Last April, a record number of student and doctor attendees filled the conference room of the JW Marriott hotel in Washington D.C,. mingling and preparing themselves for an eventful meeting. People were still settling in as American Optometric Association Past-President Steve Loomis, O.D., took the stage to address the crowd and kick off the 2016 Congressional Advocacy Conference.
At first, his remarks were focused on the meeting and the specific bills that would be covered over the next few days. He then made a very powerful statement: “We are promoting legislation, we are introducing legislation, and we are advancing legislation; we are no longer strictly on the defense, we are on the offense and it is about time.” With that, the crowd took to applause and the air filled with an excitement that would set the tone for the entirety of the meeting.
As students, we are immersed in academics and patient care, sometimes forgetting the legislative nature of our future profession. The Congressional Advocacy Conference (CAC) is a one-of- a-kind experience that provides unique and enlightening exposure to the legislative side of optometry. After attendees have the chance to learn about AOA’s current optometry-led bills and issues, they have the unique opportunity to join future colleagues and lobby on Capitol Hill.
It is extraordinary to sit down with a senator, representative, or their respective staff and explain the issues facing our patients and profession. The legislators and staff are engaged and interested as they do not fully recognize the impact that optometry has on the lives of all of our patients. This amazing experience that truly allows students to have a voice and impact the future of the profession is something that every optometry student should experience before graduation. The Congressional Advocacy Conference and Optometry’s Meeting® are joining together in 2017 to offer one of the best opportunities for students to take part in this vital aspect of our profession.
With this joint conference, new student attendance records will be set as students from across the country participate in AOA+. On June 21, Optometry’s Meeting® will kick off with an exciting student-focused program, set to highlight the importance of actively advocating for our profession. The AOSA, AOA, and state affiliates have all pledged their support to help thousands of students travel to Washington D.C. Be sure to look for more information from your AOSA trustee and AOA-PAC liaison on opportunities for travel grants and other support.
This is not a meeting you will want to miss. Register today at www.aoa.org/aoaplus.