February is usually the month when California Optometric Association (COA) holds the House of Delegates (HOD) meeting. COA represents more than 2,500 optometrists in the state, plus more than 1,000 students of optometry. The association is governed by its members — doctors of optometry like you — who are elected to leadership on the board of trustees, and who are appointed to statewide committees. Local society members convene annually at the COA House of Delegates meeting to represent their society membership and to conduct association business.
I would like to share my personal story how I first became a delegate, and how that later got me involved with the SDCOS board and finally became its President.
I have been practicing optometry since 2004, and I have been a member of AOA and of local societies at state levels since then in NY, NJ, and finally CA. But I have never been involved more than paying my dues. If I’m honest, I think I even lapsed in paying dues on time a couple of times! I did not have the time nor the desire to get more involved. But I just knew, for whatever reason, that I do have to be part of organized optometry, even in a passive way.
Then 2019 came. It was January, we were at the Handlery Hotel for the two-hour CE night, and I remember Dr. Grazian, the President at that time, making an announcement that he has a few more spots open for the House of Delegates, and if anyone wishes to join the list, to let him know. I raised my hand. Next thing I knew I was in San Francisco holding a name tag with my name that had attached to it a beautiful red ribbon saying “delegate”.
Why all of a sudden, I was interested to get more involved in organized optometry? Well, for one, I had more time on my hands. After a few years of struggling health issues, and finally a diagnosis of an autoimmune disease that was ravaging my body, I had to give up practicing optometry, at first, full time, then, part-time, then, the occasional fill-in until I started to feel disconnected from the profession. And that’s when I decided to re-connect with it in a different way. First, I raised my hand to become a Delegate which, in turn, made me join the Board for SDCOS as a trustee, and shortly after, join the Executive Board. I turned an adversity into an opportunity.
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “delegate” as “a person acting for another; a person who is chosen or elected to vote or act for others”. I took my role very seriously. I was representing SDCOS! I was voting on behalf of the other 200+ members of SDCOS! That’s when I also learned that our association was one of the largest in the state, and therefore having a large number of delegates representing it. And that is an important fact because that means we, SDCOS, have weight when it comes to vote for the COA trustees to further become executive officers that will shape the future of optometry in California. And so, it dawned on me that we have a loud voice in the governance of COA!
So, I challenge you to raise your hand! Join the board, learn how and why organized optometry is important, have a voice. Turn your adversity into opportunity. You’ll be surprised at what you might discover.