The term Advocate implies knowledge of the issues, a personal commitment to support our patients and profession and a willingness to donate both your time and personal resources on behalf of our profession.
We are currently in a crisis mode. Our ability to practice ophthalmology is no longer based on maintaining our educational credentials and our work ethic. It is now impacted to a much larger degree by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and congressional mandates, insurance companies’ profit-boosting initiatives under the guise of cost saving, malpractice defensive medicine, hospital pressures to increase productivity and much, much more. Very few professions would have allowed the significant cost cuts to procedures that we perform that change people's lives and increase and maintain their productivity. We must stop the devaluation of our skills in restoring the gift of sight. This requires everyone to be fully engaged and stay engaged. To assume that your dues will cover the Academy's work to address these issues so crucial for your ability to practice your profession and make a living without additional resources and member engagement is a fallacy. Get involved and stay involved!
I have been an advocate since medical school, when I served as the Harvard Medical School representative to the Medical Student Section of the American Medical Association and subsequently to its Resident Physician Section. I also represented the Wills Eye Hospital residents at the Pennsylvania State Senate when optometric therapeutics bills emerged. This involvement primed me to become active at the state level. I served on the Virginia Board of Medicine during the time when optometry's certification exam for therapeutics was created and monitored by the Board of Medicine. I also served on the Board of Directors of the Virginia Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons.
State involvement is crucial. Your state legislators' decisions will directly impact access to care and optometric laws. This is where your state political action committee contributions are needed. I was also honored to serve on the state affairs committee representing Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia and later became chair of one of the two State Affairs subcommittees.
My advocacy on ophthalmic issues has also spanned my tenure on the Academy’s Board of Trustees, and as a member of the Communications and the Surgical Scope Fund committees. I am an enthusiastic participant in the Academy’s Congressional Advocacy Day, make presentations for the Surgery by Surgeons campaign during the Annual Meeting and participate in the Leadership Development Program.
My mantra is, get involved and stay involved! Your profession needs you!
Stephanie Jones Marioneaux, MD, is a cornea and external disease specialist and an assistant professor at the Eastern Virginia Medical School.