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!