If there’s one fact that I’ve heard time and again since entering optometry school, it’s this: optometry is a legislated profession. As a student, being asked to be an advocate for our profession can be a daunting request! Thankfully, there are plenty of easy ways that optometry students can get involved in advocacy today.
Get involved with the AOA and AOSA: The AOA and AOSA are here to serve optometrists and optometry students by advocating for the profession and the patients they serve. Aside from career resources, being a member provides access to advocacy-related news, webinars and in-person events. AOA on Capitol Hill is an excellent advocacy opportunity that is right around the corner! When there’s a call for action in the profession, the AOA will give you the tools and information you need to be a strong and educated advocate.
Get involved with your local and state affiliates: Our schools often make this one very easy for us! Participate in events hosted by these organizations to learn more about why advocacy matters, and what exactly we’re advocating for at the moment. These are the conversations that may end up affecting you the most, and it’s never too early to start listening and learning.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your legislators: This may seem intimidating, but it’s easier than you think and can be very meaningful! Last fall, students at the Michigan College of Optometry experienced Capitol Day hosted by the Michigan Optometric Association in Lansing. Students who participated had the opportunity meet with their senators. If you’re wondering about what you might talk about, one easy topic of conversation is the scope of practice. Current third–year and AOSA member James Carpenter recalls his experience, stating “I really enjoyed going in and talking with our legislators. It’s the kind of experience that really opens your eyes to the importance of having a professional organization to help keep politicians informed on our issues.”
Keep yourself up to date on current optometric events. This might sound like a no-brainer, but you may need to take a couple steps to make this task a little easier for yourself. A good place to start is subscribing to email updates and following social media accounts of professional organizations like the AOA, state affiliates, local affiliates or reputable pages like OptometryStudents.com. And you don’t have to limit your sources to just your home state! Learning about the scope of optometry in other states can help give you a better sense of where the profession stands on a national level.
Promote the profession. You don’t have to be on the floor of Congress to call yourself an advocate! Educating patients on the importance of eye exams with their doctors of optometry is an important form of advocacy that we can easily do on a regular basis.
Advocacy is so important to our profession, and hopefully these tips help inspire you to call yourself an advocate as well.