A Bill to Include Optometry in Student Loan Repayment!

U.S. Senate Leader Introduces AOA-Backed NHSC Optometric Inclusion Bill

With backing from the AOA and the Arkansas Optometric Association, United States Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) yesterday introduced into the U.S. Senate the National Health Service Corps Improvement Act – an effort aimed at providing desperately-needed access to primary eye and vision care services in underserved communities throughout Arkansas and across the nation.

“Eye doctors often graduate with a mountain of student loan debt, forcing them to work in private practice or urban communities,” Pryor said. “This legislation opens the opportunity for an optometrist to fill a real need. With on-site vision services at community health centers, children in Arkansas are more likely to receive proper eye care, be able to see the blackboard in the classroom and do better in school as a result.”

An effort supported by U.S. Senator John Boozman, O.D. (R-Ark.), Community Health Centers of Arkansas, Inc., and others, the bill would make doctors of optometry eligible, once again, for the NHSC student loan repayment and scholarship program. While new to the Senate, the Pryor bill mirrors companion legislation (HR 1195) now widely supported among members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“With the recognition that primary eye care is a critical component in the health care delivery system, but not often found in underserved communities, Senator Pryor’s legislation will expand the list of eligible health care providers who may apply for NHSC Loan Repayment and Scholarships,” said Sip Mouden, CEO of Community Health Centers of Arkansas, Inc. “Once enacted, optometrists will be eligible to apply for NHSC loan repayment, and in return, will pay back those loans by providing primary eye care in underserved and rural communities.”

In the opening days of April, a record-number of AOA doctors and students are expected to descend on the nation’s capital for the 2012 Congressional Advocacy Conference. Bringing AOA’s pro-access, pro-patient message to nearly every House and Senate office on Capitol Hill, ODs and students will be urging elected leaders to back the Pryor bill, HR 1195, as well as Medicaid OD physician recognition legislation (HR 1219), and a number of other AOA priorities.

To read Sen. Pryor’s full announcement on the introduction of the National Health Service Corps Improvement Act, please follow: http://www.pryor.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2012/3/pryor-seeks-to-improve-access-to-eye-care-for-rural-families

To learn more about the 2012 AOA Congressional Advocacy Conference, please visit: http://www.aoa.org/x20634.xml

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NECO – The Longest Visit Yet!

Ah, it’s been far too long since I journaled about my adventures at each of the schools so I am attempting to catch up on things.  I have now been bragging about  NECO at each of my recent school visits saying it was the longest student session so far..  Perhaps that is because I keep making it longer in my head – but I think it’s the truth.  We started at 6 pm and it was at least 2 1/2 hours of conversation.

The questions were great!  Lots of candor.  Questions about discrimination.  Questions about how to get involved.  Questions about Congressional Conference and how students could be involved.  The room was packed and people were sitting along the sides of the room – as well as students in what they refer to as a ‘remote room’.  I was conferenced in to another room because there wasn’t enough room in the regular classroom.  I had forgotten about it until the phone next to me rang when someone won one of the raffles.

The best part of the day was feedback I received the NEXT day.  The President of the school shared that a student told him she was inspired to make a difference.  I cannot tell you how much that made my day.

Speaking to the students at NECO



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Visiting at NOVA Southeastern

On Friday January 21st I had the pleasure of visiting NOVA Southeastern. What a great group of students. Many stopped me in the hallway to tell me of projects they were working on or ask about attending the Congressional Conference in DC this year. Vicky Wong, AOSA Trustee helped set up the events for the day which included a presentation to the students and an opportunity to answer questions and visit. Thanks everyone for a great visit!

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Dr. Velicky Interviewed by Matt Geller of Optometrystudents.com

Matt Geller, a student at SUNY, recently interviewed Dr. Mike Velicky of Omni Eye Services in New Jersey about residencies and organized Optometry. Give it a listen! Well worth the time.


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Lunch with the AOA and AOSA Boards

On Friday, January 14th the AOA Board had lunch with the AOSA Board of Trustees. In all there were close to 60 of us at lunch. It’s amazing what one can brainstorm over food! One of our topics was how to promote lifelong membership in the AOA. Several of the students commented they would like more of a presence of each of the states at the various schools. Students would love to monitor at your meeting. They would relish the chance to network with doctors. Letter writing campaign needed – they’re on it. I challenge each of us to think of ways how each state could be more visible at each of the schools.

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Life Gets in the Way

It’s been a long time since I’ve logged in to post anything on this. That’s not to mean that I haven’t thought about it but life got in the way.

I was at an optometry meeting in my state in early December, attended a meeting for the Foundation for Eye Health Awareness in Washington, DC and then traveled to Salt Lake City the weekend prior to Christmas to check out the sights for Optometry’s Meeting next June. I suddenly realized I hadn’t done ANYTHING to prepare for Christmas and with two boys knew I had better get busy. Christmas came and went and I cooked three huge meals three days in a row. I love cooking, especially for friends and family … but was happy to be done with kitchen duty after the weekend. New Years was met with the flu visiting our household at the same time we had back to back blizzards. Did I ever post on the blog? No! But I thought about it!

January hasn’t given me much time to breathe either. I’ve been to San Diego for a meeting, a board meeting in St. Louis and a school visit to NOVA. Our basement is being gutted in order to accomodate a different bathroom and laundry area so plumbers, contractors and electricians now inhabit our lower level. And, then we spent a weekend combatting the ickiest household dilemma ever … Sewer Backup! Did I ever post on the blog? No! But I thought about it!

Did I mention anywhere in here that when I’m home I’m seeing as many patients as I can to make up for being gone.

So, it’s time to get back to work. I’ve been working on a schedule and excited about how many emails I’ve received requesting me to attend a school. Keep them coming and I’ll start blogging again.

Talk to ya soon.

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SCCO Students Help California with Glaucoma Legislation

While I was at the Western Regional Conference in Berkeley last month I had a chance to meet Dave Shin who is a 3rd year student and the AOSA Trustee from SCCO. We discussed several things but one that struck me was how the SCCO students helped California this fall. They sent 106 letters to the Department of Consumer Affairs in support of California’s Glaucoma bill. They contributed roughtly 50% of the total letters written during the letter writing campaign. In total over 200 letters were sent to the department supporting the legislation while ophthalmology sent 120 letters against it. In Dave’s words to me he wrote, “… once again proves that we can do amazing things when we work together and that students really can make a difference.”

He told me Dr. Marsden and Dr. Voorhees at SCCO were instrumental in getting them started – but what a great job they did!

Thanks, Dave, for your enthusiasm, inspiration and dedication to our profession. Thanks to all of the SCCO students who took the time during finals week to write these letters. You TRULY made a difference.

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Dinner in San Francisco

Is it just me or was my dinner staring at me?????

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Meeting with AOSA

Me, Matt Willis, Saysha Blazier, Shilpi Ratra, Remi Miljavac, Dr. Joe Ellis

While we were at the Academy meeting in San Francisco the AOA Executive Committee met with the AOSA Executive Committee . This is a great group of hard working students that are very dedicated to our profession. Each January AOSA elects a new set of leaders for the upcoming year but it was nice to be able to have some time with the current leadership and take time for a photo. Thank you Saysha, Remi, Shilpi and Matt for all your work. Hope the board exams you took this week went well.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is a day to express thanks. Thanks to all of those who have helped with making this tour a reality. I’m also thankful for a great Optometric Family. That’s what we truly are – one big family. Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Now back to cooking ……..

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