Dear Academy Membership,
It is a great honor to become the president of the American Academy of Optometry. I have served on the board for 12 years and have seen the extraordinary efforts of the previous presidents as they moved this Academy forward to its present prominent position.
I am looking forward to working with each of you in the next two years to continue the Academy’s wonderful work and to expand our horizons by undertaking a major study. We are an improbable group of clinicians, scientists and researchers. We have expertise in public health, epidemiology and clinical care. We are determined and disciplined and poised for something new.
Here is the part of my induction address that I would like you all to consider.
"It is time for a transformation, an expansion of our already magnificent mandate. I believe that this organization can become so much more than it already is. We can become a force of clinical research unheard of in the annals of eye care. But this can only happen with the participation of our members. I need your help.
In my lifetime, a beloved US president gave the famous “ASK NOT” speech. It was a time of hope and great energy. This is my humble version of that speech.
I would like you to think about what you can do for your Academy. I would like you to step up and participate in a broad, lengthy examination of vision, refraction and age-related eye disease within our optometric ranks. I want each one of you to be a subject. Think of the impact of The Nurses Health Study, where the simple participation of the profession for over 50 years has transformed clinical care for women.
This Academy can make the same impact on eye care if we have the energy and the will. If we use questionnaires, images and scans. If we measure vision carefully, you examining me and me examining you, and finally each of us examining every optometrist in our region, we will create a database that will influence evidence based practices for years to come and that will address the very real public health problem of vision loss in aging. Think of your retina imaged from graduation to grave. Let’s call it The Optometry Eye Study (TO-EYES). It is so doable. It is sitting right there. It is our “what now?”
And so, as we move toward that magical optometric year of 2020, let’s remember the special nature of our fellowship. With apologies to William Shakespeare, “We few, we happy few, we band of Fellows” should take this Academy and turn it into a force of scientific clinical research unheard of in eye care. Let’s pull the goalie. After all, why not us?”
Indeed, why not us? The board of directors and many leaders of the Academy are starting a strategic planning process that will help to prioritize your Academy’s future. All of you need to think about what this Academy can be. I want your ideas, small and large, to come to me directly. Let’s forge ahead and use our many skills in a new and exciting way.
Barbara Caffery, OD, PhD, FAAO