Caroline Helwick

June 19, 2017

Optometry's Meeting by the American Optometric Association (AOA) will debut a few "completely new and different" programs and will kick off with a rally on Capitol Hill, according to Andrea Thau, OD, president of the AOA.

The meeting is the 120th Congress of the AOA and the 47th Annual Conference of the American Optometric Student Association, and is being held June 21 to 25 in the nation's capital.

"The Optometry's Meeting is the one conference where all doctors of optometry meet. It's where the business of the association takes place, and where we have exciting events for students, young graduates, and all optometrists," said Dr Thau, who practices in New York City.

This year will be full of career training opportunities, continuing education courses, inspiring keynote speakers, cutting-edge technology, provocative research, advocacy activities, and networking events, she told Medscape Medical News.

AOA+ Debuts With Capitol Hill Rally

Dr Thau is especially excited about an inaugural program, dubbed AOA+, and a fun learning concept, the "Hackathon," both new to the meeting.

AOA+ is sponsored by Johnson & Johnson Vision and will be held on day 1 of the busy 5-day conference. It is "truly a first-of-its-kind event" and a "unique primer" targeted to students and new graduates. Those interested in professional advocacy, career readiness, and networking with the field's thought leaders will be drawn to AOA+, she said.

"AOA+ will immerse attendees in what belonging to the AOA family means and how our 44,000-plus members work together to further optometry through four key priorities: advocacy, public awareness of optometry, continuing education, and tools to provide the best patient care," she explained. "We want to capture enthusiasm of the young, to involve them in the process of advocating."

AOA+ will open with a rally on Capitol Hill. More than 2300 students and new physicians are expected to gather on the grounds of the US Capitol to shout-out for optometry, hear from the field's champions in Congress, and visit their representatives' offices.

"Advocacy is a vital tool for keeping our profession strong and patients healthy," Dr Thau said. For example, a "huge win" for the AOA was its role in ensuring that pediatric vision services would be one of the 10 essential benefits of the Affordable Care Act. "These are the kinds of things we work toward," she said. "And we are trying to capture the excitement and energy of the millennials to help us."

AOA+ also features panels of "dynamic young doctors of optometry" describing their career struggles and successes, and leadership networking and mentorship programs.

Inaugural Hackathon

Also new is the "Hackathon," a creative concept that enhances problem-solving by pitting teams against each other, according to Thomas Wong, OD, from the State University of New York College of Optometry. Dr Wong is facilitating "Hackathon III — Future of Interprofessional Patient Education" on the final day of the meeting.

Hackathons are digital-age events in which participants collaborate and use innovative technology to solve a real-world problem, said Dr Wong, who has participated in many hackathons on his campus and elsewhere. At this one, teams of "hackers" will tackle the challenge of designing a patient and parent education tool. Teams will include doctors of optometry, members of the National Association of School Nurses, researchers, and optometric faculty and deans.

There will be a running clock, a competitive atmosphere, and pressure. And in the end, teams deliver and present solutions.

"We'll be working toward creating a synergy between school nurses and the AOA's doctors of optometry," Dr Wong told Medscape Medical News. Attendees can expect an "interactive ecosystem that promotes improved patient outcomes."

36 Hours of Continuing Education

The meeting also offers 5 days of the best continuing education in the industry, according to Dr Thau. Attendees can earn an unprecedented 36-plus hours of accredited education from a wide selection of courses that range from the unique, such as "Friday at 4:59 pm: Ocular Emergencies" and "Beauty and the Beast: Integrating Aesthetics Into the Optometric Practice," to the practical, such as "60-Minute Glaucoma Update."

Other engaging education opportunities include the "In the Pipeline: Thinking Outside the Box" series, Optometry's Match Game, 30-Minute Evidence-Based Case Studies, Essilor Optometry Student Bowl TMXXVI, Fireside Chats, the all-new Joint OD-Paraoptometric Courses, and several digital e-poster sessions.

Keynote Addresses

Rounding out the meeting will be its lighter elements, including many alumni receptions, a Saturday night "Celebration of Optometry" with pop sensation Andy Grammer, and two Keynote Speakers: the 20-time Olympic medalist Dara Torres, at age 41 years the oldest swimmer to compete in the Olympics, and Alexa von Tobel, renowned young entrepreneur, financial advisor, and founder and chief executive officer of LearnVest.com.

"Our keynote speakers should be very inspirational to our attendees," Dr Thau said.

Dr Thau and Dr Wong have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

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