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  • Advocating for patients and the profession is an important strategic priority for the Academy, state ophthalmology societies and many subspecialty and specialized interest ophthalmic societies. Many Leadership Development Program participants develop projects that address legislative and regulatory issues that impact the practice of ophthalmology and/or the eye health concerns of various populations. Recent advocacy projects include the following.

    Amblyopia Awareness Month and Vision Screening

    Stacey J. Kruger, MD, LDP XIX, Class of 2017 - American Academy of Pediatrics, Section on Ophthalmology

    Purpose: To create a public and professional awareness campaign regarding the importance of preschool vision screening and its significant role in the early detection of amblyopia. By creating and cataloging materials this program can be recreated by ophthalmologists, pediatricians and other health care providers and/or groups who wish to organize such events.

    Methods: As a result of collaboration between a state ophthalmology society and its PR firm, local pediatric groups, local legislators, local University (ies) and existing non-for-profit vision screening groups, a resolution was drafted and presented to the state legislature. Once “Amblyopia Awareness Month” was approved a multi-month project outline was created which culminated in participation by various groups three state-wide vision screening events.

    Results: Amblyopia Awareness Month (FL Senate Resolution 844) raised awareness on a state-wide level about the importance of preschool vision screening. Three well publicized, state-wide, vision screening events were held at which over 200 preschool-aged children were screened. Follow up care for patients needing additional evaluation was arranged. Coverage by local media was obtained by holding a press conference with local legislators, developing marketing and other needed materials, as well as from local print and TV journalism coverage at each event.

    Conclusion: These distribution maps will be useful in future Missouri optometric scope of practice legislation. A resolution declaring a state-wide amblyopia awareness month can be an excellent way to introduce the importance of preschool vision screening to legislators, health care professionals and the public at large. With the proper equipment and coordination amongst state ophthalmology and pediatric societies, as well as non-for-profit groups, existing resources for vision screening can be combined in strategic and cost effective ways to both provide care to needy patients as well as highlight the need for state-mandated preschool vision screening examinations. In addition, these types of proactive vision screening/amblyopia awareness campaigns and corresponding legislative efforts are difficult to oppose from a public relations perspective. In this regard they can help to stall and/or prevent other groups that favor mandated comprehensive eye exams from obtaining a foothold in local communities and amongst politicians who may be uninformed about the differences between vision screenings and comprehensive eye exams.

    Keeping residents engaged in advocacy as they graduate and move on to the next step of their careers

    Laura K. Green, MD, LDP XVIII, Class of 2016 - Maryland Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons

    Purpose: Over the past decade, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) has worked to engage resident physicians in advocacy efforts through state society and national efforts. When residents graduate, state societies do not know where they go. The work email that the Maryland Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons (MSEPS) has on file and that AAO uses or the OKAP and other official business expires when residents graduate. However, residency programs know where their graduates are. In a time of transition of our management company, the Maryland Society for Eye Physicians and Surgeons discovered that our database of resident physicians was not being kept up to date and included people who graduated many years ago, moved out of state, or were never actually residents. State societies need to engage residents with content that makes membership relevant and helpful to them.

    Methods: Working with other residency program directors in Maryland we updated the MSEPS database, creating a separate database for resident physicians including graduation year and permanent email. When we discovered graduating residents who were moving to other states, the leadership of those states was directly contacted to get and keep these graduates engaged and personally connected with their new state societies. We updated our database and will keep it separate from the general membership moving forward, making sure to note graduation year for each resident. This effort was universally welcomed by the graduating residents.

    A special half day resident session was organized at our annual MSEPS meeting focusing on advocacy, especially emphasizing the benefits of the AAO Mid-Year Forum and our state advocacy day. We discussed why and how this matters to our patients and our practices. We also had guest speakers related to financial planning for residents, and contracts and finding a job.

    Results: This one hour curriculum was integrated into the current University of New Mexico rotating resident lecture series for Senior Residents from Tufts University and the University of Pittsburgh, and will be presented quarterly. During a revamping of our New Mexico Academy of Ophthalmology website (coming soon), the curriculum will be added to our website and be available to anyone who desires to use it. Depending on the outcome of this addition to our lecture series, more related topics can be created and implemented.

    Conclusions: Residents universally enjoyed our half day session. Half of the residents in our state attended. University of Maryland and Sinai Hospital programs will continue to commit to sending all second year residents to MYF and Annapolis Advocacy Day.

    We now have an up to date database of residents, we know their permanent emails, and we know where they are going upon graduation. We used this information to either keep them personally engaged in MSEPS and to highly value MSEPS membership as a resource for mentorship, networking, and guidance, or to get them personally engaged in other state societies when they move elsewhere.

    Residents appreciated this connection to their state societies now and for the future. State societies were contacted with resident email information and they and the residents were appreciative and receptive. Leaders of the California Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons and OPHTHPAC suggested making this a nationwide program to keep our residents engaged as the graduate and move to new states. This benefits states in gaining young, engaged members, and benefits residents to offer connections and mentorship in their new states.