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Candidates announce 2022 election bids for AOA Board of Trustees

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Eight members are running for positions on the AOA Board of Trustees.

James P. DeVleming, O.D., of Washington, will become AOA president at Optometry’s Meeting 2022 after serving on the Board of Trustees since 2014. Currently, Dr. DeVleming serves as chair of the Investment Committee and serves as a member of the Executive Committee and 401(k) Committee. He is the board liaison to the Coding & Reimbursement Committee, Industry Relations Center Committee, Accreditation Council on Optometric Education, Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry, and the Interorganizational Communications and Cooperation Committee. Further, he is board liaison to the following affiliate associations: Armed Forces Optometric Society, American Optometric Student Association, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. His past board work includes serving as liaison to the Contact Lens and Cornea Section, Federal Relations Committee, Advocacy Committee and Paraoptometric Resource Center Committee.

Dr. DeVleming is a past president of the Optometric Physicians of Washington (OPW) as well as a past president of the Inland Society of OPW.

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“I will continue to help the AOA help affiliates and members push forward with expansion of scope across the United States. Whether it be working with members to better inform them of how to build their grassroots connections with their local legislators; working with affiliate legislative committees on how to better educate their legislators through their committee or through lobbyists; or working with our State Government Relations Committee to make sure affiliates have the ability to ‘get to yes’ when it comes to asking for Future Practice Initiative support by completing the required work on the checklist. I will continue to support all the work associated with growing our abilities to provide the high-quality care all of our patients need.”

Ronald L. Benner, O.D., of Montana, has filed for the office of AOA president-elect. Dr. Benner, who was first elected to the Board of Trustees in 2015, currently serves as AOA vice president. He also serves as chair of the AOA Finance Committee and as a member of the Executive Committee, Investment Committee and the 401(k) Committee. He is liaison to the Education Committee and the Quality Improvement and Registries Committee. Dr. Benner also is the board liaison to the Council on Research, the Association of Regulatory Boards of Optometry and to affiliates in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, West Virginia, University of Pikeville College of Optometry and University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry. Dr. Benner’s past board work includes serving as liaison to the Contact Lens and Cornea Section, Faculty & Student Membership Liaisons, Membership Development Committee, InfantSEE ® & Children’s Vision Committee, Vision Rehabilitation Committee, AOAExcel ®, Federal Relations Committee, State Government Relations Committee, and Third Party Center Executive Committee.

Dr. Benner is a past president of the Montana Optometric Association.

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“My belief as a board member and officer remains: The AOA must be a strong voice and leader to represent the profession, provide necessary resources for members to successfully care for patients, and advocate for our members to third-party payers on the value and importance of optometry in the health care system. No matter the practice emphasis, modality or location, membership should never be concerned about who is looking out for them. The AOA organization, board, volunteers and staff will remain vigilant. Contemporary optometry also requires the continued shift of our Education Center from one-and-done education to year-round professional development emphasizing knowledge growth and skills advancement to instill confidence in doctors and staff to provide care at the highest level of their training.”

Steven T. Reed, O.D., of Mississippi, has filed for the office of vice president. He was first elected to the board in 2016 and currently serves as secretary-treasurer. Dr. Reed is liaison to the Investment Committee, Constitution and Bylaws Committee, and Finance Committee. He serves as the liaison trustee to AOAExcel ®, Paraoptometric Resource Committee, Membership Development Committee, the American Board of Optometry, and the World Council of Optometry. He also is board liaison to the state affiliates in Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania as well as at The Ohio State University College of Optometry and the Pennsylvania College of Optometry. Dr. Reed’s past board work includes serving as liaison to the Health Policy Institute, New Technology Committee, Sports and Performance Vision Committee, Third Party Center Executive Committee, Faculty and Student Membership Liaisons Committee, State Government Relations Committee, Membership Development Committee and the Contact Lens and Cornea Section.

Dr. Reed is a past president of the Mississippi Optometric Association (MOA) and the Southwest Optometric Society.

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“My goal as vice president is to continue the momentum of contemporary optometry. We must double down on our advocacy efforts and not rest until every doctor of optometry can practice at the highest level of their training. It’s critical that we provide tools for practice success—such as leadership training, staff education and retention strategies—and encourage the use of our AOAExcel member benefits. We must eliminate the plague of vision plan abuses and reduce dependence on these plans by encouraging doctors to embrace full-scope optometry. Finally, we need to increase AOA membership by highlighting the value that organized optometry brings to our profession. We must work together to promote and protect our profession for the benefits of our patients.”

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Jacqueline “Jacquie” M. Bowen, O.D., of Colorado, initially elected to the Board of Trustees in 2016, has filed for the office of secretary-treasurer. Currently, Dr. Bowen serves as a member of the AOAExcel Committee, Faculty and Student Membership Liaisons Committee, Membership Development Committee, Quality Improvement and Data Committee, Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry, Optometric Extension Program, Vision Health Alliance, (formally known as TAYE), Investment Committee and Finance Committee. She also serves as liaison to association affiliates Armed Forces Optometric Society, American Optometric Student Association, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. Dr. Bowen served most recently on the Advocacy and Federal Relations Committees and was a member of the Professional Relations Committee. Dr. Bowen’s past board work includes serving as liaison to the Advocacy Committee, Federal Relations Committee, InfantSEE & Children’s Vision Committee, Optometry Cares ®—The AOA Foundation, State Government Relations Committee, Third Party Center Executive Committee, Commission on Paraoptometric Certification, Coding and Reimbursement Committee and the American Board of Optometry among others.

Dr. Bowen is a past president of the Colorado Optometric Association.

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“For several years, AOA leadership has been working on a strategic plan through the Future Practice Initiative that includes advancing scope in as many states as possible, and I am committed to pursuing that goal. In addition, we still have much work to do to halt vision plan abuses and get our doctors paid appropriately for our skills and expertise. And in order to be most effective in advancing care for our patients, doctors of optometry need well-trained staff. Our paraoptometric training program is growing, and I hope someday we will have a national pool of skilled paraoptometrics from which our members can hire. Optometry is in a great position to truly establish ourselves as primary health care providers.”

Lori L. Grover, O.D., Ph.D., of Illinois, has filed for reelection to the board. She was first elected to the board in 2018. Dr. Grover serves as liaison trustee to the Advocacy Committee, the Federal Relations Committee, the InfantSEE & Children’s Vision Committee, the State Government Relations Committee and the Third Party Center Executive Committee. Her board liaison assignments include affiliate associations in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, California and Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry and Southern College of Optometry. Dr. Grover serves as a liaison trustee to the board of directors of Optometry Cares—The AOA Foundation. Dr. Grover previously served as liaison to the Evidence-Based Optometry Committee, Health Promotions Committee, Leadership Development Committee, Research and Information Resource Team, State Government Relations Committee, Vision Rehabilitation Committee and Council on Research. She previously chaired the AOA Vision Rehabilitation Section and served on its executive council.

“As trustee, I will continue to remain focused on increased scope expansion, membership growth and awareness of optometry’s value to the nation’s health. Having worked closely with almost every committee, council, task force, institute, project team, section and work group, I gained valuable insight into optometric advocacy and strategy. My representation of affiliates and members will remain focused on listening, engagement, and support for resources and team building to meet evolving needs. My proven track record is due in part to a commitment to earning trust and building effective communications. What remains most important to me as your ‘senior trustee’ is that colleagues know I will always fight for their best interests, the profession’s future and the patients we care for.”

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Belinda R. Starkey, O.D., of Arkansas, has filed for reelection to the board. She was first elected to the board in 2021. Dr. Starkey is the board liaison to the Commission on Paraoptometric Certification, Contact Lens & Cornea Section, Ethics and Values Committee, Evidence‐Based Optometry Committee, Paraoptometric Resource Center Committee and College of Optometrists in Vision Development. Her board liaison assignments include affiliate associations in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Univerity of California, Berkeley, Pacific University, Southern California College of Optometry at Marshall B. Ketchum University and Western University of Health Sciences College of Optometry. Dr. Starkey served as a member of the AOA’s Industry Relations Committee and the House of Delegates Credentials Committee. She has served on various volunteer committees for the Arkansas Optometric Association (ArOA) and is currently the co-chair of the state legislative committee. Dr. Starkey served as treasurer of Arkansans for Healthy Eyes, a coalition group advocating for Arkansas’ successful scope expansion law, during the state’s recent referendum battle.

She is a past president of the ArOA.

“It is not about what I want but what our profession needs. The Board of Trustees has established a strategic plan that I will work toward fulfilling. We must stay up to date with education and technology for our profession to thrive. I am excited to see contemporary optometry continue to advance across the country because of its importance to patient care and access. Driving home the unified public education message of comprehensive, in-person eye exams will improve public health and visual welfare. I will also work for programs that allow doctors to invest in education for paraoptometric staff. If we foster a career mindset and show the value of education to our staff, they, in turn, will help us run our practices more efficiently.”

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Paul Barney, O.D., of Alaska, has filed for a term on the board. Dr. Barney has dedicated more than 20 years of volunteer service to the Alaska Optometric Association (AKOA), where he has held almost every leadership title, including president, chair of the education committee and chair of the legislative committee. He also has served as a member of the Board of Examiners in Optometry for the state of Alaska for eight years, serving as its chairperson for five years. Dr. Barney has devoted countless hours over many years advocating for the advancement of the practice of optometry in Alaska so that the needs of optometric patients in the rural areas and villages of the vast state can have access to the best care possible. He currently serves as chairperson of the legislative committee for the AKOA. He was instrumental in passing H.B.103 in 2017, an Alaska statute which gave the Alaska Board of Examiners in Optometry the autonomy and the authority to write regulations for anything that is taught at an accredited school or college of optometry. Dr. Barney served as Alaska’s director to the Great Western Council of Optometry for several years and served as its president from 2014-2015.

Dr. Barney is a past president of the AKOA.

“With my experience and knowledge, I believe I can be effective in these areas: The first is to help expand scope of practice across the U.S. With eye care demands in this country rising, optometry can best help address those needs if scope laws are commensurate with the current level of optometric education. Expanding scope requires a strong membership, so I would also work to grow membership. Positive public awareness, especially with legislators, is also important, as well as developing public awareness campaigns to educate the public on optometry’s role in health care. Educating members on new technology and evolving trends in eye care, and how those changes will affect their practices, is important in engaging members. Optometric education can address those issues.”

Capt. Margaret Read, O.D., M.B.A., Armed Forces Optometric Society (AFOS), has filed for election to the board. Capt. Read entered the Navy in 1999 and reported to her first duty station at Branch Medical Clinic in Mayport, Florida. She began as a staff optometrist rising to lead as product line manager of clinical support services. Following residency, she reported to Naval Hospital, Keflavik, Iceland, where she served as the sole optometrist, chair of the executive committee of the medical staff and the disaster preparedness officer. After her overseas tour, she served as the director for the Arlington Annex, DiLorenzo Tricare Clinic in Washington, D.C. In 2008, Capt. Read transferred to the U.S. Army Public Health Command, Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland, as the Navy program manager of the Tri-Service Vision Conservation and Readiness Program. She has served in numerous assignments, and she currently is director for military health system governance in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs. She is on the AOA Federal Relations Committee and serves on the board of the Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety.

Dr. Read is past president of AFOS.

“I believe that continuing to support scope expansion, both laser and advanced procedures, is critical in increasing access and quality of care for our patients. Currently, the Veterans Administration (VA) is developing the National Standards of Practice. Our opposition has used limitations of optometry at the federal level against state expansion efforts. With my federal legislative background and experience, one of my goals is to help fight alongside with VA Optometry to be able to ensure that optometrists are allowed and encouraged to practice at the highest level of licensure, training and certification; thus, allowing the best care for our nation’s veterans. I think the VA can then be leveraged as a positive example in support of state scope expansion efforts”

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