Thursday, April 30, 2015

Advocating for all of us

To start this editorial, I want to thank several POA members for taking two days away from their offices to travel to Washington, D.C. and advocate on behalf of all POA members at the AOA Congressional Advocacy Conference. Drs. Mark Margolies, Steven Eiss, Lori Gray, David Evans, Paul Lobby, James Deom, Michael Mittleman and Mark Dalton spent Monday learning the details of the current issues facing optometry in Washington, and Tuesday visiting legislators and their staff on Capitol Hill to make sure optometry’s voice is heard. This was no small sacrifice from a group of doctors who are already giving significant time to advance our profession, and protect optometry from losing access and privileges. We were accompanied by a diverse and enthusiastic group of 12 students from PCO and SUNY College of Optometry, who took time away from their classes and studies to advocate on your behalf, and on behalf of the future of optometry.

Many of you may not be aware of all the issues facing optometry on the federal level. Even those of us who have participated in the last few conferences needed to be updated on the issues. I apologize for the length of this article, but there are several issues, and some are complex. I hope you can take a few minutes to get yourself up to date on these important national issues. 

One of the bills we were discussing with legislators was HR2. This bill addresses Medicare payment reform and the flawed sustainable growth rate formula. As you may have already heard, our timing couldn’t have been better. This bill passed the House before we went to Washington, and passed the Senate on the evening of the day we were on Capitol Hill. This is the bill that has resulted from the threat of significant reductions in the Medicare Fee Schedule for many years, and has required a large number of temporary patches that kept pushing the issue off without solving the underlying problem. The AOA has been working tirelessly during the process of getting to this point to ensure that optometry is treated fairly in the new law. You can expect small increases in the Medicare Fee Schedule over the next few years, followed by the potential for significant increases if you meet certain quality measures. Thanks to the AOA, you have the opportunity to participate in those incentive programs. Also thanks to the AOA, you will be able participate in a more streamlined fashion with less administrative effort.

This bill will combine the current PQRS, EMR Meaningful Use, and Value-Based Modifiers into a new program called MIPS (Merit-Based Incentive Payment System). Each provider will get a MIPS score, which will determine their bonus (or penalty) versus the standard Medicare Fee Schedule. One of the ways you can meet these requirements is to be connected to a registry. With a registry you will get instant feedback about your practice. You will be able to see, for example, how many of your glaucoma patients have had a visual field done in the last year. You will also be able to compare your performance against benchmarks and other practices. This functionality will enable you to meet many of the MIPS requirements seamlessly, without additional tracking or reporting. The AOA has developed an eye care registry for optometry that will be rolled out at Optometry’s Meeting in Seattle. This will be a free member benefit for all members. The registry will also enable AOA to collect aggregate data that will be very useful in evidence-based research and advocacy efforts, just like other medical professions using registries to track things like childhood immunizations. Expect to hear a lot more about the registry and MIPS over the next few years. The AOA will be your source for information and guidance on these programs.

Another bill that we lobbied for addresses Health Service Corps inclusion for optometry. This bill has been reintroduced for a few years and hasn’t passed mainly due to congressional gridlock. It would allow optometrists to practice at community health centers and have access to scholarships for students who commit to providing service after graduation, as well as loan forgiveness for recent graduates who decide to work there. This bill has significant support among legislators, and hopefully with the SGR fix finally behind them, and the progress they made by cooperating and comprising on that issue still fresh in their minds, we have a chance to move forward on this issue as well.

The third piece of legislation that we addressed is the Expanded Veterans Access to Primary Eye Health and Vision Care Act. As part of the recent VA reform legislation, additional residency slots have been created within the VA system. This bill would set aside 20 of those new slots for optometry. The students who accompanied us to Washington were very enthusiastic about this bill, as selection for VA residencies can be quite competitive. Adding more slots gives them additional opportunities to gain valuable experience. This bill does not limit optometry to only 20 additional slots, it only sets that as a minimum number of additional slots above the current level. It will also help to reduce wait times for needed eye health and vision care for our nation’s veterans.

There is also a new effort on the federal level to pass legislation to combat some of the abuses by vision benefit plans. This would be a complementary bill to our state effort, and would ensure that plans couldn’t use exceptions like ERISA to circumvent the state rules. This legislation is still in early discussions and hasn’t reached the point where we were ready to talk to legislators about it, but our leaders at AOA are certainly aware of the issue and working on your behalf to strengthen our state efforts.

As you all undoubtedly encounter every day, there are many people who don’t really understand what an optometrist is and does. Not surprisingly, this is also true of legislators and their staff. We took time during our visits to educate them about optometry, our scope of practice, optometric education, and AOA programs like InfantSEE.

We also learned that Congress will be in session for significantly more days in 2015 than it was in 2014. This, combined with an increasing impetus to take action and a slightly more cooperative atmosphere, will likely result in more laws being passed. This is a positive thing for us in our efforts to move favorable legislation, but it is also a challenge, in that we have to be vigilant for any legislation that would result in a negative impact. This could come as the result of a purposeful attack on our profession, or as a result of an unintentional oversight. On a positive note, the efforts to repeal the Harken Amendment to the Affordable Care Act received almost no support in the last session, and that legislation appears to be dead for the short term. The other attack on optometry that has been losing steam over the last few years was formerly known as the Sullivan Bill. This was an effort to undermine optometry’s scope of practice and confuse the public about our abilities and training. It has been repeatedly defeated, and also looks like it will not to be reintroduced thanks to efforts over the last few years. Our leaders, staff and lobbyists are also acutely aware of the actions of 1-800-CONTACTS in state legislatures over the last few months. Fortunately those efforts have been stymied for the most part. The AOA is vigilant in watching for any similar legislation being introduced on a national level, and will take appropriate action if that should occur.

Of course, a day of discussing legislative priorities at the federal level wouldn’t be complete without an AOA-PAC update. The good news is that Pennsylvania has moved from the last place in giving compared to other states, to the second to last place. While this is a move in the right direction, we still have a long way to go. Nationwide AOA-PAC donations for 2014 were just under $1,000,000. This was an increase versus 2013, but still short of the AOA’s goal of $1.25 million. That means that our leadership has to be very selective about which candidates they support because the funds to support every one of the desired candidates are non-existent. They have established a new website, www.aoapac.org, just for AOA-PAC to make the process of giving very simple. You can make a donation using a credit card very easily. You can also see who in Congress the donations were able to support in the last cycle.

Some of the money is also spent to pay for telemarketers to call AOA members to ask for donations. This is necessary since the telemarketers generate a large percentage of the donations that are received. I encourage you to go to the website now and make a donation, or set up recurring donations, so the AOA can save the cost of calling you and you can avoid receiving the calls.

As additional motivation, ophthalmology has two PACs. One is a basic PAC to address all issues that affect their members, and the second is an “Ophthalmic Surgery Containment Fund,” which, as the name implies, is a fund specifically designed to limit optometric scope of practice. That first PAC raises more money than AOA-PAC, and the second one is almost as large as AOA-PAC. If we are going to maintain our current scope and participation with insurance plans, we need to maintain our strong relationships with legislators. Whether you like it or not, part of that is supporting their campaigns. AOA-PAC is currently receiving the vast majority of its funding from a very small number of older doctors, who are each giving a large yearly donation. We would have a more sustainable PAC if the AOA received a small donation from every member. For your own sake, and for the sake of the next generation of optometrists, if you aren’t already donating to AOA-PAC, go right now and make either a one-time or recurring donation. If we all do a little, no one has to do a lot.










Richard Christoph, O.D.
POA President

Monday, March 2, 2015

Think About Think About Your Eyes

Recently, you may have heard or seen some advertising sponsored by the AOA with the message “It is important to get your eyes examined.” I’ve heard a few of them, and several of my friends who are not optometrists have mentioned to me that they heard them, too. These ads are paid for by the Think About Your Eyes (TAYE) campaign. This isn’t exclusively an AOA program, but the AOA is a contributing sponsor, and inclusion of the AOA name and logo was part of the sponsorship agreement. 

TAYE is a subsidiary of the Vision Council and its sole function is to promote the need for eye examinations. Who among us hasn’t thought for many years that “someone” should do something about the fact that most people don’t understand the need for regular exams? Well, “someone” has stepped up to make that happen. TAYE has received major funding from industry leaders; Alcon, Vistakon, Essilor and Luxottica, among others, have made large commitments to the campaign. Now those companies want someone else to also contribute to this effort; someone who also benefits from increased public awareness of eye care and the need for exams. That someone is you.

I’m sure many of you, much like myself, buy advertising in community bulletins and sports programs, knowing that you probably won’t get any direct benefit from it, but hope that having your name positively associated with community activities may benefit you in the long run. The TAYE website features a doctor locator, and offers a tracking function for doctors that reports how many patients were directly referred to you by the site. I recommend thinking of TAYE as a public relations effort, like those local ads. You may not see a direct benefit that justifies the investment in the short term, but over time, by reinforcing that message of regular eye exams and the importance of eye health, we will see an increase in the entire industry, which will benefit everyone. Your participation in TAYE serves multiple benefits. Firstly, the money you pay goes toward additional advertising. Secondly, the industry sponsors have indicated that if they see doctors participating, they will continue and increase their sponsorships.

You will likely see that the advertising will come in waves. TAYE has some marketing experts who determine where, when and how the money is spent. As with any advertising, it is more effective to have someone hear your message multiple times over a short period than to spread it out. If you think about it, you will realize most advertising campaigns work this way. You keep seeing or hearing the same commercial over and over, and then you don’t hear it for a while, and then they come back with a slightly different message some time later. So if you haven’t heard or seen the ads yet, keep looking and listening. If you heard them and thought they stopped, know that they will likely increase and decrease throughout the year based on what is most effective.

How much is it to support this massive national advertising program? Well, they have two plans, but the basic plan is only $200 for AOA members, and you can use a credit card to make monthly payments (only $16.67 a month!). I encourage you all to go to www.thinkaboutyoureyes.com and check it out. You can sign up and also watch the TV commercials if you haven’t seen them yet.










Richard Christoph, O.D.
POA President

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Looking forward to 2015

As this is my first editorial as POA President, I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you, the POA members, for putting your trust in me to serve as your president. I also want to thank all of you for you membership and for your involvement. There are too many optometrists who sit back and complain that “somebody should do something,” but won’t step up to do anything themselves. Simply by joining, you have already taken the most important step toward improving your profession. 

In late 2014, your POA board, staff and committee volunteers recently spent a day in Hershey making plans for the next year, as we have done annually for many years. With 25 committees and over 75 individual volunteers, it is impossible to outline all the initiatives and goals we have set forth. However, I do want to give you some highlights.

Our Student Membership Task Force has expanded their focus to include doctors who graduated within the last five years. We have made great inroads with the students in terms of educating them about the importance of professional association membership, but we still find we are only retaining about 50% of them as members beyond the fourth year after graduation. They have already started developing programs to get our newest members engaged and active so that they understand the benefits of membership right from the beginning of their careers.

The Pediatric Vision Care Committee has been tasked with evaluating the requirements for children to have eye examinations prior to starting school. As you are all undoubtedly aware children in Pennsylvania are required to have a dental exam before beginning school, but the only requirement for vision is a screening performed by the school nurse. In the past, we have made great progress in improving the quality and effectiveness of those screenings by working directly with school nurses, but now we are going to take a fresh look at requiring a comprehensive exam by an eye doctor. 

The Third Party Center, in addition to their ongoing work ensuring that optometry is treated fairly by third party payers, has been studying the legislative initiatives in other states to limit requirements placed by vision plans. Working closely with the AOA legislative team and other state associations they have developed a legislative initiative that you will be hearing much more about in the near future.

The Legislative Affairs Committee has also been working with the AOA legislative team to keep appraised of action in other states. One of the issues that has been popping up in other states is refractive kiosks and online “examinations.” Obviously there is no eye health component to these “exams,” which puts the public at risk. We are evaluating our current statues to determine if additional legislation is required to regulate this practice. The committee is, of course, continuing to work to protect our current scope of practice and to remove the outdated restrictions that exist in our current Optometric Practice Act. Expect to hear more details about these efforts in the near future.

I’m very proud to announce that our committee chairs and volunteers raised over $10,000 in POPAC donations at our planning meeting. The Board of Directors and most of the committees have committed to a minimum of $500 per year in ongoing support for POPAC. If we want to pass legislation it will require that same level of commitment from the rest of you. If you aren’t already giving on a monthly or quarterly basis, please call the POA office and make the pledge. 

I’m looking forward to a very active year as the POA President. With an ambitious agenda, and an energized committee structure, I’m confident we will make great strides in advancing our profession. I hope to see all of you at a POA function, or local society meeting this year, but if you have any questions or concerns feel free to contact me any time via email at DrChristoph@verizon.net.











Richard Christoph, O.D.
POA President

Thursday, November 6, 2014

My, How Times Does Fly…

It’s such a cliché, but certainly holds true in this case. It seems like just yesterday that I was talking to you about my New Year’s Resolutions for 2014. What a year it has been for both me and the POA!

For example, you may recall one of my personal resolutions was to strive to become healthier and hopefully trim my waistline a bit. Well, I can report that I’ve lost 10 pounds (it’s a start) and have become a pescatarian…OK, I’ll admit to an occasional moment of weakness when Wendy, one of those Five Guys or Mr. Fuddrucker draws me in like a moth to the flame! Leadership roles force one to come face-to-face with both personal strengths and weaknesses. I have definitely learned more about myself in the process.

I am proud to look back over the past 11 months and reflect on the good work that has been accomplished. The POA has moved forward in 2014, despite the barrage of challenges we face each year. What an honor it was to help host the AOA’s Optometry’s Meeting® in Philadelphia in June! Even though it presented extra work for our staff, deviation from our yearly meeting schedule and added responsibilities to our Board members, I believe it was well worth the effort. Our Legislative Affairs Committee continues to be steadfast and diligent in their oversight of our current scope of practice in Pennsylvania during the 2013-2014 legislative session. We strengthened the POA’s relationship with Salus University by working closely with its new president, Dr. Mittelman, and PCO’s new Dean of Students, Dr. Lori Grover. This also involved hosting our yearly September Board Meeting on campus with a student event, which provided a fun and educational way for students to learn about organized optometry.

As for the “Year of the Child,” one of my primary goals was to share my passion for pediatric optometry with you and work on specific initiatives to promote the ideals of Kids Welcome Here® that began in Pennsylvania many years ago. Back in May, things started off with a well-attended pediatric continuing education program in State College given by Dr. Jim Spangler, chair of the Pediatric Vision Care Committee, and Dr. Marla Moon. Dr. Spangler also helped gain nationwide exposure for the Kids Welcome Here program at Optometry’s Meeting in Philadelphia by staffing a POA-sponsored booth in the exhibit hall. In early September, the AOA InfantSEE® program featuring Dr. Glen Steele and Tom Sullivan made a stop at PCO. I had a wonderful opportunity to speak to the students as an InfantSEE provider, pediatric optometrist and organization leader. In honor of this event, a Pennsylvania Senate proclamation was introduced by Senator Mike Folmer recognizing the InfantSEE program. Coming up during this month, the POA is very excited to host a six-hour pediatric continuing education program featuring Dr. Christine Allison; Professor of Pediatrics and Binocular Vision at the Illinois College of Optometry, AAO Diplomate in Pediatrics, COVD Board member and nationally recognized speaker, as well as Pennsylvania’s own Drs. Spangler and Grover.

While it’s wonderful to extol our accomplishments, the reality is that some areas still need improvement. Despite the significant efforts of both Dr. Donna Buraczewski and Dr. Greg Caldwell reaching out to our members and working with the AOA staff this year, we were not able to see substantial increases in our AOA-PAC donations. I must pass this continued work on to Dr. Richard Christoph for 2015.

I could not complete my year as president without sending my heartfelt thanks to my fellow 2014 board members: Drs. Owens, Christoph, Margolies, Eiss, Wincek-Bateson, Gray and Evans. No president of any organization could ask for a better team. Despite the hard work and productivity, somehow we managed to enjoy ourselves in the process! A second round of gratitude goes to our amazing POA staff: Deb Blanchard, Ilene Sauertieg and our newest addition, Kelsey Rodkey. Very few states in the nation have such competent and dedicated staff members. Ever since I became an officer of the Central Pennsylvania Optometric Society many years ago, I knew they were wonderful individuals to work with, and my appreciation has only grown stronger with each passing year. This sentiment certainly holds true for Dr. Stuckey, our executive director, especially when one witnesses the significant respect and admiration he has earned from other optometric association executives around the country and the AOA leadership. We are so lucky to have him!

I cannot break the tradition of my editorials, so here is my final ask (I hear many sighs of relief): if at all possible, take a moment to thank any POA member you know who serves in a volunteer leadership position; whether they serve in a local, state or national role or as a committee member. The AOA and POA would not exist without the never-ending dedication of all involved; these individuals spend many evenings and weekends away from family and hours away from their optometric practices. They do what they do for the profession of optometry, the selfless sharing of talent, time and passion that benefits every practicing optometrist. Ultimately, my wish would be to start seeing many new association volunteers who are inspired by these individuals.

Thank you for allowing me to serve as your president for 2014; it has definitely been one of the most significant honors of my life. I also thank you for listening to me share so much with you through my editorials. My goal was to not only convey obligatory messages, but also to share a bit of myself in the process. As I pass the torch to Dr. Christoph, I know the association will be in extremely capable hands.

It’s not too early to start working on your New Year’s resolutions for 2015; that bedazzled ball will be dropping in Times Square before you know it!





Marianne Boltz, O.D., F.A.A.O.
POA President

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

InfantSEE®...then and now


So, what do you remember about June 8, 2005? I’d like to say I could remember what outfit I wore, what I had for dinner that evening or what was happening in local or national news that day, but in reality the only thing I remember was the official roll out of the InfantSEE® program! The launch was showcased that morning by a segment on The Today Show with Dr. Scott Jens, InfantSEE chair, and President Jimmy Carter, the “celebrity spokesperson” for the program. His words moved many viewers as he shared the personal story about his grandchild who was diagnosed with amblyopia around age eight and wished it had been detected sooner. Naturally, this prompted him to put his personal stamp of approval on the AOA program and help us spread the word about the importance of early detection of children’s vision and eye health problems.

Of course as a pediatric optometrist, I signed up to participate in the program immediately. It was only my ninth month working at Penn State Hershey Eye Center and I recall the excitement I felt peppered with a bit of anxiety and trepidation about the program. Namely, were the phones going to start ringing non-stop with every parent of a child between six to twelve months of age in the Hershey area calling to schedule an appointment? How was my already hectic schedule going to handle that? Was I going to have to restrict the number of InfantSEE patients I saw each week?

The entire year of 2005 was an exciting one for pediatric optometrists. Our special services were highlighted and so many of us were called upon to help teach our colleagues how to become more comfortable with a basic infant eye exam. I remember the comprehensive continuing education hands-on infant exam workshops that were offered at many colleges of optometry and during the Academy of Optometry meetings. The AOA also provided educational and promotional resources for its members regarding the InfantSEE program. On occasion, I still show the Windows to the World video that was distributed to program participants. Here in Pennsylvania, we were ahead of many states in helping and educating our members due to our long-standing Kids Welcome Here® program, which already promoted a first eye exam at age one.

I read a quote recently by Rachel Donadio, culture correspondent for The New York Times, which really struck a chord with me: “After all, what is life but a continuing negotiation between expectation and reality?” This concept certainly applied to my initial experience with the InfantSEE program. The reality was that I never became overwhelmed with the number of InfantSEE exams I performed and the phone never rang off the hook. I was pleased with the number of infants I was seeing through the program initially, but over time I began to see only a handful of program participants each month. I accept blame for this occurrence, as my motivation to promote InfantSEE lessened slowly over time, as is often the reality for extended programs like this. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that many of you reading this would admit experiencing the same, but it’s not all gloom and doom. In 2013, the national InfantSEE Committee was proud to announce the significant achievement of receiving eye assessment reports for more than 100,000 babies through InfantSEE since the program’s inception. I suspect that many optometrists do not consistently send assessment reports back to the AOA, potentially causing the statistics to be lower than what the reports showed.

Over the last few years, I have heard some fellow POA members question both the continued existence of the program as well as whether InfantSEE is still necessary given the children’s vision benefit becoming part of the Affordable Care Act. Let me set the record straight: yes, the program still exists and yes, it is still necessary! A simple explanation is that even though many more children have insurance coverage for an eye exam, it does not mean that the parents know their infants need to see an optometrist in those early months. I believe the purpose of the InfantSEE program is to emphasize educating the public, with the free exam as an incentive. Of course, a free exam was an important incentive when many did not have eye coverage for their children in 2005. Moving forward in 2014, we need to focus our effort on spreading the important message of early intervention and early detection of eye health and vision disorders in the infant and pre-school population.

On May 18, I attended a pediatric continuing education event in State College cosponsored by Mid-Counties and Northwestern Optometric Societies. While there, I had the pleasure of meeting fellow POA member Dr. Daniel Schott who has a practice site at Cole Memorial Hospital. He shared his story of how pediatricians at this Potter County hospital send their patients to him for an exam as part of their nine-month well-child visits. Dr. Schott’s belief in and dedication to the InfantSEE program provided the incentive to forge this strong relationship with the pediatric physician group. This is the exact type of relationship that the InfantSEE program was intended to develop. What an inspiring story! This arrangement not only promotes quality eye and vision care for infants in his area, but places an optometrist as an important member of the pediatric medical team. Dr. Schott’s story motivated me to create the Keystoner’s InfantSEE success stories section, which features stories from members around the state. You can read about his InfantSEE experience by clicking here. I encourage you to share your InfantSEE success stories with the POA by emailing Kelsey@poaeyes.org.

Finally, I’d like to share exciting news regarding the InfantSEE program. About two years ago, Allergan Foundation generously donated grant funds to Optometry Cares® - The AOA Foundation to increase awareness and promote education of the InfantSEE program within the schools and colleges of optometry. A two-part program was developed; one part focused on educating students at optometry schools around the country and the second part focused on educating community members and leaders. Both programs feature Tom Sullivan, the well-known author, actor, singer, composer and motivational speaker. His personal story serves as not only an inspiring tale about how an individual can overcome physical challenges, but also demonstrates the importance of early eye care for all children. This program will be coming to Salus University (PCO) on September 5-6 and I’m excited to have an opportunity to speak to the students during the event as an InfantSEE provider, pediatric specialist and POA leader. 

As is my editorial tradition, I will leave you with one final ask: if you are one of the 7,500 nationwide optometrists that signed up and participated in the InfantSEE over the past 9 years, I ask that you continue to spread the message and challenge yourself to see a few more babies each month. Remember, this is not only a benefit to each infant and his or her family, but you can also reap the benefits of adding at least one life-long patient, as well as the rest of the family, to your practice! If you are a recent grad, new member of the AOA/POA or just never got around to signing up for the program in the past, this is your opportunity. Visit InfantSEE.org to sign up. Carpe diem. It’s one more way that you can help our goal of making 2014 the “Year of the Child!”








Marianne Boltz, O.D., F.A.A.O.
POA President

Friday, July 11, 2014

With clarity and vision for all: Optometry’s Meeting 2014

Optometry’s Meeting 2014 in Philadelphia: we came, we saw, we learned...and had a fantastic time doing so! Like any major event one tirelessly prepares for, now that it is but a memory, we can thankfully take pleasure in the immense relief and satisfaction that comes with a successful outcome and job well done. 

Pennsylvania had not hosted an AOA meeting for over 50 years. What an opportunity! When the POA first learned that Optometry’s Meeting was to be held in Philadelphia in 2014, we knew there was much work ahead of us. I personally understood that this event would also be a major defining element of my presidential year. What an exciting honor it was to address my colleagues at the beginning of President’s Council, and later that day, officially welcome everyone to Philadelphia at the Opening General Session. I offered not only sincere greetings on behalf of the POA members, Board and staff, but also provided those in attendance a history lesson about the famous Philadelphian, John McAllister: the father of American Optometry. You can learn more about the “first family of American Optometry” in a short history written by Dr. Robert Owens at poaeyes.blogspot.com

There are several highlights I would like to share from the meeting. At the Opening Ceremony, I was thrilled to share the stage with “one of our own,” Roberta Beers. I have often said that the PA Paraoptometric Association and the paraoptometric profession in this country would not be what it is today without Roberta, specifically due to her enthusiastic dedication and perpetual volunteerism. The American Optometric Association obviously felt the same and selected her as the 2014 AOA Paraoptometric of the Year. Little known fact: Roberta is the fifth paraoptometric professional from Pennsylvania to receive this award! The ceremony concluded with a keynote presentation from Olympic gold medal winner, ice skating commentator, and cancer survivor Scott Hamilton. 

Bright and early Thursday morning the House of Delegates began with the traditional procession of state flags, each one being carried by the president of each respective state affiliate. I proudly waved our state coat of arms walking beside the president of Hawaii, whom I have gotten to know through the past several President’s Council meetings. If you read my first editorial, you will recall my passion for the 50th state! Pennsylvania was well-represented by 18 delegates that were made up of POA Board members, past POA presidents and local society presidents. To hear more about the House of Delegates – what topics were discussed, resolutions voted on and who was elected as the new AOA Board trustee – look for the article written by Dr. Richard Christoph, to be published in the next Keystoner

The POA member reception was held on Thursday evening in the Marriott hotel. Thanks to the generous support of the Philadelphia County Optometric Society, we had a very special guest at our reception: Benjamin Franklin! In addition to enjoying dessert, coffee and photo-ops with the iconic inventor of bifocals, another historic figure “worked” the room: John McAllister (rather, Dr. Robert Owens donning his finest colonial attire as the father of American optometry). During the reception we recognized the 2014 POA award winners and Roberta Beers for her AOA award. Attendees left with a special souvenir to commemorate Optometry’s Meeting 2014: a unique lapel pin designed for the event displaying the POA logo surrounded by a liberty bell. Dr. Richard Christoph did the major design of the pin’s logo, but production was made possible by the support of the Berks County, Lehigh Valley and Northeastern Pennsylvania Optometric Societies, as well as Dr. Barbara Yanak. 

On Friday morning, Dr. Charles Stuckey, Dr. Richard Christoph and I hosted the Northeast Optometric Forum breakfast meeting. These meetings are attended by the President, President-Elect and Executive Director of each northeast state affiliate and Ohio. Due to POA’s proficiency in the area of third party issues, this was the primary meeting agenda topic and triggered lively discussion. We also had the opportunity to interview Dr. James DeVleming, an optometrist from eastern Washington state running for the open one-year AOA trustee position. To end the meeting, attendees were challenged with a short Philadelphia trivia contest whose questions were developed by yours truly! 

I cannot help mentioning a unique opportunity that was bestowed upon me and fellow POA Board members Dr. Steven Eiss and Dr. Rebecca Wincek-Bateson. We were asked by the AOA Board to act as local ambassadors to dignitaries from Canada (Dr. Paul Geneau, president of the Canadian Association of Optometrists, and Dr. Barry Thienes, president-elect of the CAO and Dr. Susan Cooper, president of the World Council of Optometry) on Thursday evening; and from China (Mr. Cui Yi, chairman of the China Optometric and Optical Association, and fellow Chinese optical colleagues and optometric educators) on Friday evening. It was truly a testament to how respect, camaraderie and laughter know no language or cultural barrier!

After sitting in continuing education lectures or the House of Delegates all day, there were thankfully events that helped us end Friday and Saturday with some collegiality and entertainment. Many POA members attended the Pennsylvania College of Optometry reception and student outreach program fundraiser on Friday evening at the National Constitution Center. The Celebration of Optometry was held on Saturday evening in the ballroom of the Convention Center. Sponsored yearly by Hoya, this year’s event featured famous actor and comedian Martin Short. He sang, danced and showcased some of his beloved characters from Saturday Night Live and the movie Father of the Bride. It was a fitting way to end a spectacular conference!

Finally, I must take this opportunity to thank the POA staff; especially Ilene Sauertieg, Deb Blanchard and Kelsey Rodkey for the months of hard work preparing for Optometry’s Meeting in Philadelphia, but also for their support and oversight during the event. Of note, I received very positive feedback from President’s Council attendees regarding the Philadelphia Finder emails (listing must-see attractions, where to eat, shop, etcetera) developed by our POA staff from member suggestions, and sent out to all state affiliates prior to the meeting. 

For those of you who attended Optometry’s Meeting this year, I hope you left Philadelphia with additional knowledge and many good memories. It was wonderful to personally hear from many out-of-state optometrists who enjoyed their time in the “city of brotherly love.” I know it was a week that the POA staff and Board will not soon forget. So, on to Optometry’s Meeting 2015: Seattle…the Pennsylvania Optometric Association certainly set the “state host” bar high. Good luck, Optometric Physicians of Washington!





Marianne Boltz, O.D., F.A.A.O.
POA President

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Membership has its privileges

So, why did you join the POA? Yes, I am asking you. Tough question? It might not be so easy to provide a concrete answer. Having given this question some serious thought, allow me to share two reasons why I became active in our professional state organization as soon as I started my first optometry position in Harrisburg 17 years ago.

First, I must take you on a journey back to my childhood. My father was a physical therapist; someone who taught me not only the trials and tribulations of being an extremely dedicated medical professional, but also the importance of supporting one’s professional organization. I always remembered my father as a member of both the Pennsylvania Physical Therapy Association (PPTA) and the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). Our family had the opportunity to visit many interesting places throughout the country and Canada, attending various APTA meetings with him to places like Anaheim (Disneyland!), Kansas City, Baltimore, New Orleans and Montreal. I also vividly recall his consternation regarding legislative issues that arose in the state, particularly those involving those “diabolical” chiropractors who wanted to perform physical therapy-type services in their offices! (Yes, this was their turf-war battle many years ago – sound familiar?) I remember him writing checks to support these PPTA legislative initiatives, to what I did not know at the time was their political action committee. I believe it was from these childhood experiences that I came to understand by osmosis the importance of professional association membership – that joining and supporting these organizations at the state and national level was something “you just did” as a successful medical professional.

My second reason for joining the POA was undoubtedly related to an early encounter with our executive director, Dr. Charlie Stuckey. I had the lucky coincidence to be an optometry extern in the fall of 1995 at Kilmore Eye Associates, where Dr. Stuckey was the managing partner at the time. I recall sitting in his office and being so impressed upon seeing his Master’s Degree in Health Planning and Management from Penn State hanging on the wall! (But please don’t ask me what I had for dinner two nights ago.) He made get-togethers with each of the externs a priority to discuss issues related to practice management and membership in the POA and AOA. I believe I even attended a Central PA Optometric Society meeting upon his recommendation during my externship at the practice. Ultimately, this experience with Dr. Stuckey further solidified the importance for me to continue on with my membership of the POA and AOA long after my new-graduate scale dues reduction was no more.

As I had mentioned briefly in my first editorial, the POA (and most other state affiliates) has continued to struggle with growing membership as long as I can remember. Our membership numbers have been stable over the years. Not surprisingly, this issue of membership sustainability and growth was the topic of the keynote addresses at our last two President Council meetings. In San Diego last June, Mary Byers, author of Race for Relevance: 5 Radical Changes for Associations, spoke about the similar challenges that face all professional organizations today in terms of membership. Younger potential members from Generation X look at membership differently than their parents did. There is also the challenge in meeting the needs of a greater number of part-time, female and ethnically-diverse potential members. In San Antonio this past January, Sheri Jacobs, CAE, the author of the book, The Art of Membership spoke about how organizations must market themselves “like Lady Gaga” to help new potential members more easily see and understand the benefits of being part of an organization. For example, just like Lady Gaga is very accessible to her fans, we need to make sure the POA is accessible to new members. We should be sure to make connections so people feel engaged and want to return to events like CE conferences and maintain membership. Ms. Jacobs also discussed how there are big shifts underway in how people spend their money; for example, people are more careful in deciding to spend money on membership dues. They are also more careful on how they spend their time. She also raised the point that younger generations won’t automatically join organizations as in previous generations – they want to see greater tangible rewards to do so.

I truly feel the solution to not only adding new members but also keeping the ones we have is for each person to understand the ways in which the privileges of membership in the POA outweigh the cost of dues. No, not an easy task when bills and expenses are bombarding us each day from every direction: student loans, child-related costs, buying new equipment for your practice, etcetera. While I could ramble on and on about the numerous tangible benefits (like the Keystoner keeping you informed with what is happening with our profession), let me just share with you the three membership benefits that I personally feel are the most significant to me: advocacy, continuing education and social/networking opportunities. As POA members, I know you are familiar with the high quality CE programs and webinars offered throughout the year at conferences and online. You may also understand the social and networking opportunities that are provided by attending both local society and state meetings, like our recent Spring Congress in State College. What you may not be as aware of is the difficult work of advocacy that often goes on behind closed doors, especially by our most active committees such as the Third Party Center and the Legislative Affairs Committee. Dr. Stuckey and the Third Party Center are continually addressing issue after issue for our members, such as unequal reimbursement, coding/billing challenges and insurance panel credentialing/re-credentialing. The Legislative Affairs Committee works diligently to stay on the offensive with any statewide “turf-war battle,” as well as keeping abreast of what legislative initiatives are being fought and won around the country. In addition, our keyperson system within the Legislative Affairs Committee perpetuates close relationships with our state senators and representatives. A timely example of the significance of our keyperson system and lobbying team: the solid friendship they have nurtured over the years with legislative leadership led to optometric services being reinstated as part of the Healthy Pennsylvania Medicaid waiver proposal. The initial proposal eliminated all optometric, podiatric and chiropractic services from coverage.

I absolutely realize that I am “preaching to the choir” regarding this membership theme. If you are reading this editorial, you are most likely a POA member already and realize that membership has its privileges. So, here is my “ask” of you: I ask you to help us spread the word and reach out to non-members you know (former classmates, doctors practicing down the road from you, etcetera) and encourage them to attend a local society meeting to “test the waters” or just take the plunge and join. I even suggest that you share this editorial with them. For that matter, if it’s been a long time since you have attended a local society meeting – make it a priority and go. Help us to keep the organization alive and growing. No matter what reason motivated you to join organized optometry, the future of our profession is up to you!






Marianne Boltz, O.D., F.A.A.O.
President
Pennsylvania Optometric Association