by Amber Egbert, University of California, Berkeley School of Optometry, AFOS National Liaison

by Amber Egbert, University of California, Berkeley School of Optometry, AFOS National Liaison

The Armed Forces Optometric Society (AFOS) may have a slightly misleading name, since it represents all branches of optometry, not just the Armed Forces. It began as an organization for military optometrists, hence the name, but then grew to include other optometrists in the federal government as well, such as those working for Veterans Affairs, Federal Civil Service, Public Health, Indian Health Services, the FDA, Bureau of Prisons, and other government agencies. You may have heard a lot about postgraduation employment opportunities in retail and private practice, but this other avenue also has a lot of perks.

Many of these optometrists work closely with other specialties to provide a comprehensive approach to health care. They enjoy eligibility for the public service loan forgiveness program, paid time off, weekends and federal holidays off, retirement savings contributions, promotion, teaching and research opportunities, and many other benefits.

So why does all of this matter to students? This is the best time to get involved with AFOS and meet mentors who can teach you about the various opportunities in federal optometry. Now is the time to network and learn about your options after graduation.

Do not wait until fourth year to start thinking about it! Are you thinking about doing a residency? Ninety-five percent of all residencies are at federal locations. Being a student member of AFOS provides an inside track to the ODs who are the residency coordinators and mentors.

Students with an interest in federal optometry can become AFOS members for only $15 per year. Benefits include free registration at two AFOS national meetings, one held in conjunction with the American Academy of Optometry, and the other held in conjunction with SECO in Atlanta.

Other benefits include: travel grants, networking for job/ residency opportunities, leadership opportunities, and eligibility for scholarships for Master’s and Ph.D. degrees.

This fall’s AFOS meeting will take place Oct. 6, 2015 at the Marriott Canal St. in New Orleans, LA. The meeting is free for students to attend and will include six hours of CE targeted toward federal optometry, service-specific breakout sessions which allows students to see the various federal optometry opportunities, an exhibit hall, an awards program, and an appreciation reception.

Check out the AFOS website at www.afos2020.org!