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:

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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

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!

TOA Meet & Greet

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From Left to Right: Susan Ly, Dr. Peter Cass, Dr. Matt Valdes, Dr. Monica Allison, Dr. Fred Farias, Dr. Sandra Fortenberry, Dr. Deakins, and Jason Ngo

On Friday October 17th, 2014. Around 70 UIWRSO students and 6 TOA (Texas Optometric Association) board members were invited to Bass Pro Shops, a huge outdoors store, by the Students’ Texas Optometric Association (STOA)  for a night of food, drinks, and networking. The hunting decor and wooden cabin theme of the Islamorada Restaurant also had a towering tropical aquarium as it’s centerpiece; students pointed at the fish in awe and enjoyed the sea-like glow while eating a variety of hors d’oeuvre. Jason Ngo, Amy Cuevas, and myself are the current officers of STOA, and with the help of Intern Sheyda Durig and our faculty adviser, Dr. Fortenberry, we were able to help the students socialize with the TOA board members.   The creation of a signature card helped to facilitate conversations with each TOA board member before entering into a raffle. Four generous TOA board members donated to the raffle, where the winners would be sponsored to go to Austin in February for the TOA Convention. The STOA officers encourages all students to attend the TOA convention where they can attend/monitor continuing education classes, observe the House of Delegates, and participate in other student functions with the University of Houston, College of Optometry. The TOA convention offers so much to our profession and it is always  a load of fun! I’m glad that 4 students won a travel grant to attend!

hm general contractors

The event was sponsored by Michael K Newhouse, President of HM General Contractors. HM General Contractors help doctors construct office space and gave me a new outlook in space management and how that impacts your business. The representatives from HM General Contractors would visit with many health professions, so they had a lot of stories to tell! TOA board members Dr. Fred Farias, Dr. Peter Cass, Dr. Sandra Fortenberry, Dr. Matt Valdes, Dr. Monica Allison, and Dr. Deakins were so quite busy that night. Students surrounded them to hear of their stories while the doctors learned more about RSO and their interns. Some students were shy to talk to the leaders in the TOA, but by the end of the night, I felt that the attendees really got to know each other. Students were interested in the doctor’s drive to help push the profession legislatively and some students were curious to how they balanced their work and political involvement. The TOA board members answered, “if you are having so much fun, it’s not work!” Dr. Farias, President of the TOA, helped close the night with his motivating speech about optometry and our success and benefits in working together. I’m glad to be a part of this event, I felt that RSO has really prepared me for the work field and sparked my interested in legislative optometry. Lastly, I really enjoyed the company of RSO students and the a tight-knit TOA.

Student’s Role in the Texas Optometric Association

How TOA helped developed my networking and leadership skills

2014-2015 Texas Optometric Association Executive Committee and Board of Trustees
2014-2015 Texas Optometric Association Executive Committee and Board of Trustees. (Left: Dr. Valdez and Dr. Fortenberry are UIWRSO Faculty)

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 timeline aoanot 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.

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White Coat Ceremony, UIWRSO Class of 2016


When I first heard about the white coat ceremony, I didn’t give much thought about it. I vaguely remember a “fitting day” where they let us tried on the different sized white coats and asked us for our height (girls with heels). Finals were approaching and to be honest, finishing second year strong was running through my mind… After the tests were done, we had almost a week of vacation until we returned to our school for clinic training and the following day was our long awaited Clinic Induction Ceremony AKA white coat ceremony.

On the morning of the ceremony, we drove to the main campus of the University of Incarnate Word (UIW); The UIW Rosenberg School of Optometry, campus is located in the San Antonio Medical center around 10 miles away. I don’t visit here often, but that day, the campus was just gorgeous! The flowers were blooming, the colorful international flags were waving in the nice summer breeze, and the view from the UIW Skyroom’s 5th floor reflected the San Antonio skyline. San Antonio’s largest building is an observation tower called the Towers of America ; the 750-foot building looked so small from here!
When I entered the room, the UIW Eye clinic staff greeted the inductees and their guests with a pamphlet of the event and handed me my new spiffy white coat, they asked us to hold the coat in our left hands and be prepared to walk on stage for the “coating.” I stumbled in…and wow was I shocked! The entire auditorium was full! We have just less than 70 students in the second year class, but I noticed that some of my friends had more than 30 family members and friends attend the ceremony. It was huge!

Family and friends sat in the back while the inductees/students sat in front. I had the hardest time figuring out where my seat was because it wasn’t in alphabetical order; in fact it was based in height! It turns out I’m the 4th shortest student in class (since I wrote- no heels).

Dr. Fortenberry, UIWRSO Faculty and Master of Ceremony introduced the speakers and announced the interns being coated. Dr. Fortenberry did a great job keeping the program on schedule. Dr. Buzzelli, UIWRSO Dean and the opening speaker, commends the class of 2016 for their hard work. He reminded us that optometry opens doors because we have the opportunity to go anywhere we want, from the military, to private practice, to an hospital; however we must always remember that this also means that today is the day that we no longer serve ourselves, but the patients at hand. Dr. Fred Farias III, OD, FAAO, Texas Optometric Association President, sponsored the white coats for our class and reminded the audience and students about the importance of the white coat and how this will be the foundation for our lives.

Dr. Farias left the audience laughing and inspired with his speech (Darth Vader was somehow the punch line)! Lastly, Dr. Collins, UIWRSO Faculty gave the closing speech and left us some advice for clinic; be on time, wash your hands, and on a comical note: don’t forget to zip after going to the restroom. The ceremony went by so fast, the speeches, then the pictures… it is a blur to me now.

I could not have made it this far without my friends and family supporting me this whole way. Thank you all!