AOA looks to help ODs hit by Hurricane Harvey

August 29, 2017

As Hurricane Harvey continues to pound southeastern Texas and eyes Louisiana, the American Optometric Association (AOA) asks optometrists to join in helping ODs and optometry students affected by the storm.

As Hurricane Harvey continues to pound southeastern Texas and eyes Louisiana, the American Optometric Association (AOA) asks optometrists to join in helping ODs and optometry students affected by the storm.

Optometry’s Fund for Disaster Relief, part of Optometry Cares-the AOA Foundation, provides immediate assistance to ODs in need following natural disasters.

“This program is open to all ODs,” says AOA President Christopher J. Quinn, OD. “You don’t have to be an AOA member to apply or to receive assistance. We encourage anyone with an immediate need to apply.”

The fund was established in 2005 to help ODs after Hurricane Katrina hit the southeastern United States.

According to Dr. Quinn, the fund helped ODs after Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy as well as during 2016 flooding in Louisiana.

“The Fund for Disaster Relief been essential to a lot of people who identified themselves affected with immediate needs in their practices,” he says.

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To date, the fund has provided more than $579,600 to ODs hit by natural disasters, according to the AOA.

Getting help

For ODs affected by Hurricane Harvey, help can be a click away.

Applications for disaster relief are available online or through an AOA state affiliate office.

Dr. Quinn says after an application is received, the process will move forward quickly.

“It’s a simple process,” he says, “and we pride ourselves on making quick decisions with rapid turnaround. We’re talking days. For these doctors, their immediate needs can be critical. Perhaps the grants aren’t as large as they might get from insurance, but we want this to be as immediate relief as possible.”

Due to the possibility of disrupted mail delivery during the storm and its aftermath, the AOA is coordinating alternative methods of fund disbursal. ODs are able to receive a check via a local society president or a designee who has not been affected by the disaster, for example.

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Although the Fund for Disaster Relief is designed for practicing ODs, the AOA wants to help optometry students as well.

“In Texas, we have two optometry schools,” Dr. Quinn says. “We are coordinating with the American Optometric Student Association (AOSA) to look at ways to provide relief for students who have been affected. We hope to have something in place quickly. We want to make sure students are taken care of.”

Additional help

AOA leadership is in the process of coordinating with industry partners to potentially delay billing to ODs in affected areas.

“These doctors have no income, so even delayed billing can be helpful,” says Dr. Quinn. “We have contacted our industry partners, realizing that our ask is an internal decision for these organizations. We will advocate for delayed billing and help facilitate it any way we can.”

Related: ODs must embrace new technologies, says AOA panel

Want to donate?

ODs wishing to help their colleagues hit by Hurricane Harvey are able to donate online to Optometry Cares. Select “Optometry’s Fund for Disaster Relief” in the Program Designation dropdown menu.

Related: Students can make a difference with advocacy

UHCO update

The University of Houston College of Optometry (UHCO) will be closed through Monday, September 4, as the community recovers from the storm. Updated information will be posted to UH Alert, the school’s emergency notification system.

According to a statement from Association for Schools and Colleges of Optometry, to date UHCO has not sustained damage and all students and staff are safe.