Dr. Bill Reynolds, trustee to the American Optometric Association, visited the New England College of Optometry on Thursday, November 19, 2015. The American Optometric Association represents doctors of optometry, optometric students, paraoptometric assistants and technicians across the country by setting professional standards, advocating for the profession, and providing research and education leadership (source: www.AOA.org). Trustees visit the colleges of optometry each year to share the work being done by the AOA and to listen to concerns and ideas from students and faculty.
Dr. Reynolds has been on the Board of Trustees for the AOA since 2012, serving on the AOA’s Finance Committee as well as serving as a liaison to the AOA Advocacy Group, Political Action Committee and Association of Regulatory Boards of Optometry. He has been an active member of the Kentucky Optometric Association for over twenty years, working to help pass legislation for children’s vision, access, and scope.
During his visit at New England College of Optometry, Dr. Reynolds spent the day touring several clinical facilities in the New England Eye network and the College before meeting with faculty, students, and student leaders to share the AOA’s current work and mission.
Drs. Gary Chu and Phyllis Andrejko led the tour of the New England Eye clinical facilities and shared both the history of health centers in Boston and how this history has impacted the development of our current network of facilities in which students help develop their skills. They were joined by Evan Tirado, Class of 2017, President of the American Optometric Student Association.
At the Dimock Center, Optometry Director Dr. Angela Abraham discussed the interprofessional opportunities available for students through their work within a health center, as well as her own advocacy efforts this week. She noted how the patient populations vary throughout the city, providing NECO students the opportunity to experience a diverse patient base through their varied clinical experiences. She also shared her involvement with a group of Chinese students who came to the College as part of NECO’s partnership with Wenzhou Medical University last summer, pointing out the poster they created comparing optometry in China and in the United States.
The second stop on the tour was New England Eye Commonwealth, one of the College’s comprehensive eye care centers in Boston. Dr. Reynolds explained that he believed “technology is going to revolutionize the way we practice optometry.” He was able to see the new technology being used at New England Eye Commonwealth, including low vision equipment. To round out the tour, the group visited a third clinical facility, Charles River Health, a community health center located in Brighton, a neighborhood of Boston.
After a morning spent touring the clinical centers, Dr. Reynolds returned to the College for a luncheon with faculty and state affiliate representatives from New England. In his discussion, he highlighted the work being done by the AOA and stressed the importance of faculty, staff, and practitioners in participating in advocacy and helping influence the direction the profession of optometry is heading. He noted the work being done by the AOA on a federal and state level to help make an impact on the future of the profession.
Dr. Reynolds later met with student council officers and club presidents, sharing ideas on ways to promote student involvement in the AOA and noting the benefits of participation such as job placement resources, health care resources, and advocacy efforts. He ended his day hosting a discussion with the student body.
Throughout his visit, he stressed the importance of how members of the optometric field can support one another from resources such as preferred practice and evidence based guidelines to staying actively involved in the current landscape of healthcare and optometry legislation. He cited such issues as UPP, Universal Pricing Policy, scope of practice, and online alternatives for refractions as those the AOA is actively addressing and urged both students and faculty to remain part of the conversation. Dr. Reynolds noted, “We have a responsibility not just to people in communities, but to people in the country. We don’t have enough practitioners to care for all the children so we need to work together with others. The responsibility is all of ours to expand access of care for people, not just the profession.”