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Writing our own future

July 18, 2012

Editor’s note: this column contains excerpts from the inaugural address given June 30 at the AOA House of Delegates.

Colleagues, and friends, I am deeply honored to serve as president of your American Optometric Association. I give you my pledge and the pledge of this Board that we will work diligently to guide this profession through the many challenges that are squarely before us.

I feel very privileged to be able to work with this talented group of volunteer AOA officers and trustees who spend countless hours, countless days at their homes, at their offices, and on the road away from their families trying their honest best to steer and to lead this profession into the future. We are fortunate to have them. I admire, appreciate, and I thank each of you.

As you know I have had the good fortune to grow up in an optometric family. I was born while my father was studying the first edition of Borish – a pretty thin book back then. My father, with my mother’s help, had a large respected practice in Dayton, Ohio, and as a boy I can remember playing in his office. My sister, brother and I would each get on his stool and we could push off the wall at the end of his 20-foot exam room and roll almost all the way across the floor. We had great fun – at least until he caught us.

Optometry has changed a lot since then. In the early fifties, my father opened his practice cold, in a tough location for those days – under the stairs in an old red brick medical building across from a hospital. Today an optometry practice in a medical setting is not unusual. But, it was an important statement back then – a long step from the jewelry stores.

I remember his frames; seems like it was about a total of 20 frames. Folks wore their glasses forever back then since the style never changed. Can you imagine surviving in practice today with virtually no changes in eyewear? And remember contact lenses weren’t around yet – and a low vision device was pretty much just a hand magnifier. My hat is off to those who nurtured optometry through those tough times.

I remember seeing an awkward, new instrument in his practice – seems like it was a Pozar biomicroscope. It was the first or second slit lamp in a private practice in that part of Ohio. Today, buying an expensive instrument to examine the front of the eye is expected – but back then it was one of the radical ideas that moved our professional equality forward.

I remember seeing the very first soft contact lenses in their wire rack. They all had to be boiled every night. I remember asking about those and my father telling about his trips to Washington, D.C., and the tough battles they had so optometry could prescribe those lenses because they were regulated by the Food and Drug Administration – and back then everyone knew optometry couldn’t use drugs. Fortunately AOA volunteers and staff fought and won that battle and optometry is now a leader in soft contact lenses.

And do some of you also remember as I do when we said good-bye to patients on their 65th birthday because they went on Medicare and optometry wasn’t a provider for Medicare? Fortunately we got past the disagreements in our very own profession and again AOA volunteers and staff were able to have us become Medicare providers. Very forward thinking brought us here today.

It is very humbling to me that we are here in 2012 – drinking from the wells we did not dig… Today, each of us in this great profession, and every one of our patients, truly benefits from the efforts of many, past and recent leaders, who have dedicated themselves and worked together to bring optometry to where we are today. Through their dedication, their work, their sacrifice and foresight, today optometry is a valuable and essential contributor to our nation’s health. Many have given more to us than they have received. I thank each of you.

As we look ahead, we must know that the world my father practiced in is different than the world I practice in today – and yet today is quite different than the world my son and many of us will practice in.

I am well aware, we must all be acutely aware, that our future has not been written. “What future will we write?” Or is the question: “What will others write for us?”

….We must not let anyone else, or anything else, write our future. We are the first-class citizens of vision and eye health care – and I believe, that as our world changes, together, and only together, will we, will the AOA, write the future we want for our patients and for ourselves.

Thank you in this House for your service as leaders of our profession, and I thank you, the members across this nation, for letting me serve as your president. I ask each of you for your help as we work together to write our profession’s best future.

Ronald Hopping, O.D., MPH
AOA president

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