Students rally and inspire during Optometry’s Meeting 2017

Against the backdrop of major health care reform — and with the largest-ever gathering of optometry students — the American Optometric Student Association at Optometry’s Meeting® announced multiple new initiatives, debuted a series of first-time events and honored individuals for their outstanding contributions to students and patient care.

The Washington, D.C.,  meeting hosted more than 2,000 optometry students, beginning with a rally on Capitol Hill, which included Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D) of Illinois; Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, the Chair of the Republican Conference; Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) and Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE).

AOSA President Andy Mackner (PUCO) addresses optometry students on Capitol Hill during AOA+ on June 20.

“The landscape of our profession has changed dramatically over the last 25 years and it is thanks to the AOA and state affiliates that we are privileged to provide levels of care that we do,”  AOSA President Andrew Mackner of Pacific University College of Optometry told the crowd of students on Capitol Hill. “The profession has moved forward thanks to the many dedicated doctors before us.  Now it is our responsibility to continue that progress.”

Coordinated by the American Optometric Association, AOSA’s partner in Optometry’s Meeting®, the event, called AOA+,  continued with panel discussions by new practitioners and a keynote featuring Olympic swimmer Dara Torres.

Student legislative advocacy was also the focus of a course the next day, “The Inside Scoop: Advocacy and You,” hosted by Johnson & Johnson Vision Care.  Featuring mock meetings with legislators, and with a former legislator on stage, the event helped students approach lawmakers in ways that are most effective.

Tanya Ray of Optometry Giving Sight accepts the AOSA Merit Award and describes her own struggle to see clearly.

During the AOSA’s General Session, sponsored by HOYA, Tanya Ray of Optometry Giving Sight was announced as a recipient of the AOSA Merit Award for her organization’s World Sight Day Challenge and other programs that link students and global vision needs.  

Jason Singh, O.D., Chief Medical Officer of Luxottica, was also honored for his leadership with the AOSA Merit Award.  AOSA recognized Dr. Singh for spearheading 25 travel grants for optometry students to go to Tanzania for OneSight and for launching the AOSA SunSale at Optometry’s Meeting, which drew nearly 1,300 students and raised $160,000 for OneSight and Optometry Cares: The AOA Foundation.


Taylor Harris of Illinois College of Optometry wins the 2017 Ventura Cup at the Essilor Optometry Student Bowl

Danne Ventura of Essilor, was honored with AOSA’s Founder’s Award for her 26 years of leading the Essilor Optometry Student Bowl.  The 2017 event was the largest-ever, with Taylor Harris capturing the victory for Illinois College of Optometry.  The Spirit Award went to UM-St. Louis College of Optometry, the Virtual Spirit Award was shared by Northeastern State University-Oklahoma College of Optometry and newcomer University of Pikeville-Kentucky College of Optometry, and MCPHS University won the best t-shirt award.

During his address to the AOA House of Delegates, Mackner recalled his memories of his dad, Jeffrey Mackner, O.D., a 1991 graduate of Pacific University College of Optometry and past president of the Minnesota Optometric Association.

“Optometry is legislated and it is thanks to the sacrifices, dedication and devotion of the generations before us that we are privileged to provide the level of care that we do. Ultimately, these experiences not only shaped my decision to become an optometrist but my motivation to share with my classmates the importance and value of being engaged members in their association.”

The AOSA Executive Council, from left, Secretary Jodi Baker of UAB, President Andy Mackner of Pacific University, Vice President Melissa Zaleski of Nova Southeastern and Treasurer Jon Beeson of Inter American University of Puerto Rico.

He noted “The AOSA was proud to provide $100,000 in sponsorship for student travel to attend this meeting.  Since our April transition meeting, we have been moving forward with multiple initiatives, each focused on strengthening the organization, supporting our members and promoting active involvement with the AOA and their state affiliate.”

He cited work in progress “bolstering our benefits to ensure we are providing, resources and opportunities that are meaningful to students and items that will aid in their success; developing a National Guidebook that will outline the responsibilities of AOSA trustees and assist in creating continuity from year to year; enacting policies to better utilize the past-president position. Last but certainly not least, our advocacy committee has been working on promoting involvement in PAC and attendance of state legislative days.”

In addition, Mackner announced in 2018, the AOSA will award the first-ever AOSA Student of the Year. This award will be given to a fourth-year student who has exemplified the mission of the AOSA, has been actively involved in their state and national association, and has encouraged his or her fellow classmates to be involved.”

Other highlights of the meeting included a student-only party at the Smithsonian National Zoo (hosted by Luxottica) and a Celebration of Optometry, featuring Andy Grammer (sponsored by HOYA).

For photos and more coverage of AOSA’s events at Optometry’s Meeting, visit or the AOSA’s Facebook page and follow #theaosa on Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter.

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