I will never forget my first cell phone. I was in eighth grade, and it was a blue LG flip phone. My parents got me the phone so I could communicate with them – but let’s be honest – it was my friends that I really wanted to talk to. As I learned to use my new phone, I also learned a new type of language for texting: LOL, OMG, SMH, WYWH, and the list goes on. Despite this language being foreign to my parents, it was second nature to me.
In optometry school, you’re also going to learn a new language. At first, the language of our profession may seem confusing and foreign, but with time you will master the vernacular just as you master your clinical skills.
Of this vernacular, two acronyms that have significant importance to you and to our profession are the American Optometric Association (AOA) and the American Optometric Student Association (AOSA). These organizations serve as governing bodies to represent your needs, as a student and, in the future, as a practicing optometrist. Maintaining these organizations is not an easy task. Luckily, there is a group of committed practicing optometrists who serve our profession by taking on the responsibility of being on the AOA Board of Trustees, and also a committed group of students who serve on the AOSA Board of Trustees.
The AOA Board consists of six trustees and five officers, all doctors of optometry. This group is responsible for maintaining the internal operations of the AOA, continuing lobbying efforts for our profession, and providing numerous opportunities for students and recent graduates. One of the many benefits is AOA Compass, a timeline that provides guidance from your first year to graduation. I encourage you to visit the AOA website (aoa.org) to learn more about the ongoing efforts of the AOA.
Similarly, the AOSA Board is your student representation. The board is made up of a trustee and trustee-elect from each of the 23 optometry schools. Additionally, the AOSA Board is guided by the leadership of an executive council of four members; all of whom previously served as trustees on the board. Along with maintaining membership benefits, each trustee serves as a voice of the students for his or her respective school. Your AOSA trustee is an advocate at the national level who communicates your concerns.
As the AOSA is an affiliate of the AOA, the interdependence of our two groups is reliant upon open and engaged lines of communication. Being an AOSA member means you are also a member of the AOA, and as students, we are the future of this profession. Your thoughts are highly valued and your participation as a member of both organizations really matters to the future of our profession. I encourage you to reach out to your AOSA trustee and have a conversation. Ask about opportunities to get involved as a local liaison for one of the many optometric organizations, inquire about the resources provided for students/recent graduates, and become informed about the state and national legislative issues that influence our profession. Upon graduation and transitioning your AOSA membership to AOA membership, reach out to the AOA Board of Trustees and continue a similar conversation.
Don’t let the language of optometry be foreign to you!