AOA advocates for the rights of optometrists throughout the country in their scope of practice, use of prescription drugs, etc. Many UIWRSO students participate in this organization through AOSA (American Optometric Student Association). Here, students are able to see how important it is to get involved in the law aspect of optometry. Our school’s AOSA chapter was able to hold a special presentation with one of the top officers for the AOA, Dr. Andrea Thau.

Dr. Andrea Thau was elected to the Board of Trustees of AOA in 2007. She currently has a practice and is an associate clinical professor at SUNY State College of Optometry. She is a founder of the AOA’s InfantSEE program and has served as the first woman president of the New York State Optometric Association, the New York Academy of Optometry, and the Optometric Society of the City of New York. She has lectured and appeared on national TV, radio, and print, spreading word about eye and vision care. UIWRSO was privileged enough to hear what Dr. Thau had to say about the AOA and our involvement in the organization as upcoming optometrists.

Dr. Thau emphasized that our future involvement in AOA is critical. She owns a practice, has a family, but still manages to be a board member of AOA. This involves hours and hours of time, travel, and presentations, not to mention being able to sit before Congress and fight for our rights as optometrists. She said that she is a second generation optometrist; her father really inspired her to love and fight for her profession.

She gave us a idea of what it would be like without the AOA: the potential exists that we could lose all our rights to being called a doctor, other professions might be able to prescribe and undermine our work, online companies might be able to dispense without a prescription, etc. This would all spell out bad news for our future as optometrists. Other professionals are battling everyday to get the rights we have taken away and AOA is there to fight back.

She also mentioned how AOA members work with politicians and support them to help get laws passed for optometrists. Using the TOA (Texas Optometric Association) or AOA will help future doctors if they have aspirations for holding office. She also talked about how doctors who are AOA members make an average of $22,000 more than those who aren’t members. This might have something to do with the fact that they help first-year doctors with malpractice insurance, life insurance, and even pay for your AOA fees during your first year out of school. Additionally, Dr. Thau showed us a video clip of how many people AOA reaches a year through it’s use of media.

Before watching this presentation, I was not an AOSA member. After attending the meeting, however, it has inspired me to not only become a member, but stay a member and perhaps run for the Board of Trustees at some point. Like Dr. Thau said, it’s not only our right, but it is our duty to continue the fight for optometry and the future optometrists of America.

To learn more about what the AOA is doing for optometry right now, check out their website: http://www.aoa.org/advocacy-x423?sso=y

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A special thank you to Dr. Narayanan for providing the following pictures: 

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Politically Involved as an Optometry Student

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Left to Right: Duc Tran, Denisse Lopez, Reid Cluff, and Dr. Narayanan.

As an optometry student, I admired how the InfantSEE®/Optometry Cares program was established by optometrists lobbying and networking with U.S. politicians.  InfantSEE is just one of the many feats that the AOA – American Optometric Association have made possible to the public and demonstrated support for optometrists. In hopes of becoming a part of the legislative activity, I became an officer of the Student Texas Optometric Association (STOA).  It was my goal to take an active role in the political association that opens doors for optometrists as well as improves the visual welfare of the people. At the Texas Optometric Association (TOA) board meetings, I was very impressed by the leadership and organization that the executive board possessed and they taught me the importance of proper communication with other leaders (I’ll talk more about the TOA and STOA in future blogs). Today, I would like to blog about the active political student leaders at our schoolIMG_20150128_123000 .

The UIWRSO trustees of AOSA – American Optometric Student Association, Denisse Lopez and Reid Cluff; are not only academically outstanding, but represent our school in Optometry’s Meeting and the AOSA Board of Trustees meeting. They connect RSO students to the other optometry students across the US, Canada and Puerto Rico via the AOSA Board of Trustees. In addition to expanding their network, the trustees also write about their school, for example, Denisse has published multiple articles in the AOSA Foresight magazine. The trustees also meet with industry leaders and hold events at RSO to fundraise and support students. Lastly to update RSO with what AOSA is doing and vice versa, the trustees attend monthly meetings and communicate directly with the RSO Student Government Association and Dean.

AOA-PAC is the American Optometric Association – Political Action Committee.  It is a subdivision of the AOA that focuses in fighting for pro-optometric laws. AOA-PAC does not have a local chapter at RSO. It is solely a national organization that has local liaisons assisting in its outreach programs. To support AOA in its political activism, Duc Tran, UIWRSO Class of 2015 and AOA-PAC Liaison, led a luncheon meeting for students to learn about optometric advocacy, where he discussed details regarding the Congressional Advocacy Conference (CAC) in Washington, DC in April 12 – 14, 2015. Duc attended the CAC meeting last year and shared with us his journey talking to politicians with optometric activists.

I’m glad that I have met such great friends and colleagues at UIWRSO, and the message that I would like to share is that optometry school is not just about your current coursework, but the start to your career and begin building your professional network. Your school’s Student Optometric Association is linked to the State Optometric Association which is connected to the American Optometric Association. By getting involved at school, you can open many doors along the way, just like it has for me!

AOSA Activities Fair

One thing I’m really proud about our school is that our students are very involved. Although we are considered one of the newer optometry schools, the students took initiative to start their own clubs and reach out to optometry associations to start local chapters at our school. For example, our chapter of the National Optometric Student Association (NOSA) is the largest student chapter in the nation. The College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD) at RSO have fundraised thousands of dollars to help a child in need of an comprehensive eye exam. SVOSH at UIWRSO, the student branch of Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (VOSH) have traveled to South America and Africa. We have over 17 student organizations and each of them bring opportunities for students to become leaders and learn more about the different niches in Optometry! Personally, I am a great supporter of the Private Practice Club, who have invited speakers from all around San Antonio, Texas, and the nation to come speak to our students about Practice management.

The American Optometric Student Association (AOSA) is one of the most active clubs at our school. Every year, AOSA conducts the first event of the fall semester, the Activities fair. The Activities Fair is the place to learn more about AOSA, its affiliated organizations, and all the different clubs that are offered for students at RSO. It is also the easiest place to sign up for organizations that interest the students.

The fair was located in UIWRSO events room, from 1:00 p.m to 3:00 p.m and featured a guest speaker, Mike Elton, a representative from HOYA.

This year, AOSA offered complimentary ice cream and multiple raffles including gift certificates, a floating trip in New Braunfels, and an iPad Air (sponsored by HOYA). Denisse Lopez and Reid Cluff, AOSA Trustee/Trustee elect. respectively, did an amazing job coordinating the event. It was a huge success and a lot of the first year optometry students were able to learn about the school’s activities, events, and student leaders.