Optometry associations come together

February 11, 2014

Leaders of the American Optometric Association (AOA), Association of Regulatory Boards of Optometry (ARBO), Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO), and the National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO) held a facilitated 2-day meeting as the Inter-Organizational Communications and Cooperation Committee (IOCCC) to come to a better understanding of each organization’s operating realities, vision for the future, and stakeholder requirements.

Dallas, TX-Leaders of the American Optometric Association (AOA), Association of Regulatory Boards of Optometry (ARBO), Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO), and the National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO) held a facilitated 2-day meeting as the Inter-Organizational Communications and Cooperation Committee (IOCCC) to come to a better understanding of each organization’s operating realities, vision for the future, and stakeholder requirements. The organizations’ leadership wants to build a formal working relationship to better serve their respective stakeholders and the general public’s desire for high quality eye care.

“This is the first time since the Joint Board Certification Project Team ended its work in 2009 that there has been an organized meeting between the major stakeholders in optometry,” says AOA President Mitch Munson, OD. “The AOA has always believed in the transparency of open discussions and feels strongly that decisions made by any single organization which impact the profession as a whole should never be made in a vacuum. It is our hope that having regular meetings with these groups will help move the profession forward in a collegial and productive manner.”

“I was asked by ARBO’s Member Boards at our June 2013 annual meeting to work on improving communication with the AOA,” says ARBO President W. Ernest Schlabach, OD. “I feel that that this was a very productive first step in that direction. I’m encouraged that by opening up the lines of communication, we can all work together for the benefit of the public and the profession.”

The overriding goals and outcome for the IOCCC:

• Build a more structured environment for the exchange of ideas. Optometric community adjustments are driving organizational change; the IOCCC wishes to have an ongoing understanding of each organization’s current operations and their vision for the future

• Enhance the systematic dialog and working relationships among the organizations in an open environment to facilitate synergism among the organizations to better serve the optometry community

• Enhance regular lines of inter-organizational communications for constructive conversations

“These meetings should be occurring several times throughout the year. It doesn’t have to be something highly structured, but we’re making sure that the leadership of the various organizations have an understanding of what their mission is, what their goals are, and what strategies they’re using to accomplish them,” says NBEO President Jack Terry, OD. “That’s really imperative, especially when you have a small profession like ours.”

These gatherings are more for understanding and dialog on vital optometry concerns of the day, according to IOCCC, not the typical agenda packed with action items. The desire is to come to a common understanding of issues seen through the different stakeholders’ lens and possible strategies to find synergistic solutions. Following are some of the items discussed:

• Organizational independence, authority, and responsibility

• Multi-organizational board membership

• Financial, strategic, and organizational structures and alliances

• Maintenance of licensure

• Accreditation of continuing education

• Board certification and maintenance of certification

Says Jennifer Smythe, OD, FAAO, president of ASCO: “Anytime there is an opportunity for organizations in optometry to come together and better understand each other's roles, perspectives, and individual goals is a win for our profession as a whole. Our faculty prepare the future of our profession in the schools and colleges, and being part of an open dialogue about the issues doctors of optometry face strengthens our ability to help shape and positively impact that future.”

The group agreed that an ongoing, open and honest dialog between their groups will prove beneficial for each of their organizations, members and the general public. The IOCCC anticipates that its next meeting will be sometime later this summer following the annual meetings of ARBO, ASCO, and AOA, all in late June.