President's Calling - The Academy's Special Interest Groups: Positive, Proactive, Influential

Published November 7, 2017

In This Issue...

President's Calling

The Academy's Special Interest Groups: Positive, Proactive, Influential

American Academy of Optometry © 2016.
All Rights Reserved


































October 2016


The Academy has a long and proud tradition of being a welcoming professional “home” for optometrists and vision scientists, no matter the emphasis of their work. In about 2010, the Board saw an unmet need in this area: smaller groups of members looking for a way to more formally network within the Academy to share information and promote their interests without some of the requirements of Academy groups like Sections.

Thus, the Academy approved the formation of Special Interest Groups (SIGs). Since that time, we have seen an encouraging development of 8 SIGs: Anterior Segment**; Glaucoma**; Neuro-ophthalmic Disorders in Optometry; Retina; Vision in Aging; Fellows Doing Research; Nutrition, Disease Prevention, and Wellness; and Academic Medical Center Optometrists. To be approved, groups must apply to the Board of Directors with a statement of purpose or mission which should include the significance of the topical area to the profession. The submission also requires the backing of 25 Academy Fellows in good standing. The goal of this October President’s Calling is to provide a better understanding of SIGs and to congratulate them on their early accomplishments.

There were many influences underpinning the decision to allow SIGs to form within our organization. Foremost, we wanted to provide Fellows with an interest in a specific domain of study or field of optometry to form a society within the Academy.  Other SIG functions include the development and presentation of a symposium at the annual meeting, publishing a semi-annual newsletter, the optional creation of position statements as approved by the Board, and generally to serve as a key resource for the Academy and profession for academic, research, and clinical information in their topical area. 

The primary distinction between SIGs and Sections is the requirement of Sections to sustain a viable Diplomate program. For this reason, forming a Section requires more Fellows in good standing to participate (100) and requires the recognition of 5 new Diplomates every 6 years. However, we must respect the importance of SIGs by equal measure as they join Sections in bringing new knowledge to the Academy community and function to fill a past void in their scholarly area. Without question, the Academy has prospered by the complementary synergism of an aggregate 15 SIGs and Sections that have broadened our scholastic foundation with astute diversity. 

As a final note, I strongly encourage you to attend any one of the compelling SIG or Section symposia slated for Academy 2016 Anaheim. This affords you an exceptional opportunity to learn more about their purpose and get connected with their membership.


Brett G. Bence, OD, FAAO 
President, American Academy of Optometry

** Anterior Segment and Glaucoma have since transitioned to Sections by developing Diplomate programs as well as other stipulations for Sections.