President’s Message

This past year has been a historic year, not only for the world, but for COA as well! This year the COA had more legislative wins than any year previous! They were able to allow optometrists to administer COVID-19 vaccines, have live online CE approved, include optometrists in phase 1A for COVID immunizations, secure adult eyeglass coverage for Medi-Cal patients, telehealth payment parity, among others! And they are still working on more! Thanks to the COA I am currently fully vaccinated, I can complete my CE from the safety (and comfort) of my home, and am able to take a course to help distribute the vaccine!

Without the COA advocating for our rights as optometrists, none of this would have been possible, and many of us might even be out of work. If you had trouble seeing the benefit of being a member before last year, I don’t think I have to tell you how important it is now. We tend to take things for granted sometimes, the fact that we can dilate patients, use TPAs, or treat glaucoma. Especially those of us who entered the profession once these rights were already secured. Seeing the COA act so swiftly to help ensure my ability to continue to work, get paid, and attend CE during a pandemic has convinced me of the importance of being a member! The monthly payments are a small price to pay to be able to have a future as an optometrist.

In addition to all the wins from the past year, here are some other benefits of being a COA/AOA member:

  1. Continuing education: The COA is now offering free online CE in addition to discounted rates for members to attend OptoWest, Monterey Symposium, and the AOA’s Optometry’s Meeting! As I am writing this, both the Monterey Symposium and Optometry’s Meeting are scheduled to be in-person this year!
  2. Increased awareness: AOA works tirelessly to promote optometry with integrity and demonstrate how doctors of optometry care for patients’ eye health both in the exam room and in everyday life. A concerted public awareness campaign seeks to educate Americans about the importance of regular, in-person, comprehensive eye exams and the dangers of taking shortcuts in their eye health. The AOA also offers practice listing opportunities for members on their website under “find a doctor”.
  3. Paraoptometric resource center: As a practice owner, you can enroll your entire staff to have access to the paraoptometric resource center. This online toolkit has information for training staff to help them become more knowledgeable, productive, and successful.
  4. Legal Service Resource Program: The Legal Service Resource Program offers 30 minutes of free legal advice to members each month.
  5. Insurance: AOA Excel offers malpractice insurance, life insurance, and disability insurance to members. New grads who become AOA members can enjoy 50% off malpractice insurance their first year in practice, then 25% off their second year!

Speaking of insurance, we know that it is important to have insurance, that is why most of us have malpractice insurance, health insurance, life insurance, etc. We are able to see the value in monthly payments for insurance. You can think of your COA/AOA dues as insurance; insurance that our profession will not only be around a while, but will be thriving. So thank you all for being members and I encourage you to take advantage of all the benefits your membership offers!

President’s Message

A few weeks ago, the California Optometric Association held the first session of the annual House of Delegates. For those of you who don’t know, the House of Delegates is an annual meeting where all the societies in California get together to vote on policy changes and new board members. This year was a little different as we were unable to vote virtually. Despite being unable to vote, the meeting was still very productive and I would like to share a few things with you that were discussed.

We began with an opening statement from our President, our very own Dr. Jason Tu. He discussed his plans at the beginning of the year to make the COA more nimble and quick to respond to optometrists. Little did he know, that would be exactly what the COA needed in 2020. He accomplished this by re-organizing COA personnel, cutting dues for members during the COVID pandemic, and adding new member benefits. In eliminating dues for April and May, COA was able to gain and keep 30 new members. Free online CE was created, with over 600 members participating in each event! Dr. Tu also discussed the need for optometrists to be ready to answer the call to volunteer as a leader so that one day young doctors will be ready to take the lead and make the changes needed for COA to thrive with the new wave of optometrists. Dr. Tu challenged the status quo this past year and helped make COA a leader in the COVID pandemic.

Next, Kristine Schultz gave us an update on advocacy in 2020. There were more advocacy wins in 2020 than in any other year previous! Dr. David Redman and Dr. Mark Nakano were able to elaborate on these wins. They include the ability to administer COVID vaccines, getting live online CE approved for California optometrists, include optometrists in phase 1A for COVID immunizations, adult eyeglass coverage for Medi-Cal patients, telehealth payment parity, and stopping legislation requiring optometrists to maintain a stockpile of specific kinds of PPE for employees, among many others. Kristine highlighted the success of the first virtual Legislative Day, announced the new website that will go live next month, and the change of President’s council from meeting just once a year to meeting quarterly in order to be more effective. At the last President’s Council meeting, presidents were able to meet with two AOA trustees to come up with changes that need to be made to overcome barriers to membership and make the most of our dues as California optometrists. All of these changes are helping to advance the COA into the future.

Next, the current Secretary-Treasurer, Dr. Amanda Dexter, gave us her report. Highlights of her report include, decreased total revenue in 2020 by $800,000, but also a decrease in expenses for 2020 resulting in a positive balance of $600,000. Decreased revenue was attributed to the two months of free dues for members during the pandemic and reduced event registration. Reduced expenses were attributed to lower cost of events (as all events were virtual) and reduced cost of personnel. The COA did not need to touch the reserve fund or endowment trust fund to stay afloat during the pandemic. Dr. Dexter pointed out that although event revenue was down, event registration went up which means that more members are using the benefits that COA offers. At the end of the day, this is important because when members utilize more benefits, they are more likely to remain members! She also informed us that COA is planning on an in-person Monterey Symposium and OptoWest! We will keep you posted!

All in all, it was a great meeting! We hope to see you there, in-person, next year!

President’s Message

As healthcare professionals, we are all aware of the dangers of COVID-19 and the effects it has had on our businesses, daily lives, and even loved ones. Despite closing our offices, social distancing, and wearing masks, the numbers continue to rise. Luckily, thanks to the hard work of numerous scientists, there are two vaccines available in the US! At January’s SDCOS board meeting, the board members and I had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Jennifer Tuteur and Dr. Denise Foster from the San Diego County Health & Human Services Agency to discuss all things COVID and vaccinations. I am going to use this newsletter to relay some important information they shared with us regarding the vaccines.

Both vaccines available (Moderna and Pfizer) are mRNA vaccines, which means it is not the live virus. This is new technology but both have proven to be safe and effective! Studies have shown a 95% efficacy in preventing severe illness, hospitalization, or death if infected by the virus. San Diego’s goal is to vaccinate 70% of the population by July 1, 2021 in order to create herd immunity against the virus. Optometrists and your office staff are able to be vaccinated now by going through the county. You can visit the San Diego County’s website (www.coronavirus-sd.com) to register yourself and your office staff for the vaccination. They are trying to make it easily accessible by offering the vaccine through county health vaccination events, “super stations”, mobile vaccination teams, hospital-based sites, clinic-based sites as well as through pharmacies. Even though there are many different sites, appointments are filling up fast because the city is limited by the number of vaccines they receive as well as by the number of volunteers they have to administer the vaccine. As optometrists, we can help! This is one of the main reasons AB 443 was passed, and yet another reason why being a COA member and participating in Legislative Day is so important! We now have the ability to help distribute the vaccine to the population! If you are certified and interested in volunteering to help administer the vaccine, you can register here: https://www.healthcarevolunteers.ca.gov.

If you have not yet gotten your vaccine certification, there are still ways for you to help prevent further spread of the virus:

  • Get vaccinated
  • Social distance and wear masks even if you have been vaccinated
  • Restrict non-essential travel to <120 miles, even if you remain in state
  • Enable CA Notify (app) on your iPhone or android phone to help the CDC track the virus

From December 10, 2020 to January 13, 2021, San Diego county went from 100,000 to 200,000 cases of COVID-19. We have confirmed community spread of the UK variant which has been found to be 50% more contagious. Luckily, the vaccine appears to be effective against all new strains that are being identified. The vaccine is not recommended for everyone depending on other health conditions (recent COVID infection, pregnancy/nursing, immune deficiency, etc…), but if you have no contraindications, the San Diego County of Health & Human Services Agency recommends being vaccinated to prevent further spread and keep you, your patients, and your loved ones safe.  Stay safe, and I hope to be able to see all of you in person in the near future.

President’s Message

I hope everyone had a wonderful and safe holiday season, even if you couldn’t be with your loved ones. Let’s look forward to a brighter 2021! I am honored to serve as your president in 2021 as we continue to work through all the changes COVID-19 has brought.

Let’s thank the amazing Dr. Wendy Gross for all of her hard work navigating us through 2020, making many tough decisions, and keeping SDCOS continuing education meetings running even when we could not meet in person. 2020 was a challenging year to be president, with lots of changes, but she made the transition seamlessly! Also, I would like to acknowledge the efforts of Dr. Jason Tu as COA President for 2020. Not only did he assist SDCOS, but he also led the way for all optometrists in California, keeping us up to date with the ever-changing practice recommendations from the CDC and the Governor. His title of “Optometrist of the Year” is well deserved! Thank you, also, to the entire board of 2020 for their hard work and service during the past year. Many extra hours were put in to make the year run smoothly, so we appreciate your time and dedication!

This pandemic has brought many changes, but one thing that I will make sure does not change is our legacy as one of the best societies in the country! In years past we have been known for hosting numerous continuing education opportunities as well and many volunteer outreach programs such as the Lions Optometric Vision Clinic, Veterans Stand Down, and Monarch School Screenings. With continuing education becoming much more easily accessible online and in-person screenings not meeting social distancing requirements, we are coming up with new ways to support our members as well as serve our community. I don’t see these changes as a burden, rather as an opportunity to better our society. I am thrilled to be a part of this exciting time for our society, and profession as a whole. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions, comments, concerns, or ideas you have for keeping our society thriving. Together we can make it through this pandemic better than ever!

President’s Message

What a year this has been. From a global pandemic to protests for racial justice, devastating wildfires, and a tumultuous presidential election, our nation has found itself drawn into several crisis whose underlying causes threatened its health, economy, and forced every one of us to live in a world almost unrecognizable from what we’ve grown to expect.

As COVID-19 relentlessly spread across the country, we sheltered in place and businesses and public services small and large were forced to close. By the end of May, about a fifth of the nation’s workers were either unemployed or working part-time and millions of Americans found themselves without money to pay rent or even buy groceries to feed their families.

While the Optometric community has been hit hard by the events of 2020, I am proud to say that our local, state, and national organizations have not wavered in their support of our community. This pandemic has forced all of us to evaluate our priorities and compelled us to look at different ways of operating, many of which have brought new opportunities for growth and positive change that will help us to better serve our patients and the optometric industry in the years to come.

Serving as President of the San Diego County Optometric Society this year has been challenging, yet rewarding and I am so thankful to have had the privilege of holding this title during such a historical year. I would like to give a huge thank you to Nancy-Jo, our Administrative Director, and the Doctors in our society who have volunteered their time to make sure our society ran smoothly even through the difficult times. Shout out to our rock star 2020 Board Members for all their help this year: Drs. Robert Grazian, Alex Scovill, Simona Grosu, Roula El-Moghrabi, Amanda Dexter, Lucia Millet, Nickolet Boermans, Andrew Fasciani, Bob Meisel, Dave Sherman, David Ardakani, Dick Skay, Ilya Volk, John Fitzpatrick, Paul Lavin, and Michael Morgan. I also want to thank and acknowledge our trustees for 2020: Drs. Jenn Chinn, Kathryn Ordonez, Marcelline Ciuffreda, Nina Song, Tatyana Budarina, and Tiana Mathieson.

Before I pass the torch to Dr. Alex Scovill, who will be an incredible President for SDCOS next year, I want to welcome any doctors in our society to join the Board of Directors for 2021. It has been an incredibly rewarding experience being on the board, and I encourage anyone who is interested to reach out to me or any one of the wonderful doctors listed above for more information. New volunteers allow us to continue to bring new perspective and growth to our society and carry its traditions into the future.

While I am sorry to say there will be no in-person Holiday Party this year, please be on the look out for some of our upcoming virtual events and I hope to see all of you very soon. Thank you all for a great year. It has been my honor and pleasure to be the President for 2020. Happy Holidays!

President’s Message

October marks the beginning of my favorite time of year, Fall. I hope everyone is enjoying their pumpkin and apple spiced desserts and treats as the weather starts to cool down in San Diego. The second Thursday of October is also a day when we recognize global eye health and preventable blindness on World Sight Day. This international day of awareness focuses attention on the global issue of eye health and is coordinated by the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB).

More than 75% of all blindness and moderate to severe vision impairment is avoidable, and World Sight Day provides a platform for organizations to encourage governments, corporations, institutions, and individuals to actively support universal access to eye health. The recent World Health Assembly resolution for eye health marks the next major milestone for global eye health. #HopeInSight was created to make eye care an integral part of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and to implement ‘integrated people-centered eye care’.

So, what can we do to spread awareness? Here are some ideas:

  • Photo competition: Take part in this International Photography Competition with the theme “Hope in Sight” and sub-theme “COVID-19 and eye health” by sending in photos that highlight the impact of eye health on people’s lives. You can visit photocomp.iapb.org for more information.
  • Pledge: Ask your health official or key stakeholder to join you in pledging support for blindness prevention efforts and identify a list of activities you can do locally to help reduce avoidable blindness in your community.
  • Eye Examination: Organize a chain – ask every customer who walks in for an eye exam to bring in two more customers and inform them of the importance of a comprehensive eye exam in reducing avoidable blindness from conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma, refractive error, and diabetic retinopathy.
  • Social Media: Use the hashtags #WorldSightDay and #HopeInSight when posting on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

With your support, organizations such as these can continue their mission to reduce preventable blindness and vision impairment throughout the world and change the lives of so many. Have a happy and healthy October!

President’s Message

The San Diego County Optometric Society is one of the largest and most active societies in the state of California, although we’ve had to keep our activity mostly virtual this year. Our activities include supporting the political interests of optometrists at the state and local level, providing quality continuing education to our doctors, and giving back to our community with fundraisers, vision screenings, and volunteer eye services at several locations including the Lion’s Optometric Vision Clinic and the VSP Mobile Clinic.

We are able to successfully run these programs largely due to the support of our generous sponsors. We are one of the few local optometric societies to have a healthy network of sponsors who not only provide financial support to our society, but also extend discounts to members for using their products and provide resources to help with building practices and optometric careers. Our sponsors are also instrumental in funding our public awareness projects, advocacy efforts, our website, social media, and other SDCOS social events.

We are lucky to have an extensive variety of sponsors and I would like to take a moment to recognize them. Our highest level of sponsorship is the platinum level. The amazing companies who have committed to this level of sponsorship include Empire Optical, Inc. and Essilor Labs, California Retina Associates, Eyecarepro, and NVISION Eye Centers. Our wonderful sustaining sponsors include ABB Optical Group, Bausch & Lomb, Healthy Eyes Advantage, CooperVision, La Jolla LASIK, Alcon, Gordon Schanzlin New Vision Institute, Nordic Naturals, NuSight Medical, Shamir, Vistakon, Sun Ophthalmics, VSP Global, Wells Fargo, Optovue, Visionary, and Westpac Wealth Partners.

I want to offer a warm thank you to all of our sponsors! I encourage our members to show their appreciation as well by taking the time to hear their ideas of how to work even better with our society and discuss with them ways in which they can personally assist you. It is important to support the sponsors who are so passionate about helping our society and our profession. The SDCOS board and I are committed to seeing the relationships between our sponsors and members continue to grow and thrive in the future. Thanks to their generous support, SDCOS has become one of the strongest optometric societies in the state and will continue to be a positive force in the lives of our doctors and the lives of the public we serve.

President’s Message

It’s hard to believe that we’re more than half-way through the year, in the heat of summer, and many of us are still learning to cope with our “new normal” in response to this global pandemic. As we struggle with uncertainty about the future, it is important to stay positive and focus on the constants we can depend on.

August is National Eye Exam Month, and back to school season. While back to school may look a bit different this year, the value of good eyesight cannot be underestimated, whether it be for in-person or virtual classes.

It is important to remind parents that while vision screenings are an invaluable service, there is no substitute for a comprehensive eye exam by an Optometrist. Many parents are unaware that a child who can see 20/20 can still have difficulty with their vision in other ways. While the most common problem is refractive error, we know that there are many more potential issues such as amblyopia, strabismus, and binocular or accommodative deficiencies.

Many difficulties in school can stem from an undiagnosed learning-related vision problem. In fact, experts estimate that 80% of what a child learns in school is presented visually, and visual problems are often erroneously diagnosed as laziness, learning disabilities, behavioral issues, or even severe attention deficits.

It is our job as Optometrists to provide these children with the clear and comfortable vision they need to learn effectively and do our best to educate our patients on the importance of an annual comprehensive eye exam.

President’s Message

As the weather heats up and summer approaches, reality sets in that life isn’t quite the same as it was this time last year. We live in a new world. More and more things are going digital and the comfortable routine we once had has become uncomfortable, scary, unknown, but also beautiful.  We live in an unprecedented time of transformation, forced to step out of our comfort zones, and challenge ourselves to bring about positive change.

That being said, I want to congratulate the 2020 Optometric graduates!  Your dedication, hard work, and resilience during this historical time has not gone unnoticed.  The first few months after graduation can be difficult for new graduates for various reasons, but it is safe to say that the transition into optometric practice in 2020 will look very different than it did in the past.  After completing a rigorous four-year program, passing Boards and licensure exams, and practicing as an intern, the next steps may seem like an assortment of unknowns. Some graduates will continue on to one of the many Residency programs around the country, and others will begin their search for a place to practice Optometry in our community.

If you’re a new OD, the California Optometric Association (COA) and San Diego County Optometric Society (SDCOS) are here to help make your transition a little easier.  The COA provides Resource Guides to help with obtaining state licensing, DEA and NPI numbers, as well as getting credentialed with the various insurance panels and vision plans in our state.  Career resources are also available such as job search tools and optometric business and career webinars.  COA membership is free as a student, but also free for the first year after graduation and discounted over the next five years.  If you are a new or recent graduate, make sure to take advantage of these benefits.

At the local level, SDCOS offers new grads a variety of resources and opportunities to find their career path. Dr. John Fitzpatrick maintains our society’s classifieds and job connection list, which is a great tool if you are looking for a job, looking to hire someone, or looking to buy or sell a practice.  Please reach out to him at jpfod@aol.com with any inquiries.  The society newsletter and website also provide great information for new graduates or doctors new to San Diego. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to any of our Board members about what resources are available to you as a new OD.  The AOA, COA, and SDCOS are here to help.

I also encourage Optometrists in our community to reach out to new graduates and new doctors in the area to help them during their transition, especially during this unprecedented time.  By showing them the benefits that COA and SDCOS have to offer, it can be extremely impactful and helpful to them while at the same time growing our membership and strength as a society.

President’s Message

After weeks of shutdown, the nation is beginning to slowly and cautiously re-emerge.  Like the decisions to shut down and shelter in place, the plans to reopen have come state by state or region by region. California is now in Phase I of the White House’s “Opening Up America Again” plan, a three-phased approach based on the advice of public health experts.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued a statement on April 27, 2020 providing guidelines for resuming health care for non-emergent and non-COVID-19 health care. Their guidance is intended to set a plan for California, while understanding there may be circumstances that require different timelines for different locations or regions.

Based on these new guidelines, Doctors of Optometry in California are encouraged to gradually resume full scope of services when possible and safe to do so.  Businesses are advised to continue to encourage telework, whenever possible, to protect patients and healthcare workers.  The physical layout and flow of patient care may also change in order to maintain physical distancing in patient movement and waiting areas.

Optometric services fall under the CDPH’s “Outpatient Visit Guidelines.”  These guidelines prioritize scheduling for patients that cannot be treated by telehealth in the following order:

  1. Patients with acute illnesses
  2. Patients with chronic illness that have not been seen due to Stay-at-Home rules and need an in-person visit
  3. Preventative services, including vaccinations
  4. List of previously cancelled or postponed patients
  5. Other patients needing in-person visit to monitor status or assess illness, etc

Although San Diego County has not officially released guidance or a timeline of when the current restrictions will be lifted, optometrists are advised to use their judgment to determine when it is appropriate to provide non-urgent care.  The use of telemedicine is still recommended, whenever possible.

The AOA and COA websites are great resources for updated information during this constantly evolving situation. There you will find helpful resources, guidelines, webinars, and checklists to help with practice reopening and activation as well as practice relief, information about personal protective equipment (PPE), and other safety and financial considerations.

I also want to thank everyone who virtually attended our informational Q&A webinar this week.  If you missed it, the presentation and Q&A have been posted on our website for your convenience.  Please check our website frequently for updates to the Continuing Education schedule as well.

The SDCOS board and I are doing our best to stay up to date on the latest developments of the coronavirus response in the Optometry community and provide useful information to our members as we face this pandemic together.  Please do not hesitate to reach out to our board with any questions or comments.  We are in this together and SDCOS is here to support you.