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AOA Trustee Liaison Dr. Barbara Horn Visits NECO

Student group meeting with Dr. Horn.

Dr. Horn tours NECO, visits two clinical sites and discusses the AOA with students and faculty

On Thursday, November 20, 2014, Dr. Barbara Horn, a member of the American Optometric Association Board of Trustees, liaison to the New England College of Optometry, toured NECO as well as two New England Eye clinical facilities, before addressing faculty and students, and meeting with student leaders. Throughout her visit, she helped inform the community of the important work done by the AOA both historically and currently to support the profession, and urged students become actively involved in the AOA to have an impact on their future.

Dr. Horn and her husband, Dr. Michael Weisgerber, began their day at a breakfast meeting with President Clifford Scott, Dean of Academic Affairs Barry Fisch, Dean of Students Barbara McGinley, Chief of Health and Outreach Programs for New England Eye Dr. Gary Chu, Director of New England Eye Roslindale Dr. Phyllis Andrejko Executive Director of Massachusetts Society of Optometrists Rich Lawless, and student leaders Neena Singhal, Pearl Thai, Rinita Zanzerkia, and Ally Sexton.
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Through its patient care and teaching affiliations, NECO is able to place students in a broad network of community health centers throughout the greater Boston area to develop their skills through diverse experiences. Through schools, hospitals, community health centers, geriatrics/low vision centers, homeless services, and schools for children with disabilities, the New England Eye Network offers our students unique opportunities to both learn and serve. One such clinical training site is the Dimock Center in Roxbury.

Dimock’s optometry director, Dr. Angela Abraham, discussed the work being done by student clinicians and staff within the community. Confirming the small world of optometry, the current Dimock resident, Thomas Wong, was able reconnect with Dr. Weisgerber, with whom he had done clinical work in Michigan.
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In addition to its strong network of community health centers, New England Eye also operates two of its own locations, NEE Commonwealth and NEE Roslindale, providing patient-centered care for individuals at all stages of life. At NEE Commonwealth, Dr. Horn toured the facility, met staff, and talked with Dr. David Mills, Chief of Practice Management and Clinical Operations. New England Eye also supports On-Sight, its a mobile clinic, specializing in pediatrics and low vision. Aboard the van, which was parked in front of the College, Dr. Bruce Moore shared stories with Dr. Horn about the work done through On-Sight.
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After a morning spent touring the clinical facilities, Dr. Horn arrived at the College. Student Council President Ally Sexton, Class of 2016 led Dr. Horn and Dr. Weisgerber on a tour of the 424 Beacon campus.
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The College hosted a luncheon for faculty and Dr. Horn, where faculty members, student AOA representatives, and state affiliate representatives from throughout New England discussed the AOA’s advocacy efforts as well as ways to increase student involvement and awareness. Dr. Horn noted the critical role faculty play in helping students learn more about becoming advocates for the field of optometry. Dr Horn

Some benefits of AOA membership include job placement resources, student recruitment, health care reform, and advocacy. This work includes advocating for the rights of practitioners and access to patients, as well as the public’s understanding of eye health. The AOA is currently embarking on a public service campaign informing consumers of the need for regular eye exams. The organization is also continuing its efforts to expand the definition of primary care to include optometry. As the legislative advocate for the optometric field, the AOA’s work in health care reform promotes stronger patient access and pushes for a broader scope of optometric practice.

During the afternoon, Dr. Horn met with student council leaders and representatives from student organizations to share tips on ways to promote student involvement and share the benefits of their participation of the AOA. As future optometrists, students have the responsibility to participate in creating change and advocating for public policy for their patients. Dr Horn

One way, as student representatives, is by visiting Capitol Hill to meet with legislators. Dr. Horn explained, “The legislators are very interested to hear what students have to say. You are the future of optometry and they listen to the ideas you have.” Each year, representatives from the College travel with faculty advisors to share their views in Washington D.C. For more information about these “Hill Visits,” visit advocacy.

Throughout the day, Dr. Horn shared her passion for both enacting change and helping individuals navigate their future. Faculty, students, and staff appreciated her strong AOA message, delivered with enthusiasm: “We fight so you can use the skills you’ve worked so hard to earn. We advocate for patient access and push for a broader practice scope. We work hard to tell the world, from patients to insurance companies, that we are country’s primary eye care provider.”