Thursday, July 26, 2012
Where have all the members gone?
Recently the AOA proposed changes in the membership classifications of the AOA. Whether you agree with these changes or not, the bottom line is that all members – including Life Members, Partial Practice and new graduate members – are receiving all the benefits of membership, but many are not paying full dues. Is it fair that 50% of the members pay 90% of the dues? These classifications had been created to encourage all optometrists to be members of the state and national association. We do not want to discourage anyone who desires membership. What is certainly unfair is that while all optometrists have benefited and prospered from the activities of the POA/AOA, many have not contributed to the efforts either financially or by volunteering time and effort.
What is the answer to this dilemma? Unfortunately there is not one simple answer. First we need to convey the benefits of membership to our colleagues who do not belong to the POA. Without organized optometry, we would not be able to use diagnostic or therapeutic drugs. We would not be able to treat diseases or glaucoma. It is likely that optometrists would not be paid the same as ophthalmologists for the same services without advocacy from organized optometry. Would optometrists be included in the health care reform efforts without organized optometry? Since you are reading this editorial, you already know the benefits of membership in the POA. Now we need to get this message out to others.
Much time and effort has been spent on conveying this message to the students in optometry schools around the country, and I have met many who have received the message. I would like to publicly say a few words regarding the students I have met at state and national meetings. They are doing an awesome job!! They are engaged in the future of their (our) profession. Over 300 students personally financed their expenses to attend the AOA Advocacy Meeting in Washington, D.C. in April. Members of the AOSA have contributed more to AOA-PAC than those at many state affiliates. Trustees of AOSA spoke in favor of changing the ascending dues schedule for newly graduated optometrists. They know the importance of membership and are committed to our profession. I commend these students and request all members to also congratulate these students when the opportunity arises.
No one agrees with every decision made by an organization, whether it is a church, service or professional organization. The answer is not to take your golf ball and go home. We need all members to be involved so optometry can continue to be a great career. I challenge every member to invite a non-member to lunch or to a local society meeting; better yet, do both. Sometimes it is difficult for someone to make that first move and attend a meeting on their own. Extend a welcoming hand. Educate him or her on the benefits of being a member.
All optometrists – male or female; full-time or partial practice; private, corporate or employed; established or new graduates – need to be a member of the POA. Be as involved as you are able, now or later. By recognizing the importance of membership and increasing our numbers, we can provide even more benefits. The benefits are not always visible, but they are vital.
Remember the thrill we felt at graduation and becoming a doctor. Let’s keep that feeling alive or, if necessary, let’s rejuvenate it. Be proud to be an optometrist and a member of the POA. Share that feeling with others. It is worth the effort. Thank you for being a member and sharing with others.
Donna M. Buraczewski, O.D.
Pennsylvania Optometric Association