President’s Message

Boy, is this year already flying by. It seems like yesterday was February 1st, and February came and went at record speed. Last month was the House of Delegates, and SDCOS did what it does best—shines bright. SDCOS took home the trifecta. We won the Website of the Year—thank you, Dr. Justin Nguyen. We then won the Project of the Year and Society of the Year—thank you, Dr. Bev Bianes and all of our amazing Board. I am so proud of SDCOS! This is why everyone strives to be like SDCOS. No pressure to get a repeat performance.

Next, on Thursday, February 15, we had Dr. Andrew Mick give an incredible talk on Retinal Vein Occlusions. He did an amazing job. We had close to 100 people there for a great time. The next CE is our 5-hour Glaucoma talk. We are blessed to be able to host Dr. Paul Karpecki for 4 hours of the talk with Dr. Julio Echegoyen for the last hour. Dr. Karpecki is one of the premier speakers in the country. I am so excited to have him here. We are expecting a large crowd, so stay tuned for more information. As you can see, things are really hopping at SDCOS. I could not do it if it weren’t for an incredible board. Wait till you see what is coming—very exciting.

On February 26, 2024, the COA had Legislative Day at the State Capitol. We had 5 from the society go. This is at no cost to our members, and it is a blast. It is a great way to see how the system works and get a chance to talk with our Senators and Congressmen. We flew up in the morning and flew back in the evening. It is a time to see old friends and view the Capitol. Please consider it next year. You will not regret it. COA is very busy helping our profession to expand with the changing times. I am very proud to be a member of the AOA and COA. They are always working hard to keep our profession on the right path. Support them any way you can. We are always looking for new members. Talk with your colleagues about the benefits of being a member. Here is a reminder of just some of the benefits:

  1. Free/Low-cost CEs: The 2-hour CEs are free, and the 5-hour CEs are only $90. Meals are included.
  2. Free legal advice with COA lawyers: Each month, you have access to some of the best industry lawyers for a 30-minute consultation.
  3. Three-in-one membership: Membership in SDCOS automatically grants you membership in both COA and AOA.
  4. Special Value Registration: COA’s Monterey Fall Symposium and OptoWest.
  5. Access to SDCOS website: www.sdcos.org provides local and state information with an exclusive “member-only” section.
  6. Exclusive deals: SDCOS sponsors offer special deals exclusively to SDCOS members. Legislative and Regulatory Advocacy: COA’s legislative team helps protect your license and enhance your scope of practice.
  7. Dues are tax-deductible. Reduced fees are also available for new graduates—this is why you want to get involved.

We always want our profession to thrive, and that is why we need organized Optometry.

The last thing I wanted to bring up is the Lions Optometric Vision Clinic. They are expanding to 1 Saturday a month. They are always looking for volunteers to see their long list of patients needing eye exams. Now with Saturday hours, there is even more opportunity to volunteer. Please consider it.

I know this is going to be a great year… Enjoy the greatest profession in the world; helping people to see better and live a better life. It doesn’t get better than that. Take care and God Bless each of you.

Eric

President’s Message – January 2024

Wow, it feels so good to be back as the president of SDCOS. SDCOS is one of the strongest societies in the state and is one of the largest of the state associations. The reason we are at this level is because of our members. We have great members, but more importantly, we have great leaders on our board. I am blessed to have such an incredibly talented board. I am very excited to lead this group into the next year. Dr. Bianes has been a great leader, and I want to continue all she started and take it to the next level.

When I became an optometrist in 1986, at the first meeting, Dr. Dick Skay came up to me and told me that now that I am an optometrist, it is time to get involved and join the board. That was great advice, and I recommend all new graduates get involved in something. The way for our profession to move forward is with involvement. If you want to get involved, just ask a board member, and we will get you involved. Bev said it best and needs another mention from the book; “No Regrets: A Fable About Living Your 4th Quarter Intentionally.”

  1. Say Yes even though it may be uncomfortable. By stretching yourself, you will find growth.
  2. Focus on your passion, talents, and gifts.
  3. Give of your time, talents, and treasure. The more you give yourself away, the happier you’ll be.
  4. Forgive those who rejected or hurt you. Forgive yourself.
  5. Be open to life. Be open to what can be.

A couple of highlights coming up are COA House of Delegates on February 9-10 and Legislative Day on February 26th. Our next CE is on February 15th with Andrew Mick. Stay tuned for more announcements.

I am always asked, “Why should I belong to organized optometry like AOA, COA, and SDCOS?” Belong because of the benefits and belong for the good of our profession:

Free/Low-cost CEs: The 2-hour CEs are free, and the 5-hour CEs are only $90. Meals are included.

Free legal advice with COA lawyers: Each month, you have access to some of the best industry lawyers for a 30-minute consultation.

Three-in-one membership: Membership in SDCOS automatically grants you membership in both COA and AOA.

Special Value Registration: COA’s Monterey Fall Symposium and OptoWest.

Access to SDCOS website: www.sdcos.org provides local and state information with an exclusive “member-only” section.

Access to more patients: Membership grants you a listing on www.eyehelp.org, an optometrist locator service via a toll-free number and online search that helps the public find a COA member doctor.

Exclusive deals: SDCOS sponsors offer special deals exclusively to SDCOS members. Legislative and Regulatory Advocacy: COA’s legislative team helps protect your license and enhance your scope of practice.

Dues are tax-deductible. Reduced fees are also available for new graduates—this is why you want to get involved.

The bottom line is SDCOS is the place to be, and I am proud to be the president again. We will have a great year with some incredible projects. Stay tuned for updates. Let’s all work together and make SDCOS even better.

Take care and talk soon.

Eric

President’s Message

In 2020, the pandemic lockdown and changes to my practice model made me feel empty and lost.  I asked myself, “Is this is how I’m going to finish the last part of my career?”

Shortly after, I read a book titled “No Regrets: A Fable About Living Your 4th Quarter Intentionally”. It was about living the latter part of your life intentionally and with purpose.  The author discussed 5 keys to living and dying with no regrets.

  1. Say Yes even though it may be uncomfortable.  By stretching yourself you will find growth.
  2. Focus on your passion, talents, and gifts.
  3. Give of your time, talents, and treasure. The more you give yourself away, the happier you’ll be.
  4. Forgive those who rejected or hurt you.  Forgive yourself.
  5. Be Open to life.  Be open to what can be.

This book was partly responsible for my YES to step up and fill the vacant president-elect position for the San Diego County Optometric Society last year.  I originally joined the SDCOS immediately after graduating Optometry school over thirty years ago and served on the board for eight years in the positions of public relations and professional affairs.  I never moved up to the executive board because I didn’t believe I could. Thirty-two years later, I took a step to do something uncomfortable. No longer would I live with regrets. I wanted to give back to a profession that has been so good to my family and me.  As president-elect, I attended for the first time the House of Delegates and Legislation Day.  I personally witnessed how much work goes into the protection of our profession.  Fighting and lobbying for our profession gave me an opportunity to be heard.

As president of the SDCOS, my focus this year was to return us to an in-person format.  I always felt blessed to be part of a strong society where I could find mentorship and support from my colleagues.  The society I knew brought new and seasoned ODs together for education and for comradery.

I would love for all of you to find ways to give back to our profession.  One opportunity could be to volunteer as a delegate next year for the COA House of Delegates on Feb 9-10 or to participate in Legislative Day on Feb 24.

I am truly grateful for the support I received from our entire SDCOS board and for the opportunity to have served as your president.  I have No Regrets!

President’s Message

San Diego County Optometric Society is one the largest and strongest local societies in California.  Our first CE meeting of 2023 had over 100 in attendance.  The energy and excitement of being together again in-person felt like old times.  Being a member of our society carries with it several benefits, some of which I have listed below, but the true value of membership is belonging to a community of individuals that care about the future of our profession.

Free/Low cost CEs: The 2-Hour CEs are FREE and the 5-hour CEs are only $90.  Meals included.

Free legal advice with COA lawyers: Each month, you have access to some of the best industry lawyers for a 30-minute consultation.

Three-in-one membership: Membership in the SDCOS (San Diego County Optometric Society) automatically grants you membership to both the COA (California Optometric Association) and the AOA (American Optometric Association).

Special Value Registration: COA’s Monterey Fall Symposium and OptoWest.

Access to SDCOS website: www.sdcos.org provides local and state information with an exclusive “member only” section.

Access to more patients: Membership grants you a listing on www.eyehelp.org.  This is an Optometrist locator service via a toll-free number and online search that helps the public find a COA member doctor.

Exclusive deals: SDCOS sponsors offer special deals exclusively to SDCOS members.

Legislative and Regulatory Advocacy: COA’s legislative team helps protect your license and enhance your scope of practice.

Dues are tax deductible. Reduced fees are also available for new graduates.

President’s Message

SDCOS Colleagues,

This is my last message to you as President of the Society. I would be lying if I said it was easy to be in this role. It was challenging, especially in these trying times post-Covid19, but rewarding at the same time. I’m proud that together with the Board we worked hard to bring back in person our valuable CE events, and continued to care for our community through free screenings and eye exams.

I want to thank my fellow Board members for placing their trust in me to lead SDCOS during a very difficult period. It was truly an honor. It was great to serve on the Board with such outstanding colleagues – Drs. Beverly Bianes, Katherine Witmeyer, Courtney Cape, Alexandra Scovill, Andrew Fasciani, Jennifer Chin, Amanda Dexter, Melanie Langford, Ilya Volk, Richard Skay, Justin Nguyen, David Sherman, Robert Meisel, Lucia Millet, David Ardakani, and Patty Cheng. Some have been in the trenches for decades, some made a comeback, and some served on the Board for the first time – to all, “Thank You” from the bottom of my heart.

I want to acknowledge the trustees as well – Drs. Andreea Nastasoiu, Tatyana Budarina, Alyssa Pack, Kathryn Ordonez, Sloan Rajadhyksha, Erin Swift. I appreciate everything you’ve done for the Society in this past year and all the hard work you put in to ensure the advancement of our great profession.

A big heartfelt thank you to our one and only, Nancy-Jo Sinkiewicz! She’s been the constant over all these years and the face of our Society! Thank you, NJ, for all of your hard work and dedication! You made my presidency so much easier.

Thank you to all Society members who generously volunteered their time in so many ways – going to Sacramento to talk to our political leaders about optometry on Legislative Day; all the calls and emails to our local senators and governor to support AB 2236; volunteering at LOVC, mobile clinic, and veterans’ event, recruiting new members – you were all instrumental in making this Society shine!

Lastly, I want to thank all of you for continuing to honor our profession through your membership. Your continued support says you’re invested in the betterment of our profession and our community, and in serving our patients in the end. And to take it a step further, I would strongly encourage you to join the Board of Directors in 2023! There are many reasons why you should join the board – like learning patience, how to run a meeting of people who don’t work for you, or how to ask for money, and stretching your intellectual and emotional muscles – but most of all, you will fall more in love with your organization. The closer you are to the work of your society, the more passionate you will become. And you will feel another emotion. You will feel lucky to be part of this society, organization, and profession.

I hope I will see many of you at our Holiday Brunch on December 4th at Farmer and the Seahorse. Let’s get together one more time this year, and celebrate all of our accomplishments in a fun and relaxed atmosphere.

Thank you for the honor of being your President. I look forward to an exciting new year with Dr. Beverly Bianes as your new President for 2023, and wish her all the best!

Kindly,

Simona

President’s Message

This month’s message is dedicated to our wonderful Sponsors.

San Diego County Optometric Society has been recognized for so long as one the largest and successful societies in the state of California. This recognition is, in part, thanks to our long relationship with our Sponsors, and their generous financial support to our society. Their sponsorship enables us to provide continuing education events for our members, fund our public awareness projects and advocacy efforts, memberships drives, and other SDCOS events. They also extend discounts to members for using their products and provide resources for building optometric practices.

As the tradition has it, in October we hold the Sponsor appreciation dinner. The past two years were a challenge to stay in touch with them because of mostly virtual meetings, but this year we are finally getting together in-person again. The Board of Directors, on behalf of the entire society, invited all of our sponsor to a dinner to thank them and show them our appreciation for their support. I encourage you to also extend your thanks and take time to speak with them when you see them at our continuing education events, or they stop by your clinics. It is important they feel the love and they continue to support our society.

Our society is strong and successful because of our Sponsors. I will make sure the relationship with them continues, and I hope you will do the same. They are invaluable to our society, but also to your practices, and, in the end, to our patients.

President’s Message

August marks the beginning of a new school year, and it only makes sense for us to dub it the National Eye Exam Month! I know, you heard it many times already, but it’s never enough to bring awareness even among us, the eyecare professionals, of the importance of the eye exam especially in the school-age population. As back-to-school season gets underway, now is the time to get parents to schedule their child’s comprehensive eye exam. It is a fact well known that children with uncorrected vision conditions or eye health problems face many barriers in life, developmentally, academically, and socially. And what’s becoming even more worrisome now is the effect of the pandemic on children’s eyes as remote learning and increased screen time was ‘the norm’ since 2020. Researchers around the world are closely watching for a potential ripple effect of the COVID-19 pandemic as un uptick in vision problems in children. Myopia is one of those concerning conditions. In a Jama Ophthalmology article in January 2021, it was noted that “home confinement during the COVID-19 pandemic appeared to be associated with a myopic shift for children aged 6-8 years…increasing myopia prevalence up to 3 times” (Jama Ophtalmol. “Progression of myopia in school-aged children after Covid-19 home confinement”, January 14, 2021).

This statistic alone compelled me more than ever this year to promote children’s eye comprehensive examination as the new school year starts! And I hope you will do the same! The American Optometric Association has many resources helping us to educate the community on this topic. Check out their website here Children’s Vision | AOA to see how you can make it really easy to incorporate it into your practices without even speaking a word, but just with digital and/or printed content that can easily be displayed in your waiting rooms. Let’s be the best eyecare professionals out there and prevent unnecessary blindness!

On another note, I am not sure how many of you know, but COA together with AOA launched this summer, more exactly on July 1st, a membership pilot program that will test flat dues for new incoming members. After some surveys performed by COA, it was learned that the cost was the main barrier to membership, and they want to test if this is really true. Hence the pilot program. It will run from July 1st to December 31st, 2022. The COA’s pilot marketing campaign is “We’re Stronger Together”, and the main goal is to increase CA’s market share! It will also track indicators in the areas of recruitment, retention, engagement, and satisfaction. Marketing materials went out already to non-members, and there are some benefits for current members that attract new members under this pilot program! If you want more information about this, don’t hesitate to write to us at sdcos@sdcos.org!

Please note that our next LIVE event is Sunday, August 21st, for our first 5-hr CE in over two years! You can still register here SDCOS 5-Hour IN-PERSON August 21, 2022 – Diego County Optometric Society. The Sponsors are also eager to reconnect with the optometric community, so I hope I see lots of you on Sunday the 21st!

Enjoy the rest of the summer season!

Simona

President’s Message

Welcome New Graduates!

It’s June, and every year two things really mark this month: beginning of summer season and graduation! Graduation is an exciting time – it marks both an ending and a beginning; it’s warm memories of the past and big dreams for the future. In the United States, twenty-three schools of optometry will graduate around two thousand or even more new optometrists this year. As they make the transition from being a student to being a full-fledged doctor, one cannot help but feel extreme joy and anxiety at the same time. For many graduates and residents finished with their training, the feeling of excitement may give way to some feelings of anxiety as the reality of finding a new job and impeding student loan payments set in.

This is where the organized community of optometry comes in to help. The California Optometric Association (COA) offers free membership for the new graduate until the end of the graduating year. COA has a wealth of information for new graduates through their CA OD Resource Guide. There is an entire section titled “step-by-step for new ODs” with a checklist on how to get the state license, DEA number, NPI, become a provider for difference insurance plans, and getting started in a practice. Additionally, COA offers classifieds and job matching services to connect those looking to hire an OD or sell a practice with those seeking employment or a new practice.

At a more local level, San Diego County Optometric Society (SDCOS) is also a resource for new graduates. Our Society’s Optometric Relations Liaison, Dr. David Sherman coordinates local doctors seeking full or part-time positions and fill-in work, as well as those interested in purchasing, partnering, or selling a practice. Please contact Dr. Sherman if you would like his assistance (odjobs@sdcos.org). Furthermore, Dr. Jennifer Chinn (chinn.jenn@gmail.com) and Dr. David Ardakani (dardakani@yahoo.com) serve as Society Membership Liaisons – they can also help with networking and connecting new members with current SDCOS members. The COA and SDCOS are here to help!

I will end with the quote from Nelson Mandela that stuck with me since my own graduation… “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.

So, let’s congratulate the 2022 Optometric Graduates! And so the adventure begins!

Cheers!

President’s Message

Healthy Vision Month is celebrated every year in May to stress the importance of the health of our eyes. This month was established by the National Eye Institute in 2003 and aims to spread awareness and educate people about the risks of ignoring the health of their eyes.

Promoting the importance of healthy vision and regular eye examinations is a daily undertaking for doctors of optometry, but it’s a message that’s especially strong in May.

Here are just a few interesting historical facts about the eye.

The first record of the treatment of eye disease dates back to the Ebers Papyrus from Egypt in 1550 B.C. Another early medical text that had extensive info about eye treatment was the “Sushruta Samhita,” an ancient Sanskrit text on medicine and surgery that is considered one of the pillars of Ayurveda, dating back to the 6th century B.C. The Ancient Greeks also made key advances in the understanding of the human eye. The Middle Ages saw the use of the microscopes and lenses to examine the eye and its structure.

In the early 1800, Georg Joseph Beer, an Austrian ophthalmologist, is credited with introducing a flap operation for treatment of cataracts, as well as popularizing the instrument used to perform the surgery. In 1931, Vladimir Petrovich Filatov became the first person to perform a successful corneal transplant. Charles Schepens founded the Retina Foundation in 1950 (now known as Schepens Eye Research Institute). Ioannis Pallikaris, a Greek surgeon, performed the first Lasik surgery in 1989.

All this proves how steady research was in the field of the treatment of the human eye. And more remains to be discovered. According to a survey conducted by the National Eye Institute, more than 23 million Americans aged 18 and above have never undergone an eye exam. And the reason is that most think they don’t have an eye problem. This attitude can have consequences in the future. Surveys further suggest that by 2030, approximately 4.2 million people will have glaucoma, 11.5 million will have diabetic retinopathy, and 2.8 million will have age-related macular degeneration.

In support of Healthy Vision Month in May, the American Optometric Association is encouraging everyone to take charge of their eye health and preserve their sight by following some simple tips. Here are just a few:

  • Get regular dilated eye examinations from an eye care professional
  • Live a healthy lifestyle by maintaining a healthy weight, eating nutritious foods, abstaining from smoking, and manage chronic conditions.
  • Know your family history because many eye diseases are hereditary.
  • Use protective eyewear to prevent injuries on the job, while playing sports or doing simple chores around the home.
  • Wear sunglasses to protect the eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

How to observe Healthy Vision Month

  • Share the message on social media. The NEI provides a number of social posts – for both Facebook and Twitter – that can be used by doctors, practices and organizations. Graphics – infographs and infographics – and videos are also available for distribution on the NEI website. Use the hashtag #HealthyVision or #HealthyVisionMonth.
  • Use your organization’s communication power – if your practice has a newsletter, blog or website, use pre-drafted email newsletter content (also found on NEI resource page) or drop-in article to spread the message.
  • Host an event. Get active about promoting healthy vision in your community. Maybe at you kid’s soccer game, or at the church you go on Sundays.

These messages about the importance of eye health are significant to doctors of optometry and the AOA all year round. Many patient education materials supporting the pillars of Healthy Vision Month—such as booklets on nutrition and the importance of proper sunglasses—are available through the NEI website and the AOA marketplace.

For this Healthy Vision Month, let’s take care of our eyes to make them last a lifetime.

Thank you for reading the newsletter. Please don’t hesitate to contact me at dr.simona@yahoo.com with any questions you may have!

Best wishes,

Simona

President’s Message

April has traditionally been that time of the year that we, as an organization, gather at the Capitol in Sacramento to discuss with our local lawmakers the bills we are working on for the year. And we are finally ready again to meet in person with our lawmakers, this time on June 27th! Previously thought it will be virtual once again, we are finally back in person. And we need your support more than ever as this is also an election year, and also, as I learned recently at the most recent Presidents’ council meeting, an unusual high number of influential lawmakers are leaving the Capitol this year, either because they are retiring, or running for higher office. Therefore, we need to be there in great numbers to put the face to our profession, and either strengthen or build new relationships with lawmakers. We don’t think often about this, but legislation has always been an important part of how we, as optometrists, are able to practice to the full scope of our training while increasing access to patients who benefit from our clinical expertise.

As with previous years, COA has put together an agenda outlining which bills it supports and how we, as primary eye care providers, can engage with our local legislators.

Here is a summary:

Scope of practice expansion (AB 2236) – For more than 20 years, patients in other states can go to their local optometrist to get the latest glaucoma treatment using lasers and remove small non-cancerous lesions from around the eye. COA is seeking legislation to allow optometrists to perform these procedures in California. We have a shortage of physicians that is getting worse because of the pandemic. A report from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) projects that the United States will face a shortage of between 54,100 and 139,000 physicians by 2033. At the same time, a higher percentage of people are over the age 65 and will need more eye care. We are extensively trained and can help elevate the doctor shortage if state law restrictions were removed.

Medi-Cal reimbursement rate increase – Medi-Cal reimbursement rates for optometric services have not been increased in over 20 years. In addition to the impact of inflation, optometrists have experienced increased costs because of the pandemic. As much as they want to, many optometrists can’t continue to accept Medi-Cal patients when reimbursement is far below the cost of providing care. Even though we live in a state with some of the highest overhead costs, California has the third worst Medicaid reimbursement rate for eye exams in the nation. The Medi-Cal reimbursement for a new patient exam and refraction is $47 where the national Medicaid average is $105. The average cost of an eye exam for a new patient with no insurance in California today is about $200. That is a significant difference that can’t be made up in volume.

PIA Eyeglasses (SB 1089) – The Prison Industry Authority (PIA) which fabricates eyeglasses for Medi-Cal recipients has had pandemic related closures at its prison facilities. As a result, an already significant turn-around wait time of 4-6 weeks has been more than doubled in some areas. The requirement to use the PIA to obtain eyeglasses is causing optometrists to stop accepting Medi-Cal because of the hassle involved. Poor children deserve timely, quality eyeglasses that are consistent with community durability standards. This new legislation would give patients an option to get their eyeglasses outside the PIA system.

Waiver of licensure fees for military personnel (SB 1237) – SB 1588 (Atkins) was signed into law in 2012 to require state licensure boards to waive the renewal fees, continuing education requirements, and other renewal requirements of any licensee who is called to active duty as a member of the US Armed Forces. The fee waiver has been interpreted by the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) to apply only if the licensee has had a “temporary” change in assignment to a remote location. DCA has ruled that “military personnel that have orders to serve in a permanent, career position at a base are not ‘called to active duty’ within the meaning of the exemption in AB 1588.” The COA is sponsoring SB 1237 (Newman) to waive the license renewal fee for any active-duty military licensee who is stationed outside of California, not just someone who was “called to active duty.” It’s unfair to require someone in the military to pay for a license that they must maintain, but can’t currently use. While fees are waived, no private practice of any type would be permitted. This bill would save optometry service members that are permanently stationed outside of California $425 every two years in renewal fees. We need to make sure our optometry military service members are not paying for a license they can’t use!

Temporary License Expansion (SB 509) – SB 509 (Wilk) was an urgency bill that was signed into law in 2021 to create a “temporary license” that allows an optometry school graduate to practice under the supervision of an optometrist or ophthalmologist if the graduate is unable to immediately take the required examination for licensure due to COVID-19. This new legislation would expand SB 509 to other declared state of emergencies beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. The intent is to allow a pathway to licensure in case of a future disasters that could cause the closure of the only testing site in Charlotte, North Carolina. SB 509 had no opposition and passed without any “no” votes.

Please consider joining us for Legislative Day, even if it is your first time! Every doctor makes us stronger! COA will walk you through all critical legislation beforehand. We will cover your travel costs for this day trip to the capitol. If you feel intimidated by the idea of discussing legislation with your local lawmakers in person, you can help via email. COA has on their website letters for each bill, ready to be personalized and sent out. Just log in to www.coavision.org, and follow the links under Government Affairs > Contact Your Legislator.

Ready to win one for optometry? Feel free to contact me at dr.simona@yahoo.com to learn how, and become a key to COA’s ongoing legislative success!