Advocacy: Protecting your ability to practice

Photo: Jacob Slaton

Melissa Zaleski, Nova Southeastern Trustee

Remember that time when our profession lost the ability to practice at the level that we are taught in school? Me neither.

This is all thanks to the advocates who fight for optometry on a daily basis. Some of us students appreciate all that is done for the profession, but feel as if there is little that can be done on our part. In fact, there is plenty that we can do as students to be actively involved with state associations.

Our first goal is to be proactive. Students have so much power and potential to make a difference. To reach this potential, we can stay up to date on issues. There are endless ways to do so, including reading the AOA First Look emails.

Yes, we are busy, but everyone has time to skim the headlines. Save the articles for your bedtime reading. You will feel so empowered before a good night’s rest (talk about some quality brain-food). An even easier option is to attend your school’s AOSA events or to join their Facebook group. Students are constantly updated to keep everyone in the loop. Knowledge is power.

Another way to be involved is by reaching out directly to state associations. Many state associations will gladly add students to their e-mail lists so that they are able to stay current news and local events. Even better, attend your local county board meetings to take part in advocating for our profession. Your voice is never too small. These are our future colleagues. They will respect your opinion and be impressed by your initiative. It’s networking at its finest.

Possibly the most important advice that we can receive as students is to join the fight.
Our profession is under constant threat. It can be scary at times, but knowing that we are doing everything in our power to keep up the integrity of our profession is what allows me to sleep at night.

Attend the Congressional Advocacy Conference in Washington, DC this spring, then head to Boston for Optometry’s Meeting® this summer.

Another way to become involved is through your school’s AOA/PAC drive. It is a great way to be a participant in advocacy and legislation.

There are endless opportunities to be actively involved. Students have just as much power to make an impact in our profession as any practicing optometrist. We have the ability to advocate and keep our profession strong.

There are many advancements in optometry that we can easily accomplish with student participation and advocacy. Contact your state association today and join one of the meetings listed. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “The time is always right to do what is right.”

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