by Jodi Baker, University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry, Trustee-elect

by Jodi Baker, University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry, Trustee-elect

If you’re reading this, you’re more than likely a member of AOSA. Well done! But what about after graduation? Although I’m just starting my second year, if all goes according to plan, graduation will arrive and it will arrive fast.

It will be easy to just move on, forget these four years of optometry hazing, and start making money for a change. I believe this is one reason many ODs don’t join the AOA: they think it’s out of sight and out of mind. However, every time new ODs walk into a practice, and perform cutting-edge patient care, they should thank the AOA.

The AOA has many crucial roles that we, as optometry students, new ODs, and even two-years-away-fromretiring ODs rely on to better serve our patients. From AOA’s Political Action Committee (PAC) fighting for legislation to protect our scope of practice, to the Think About Your Eyes campaign that is currently educating the public on eye health (which puts them in our chairs), to Optometry Cares, a largescale charitable effort supporting eye health and vision care, the AOA is working hard to better our profession.

If I am to give non-AOA members the benefit of the doubt, I would assume they appreciate all of these efforts, as do AOA members. On a day-to-day basis, non-member optometrists are reaping the benefits of the AOA.

So why join if what we’re doing now is working? Unfortunately, the “I’m just one doctor, my joining isn’t going to change much of anything,” mindset seems to be popular. Which brings me to the exact definition of the tragedy of the commons: acting on one’s self interest (saving money on dues) is contrary to what benefits the entire group (you know, optometrists practicing optometry).

Joining the AOA can mean something slightly different to everyone because the AOA has so many different opportunities housed within it. One doctor may use it as a platform to get their hands dirty and really fight hard for legislation. Another doctor may get involved in programs like InfantSEE or VisionUSA. Others may just see it as paying for insurance; so they can keep practicing and focusing on their own patients’ needs, while supporting their dedicated peers.

When I asked our current AOSA President, Hunter Chapman, for his thoughts on why we should be members of the AOA, he replied, “only by continuing membership in the AOA can we continue to enjoy the privileges of legally practicing to the standard in which we are trained for our patients, for through the advocacy efforts with an AOA membership, we can continue to expand our scope of practice for both the current and future generations.”

With that being said, I encourage all of you to continue your membership in the AOA and to find what your role is. This requires seeing the big picture, being a little selfless, and appreciating all the effort that has been put into building our profession for the betterment of the public’s well-being.