• Don’t Sit on the Sidelines — Advocate

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    Stepping into the office of a Texas Congressman, I could not help but think of the looming threat of Texas becoming the next state to fall in the battle with optometry for scope of practice.

    Just days prior, Arkansas passed a bill expanding the scope of optometry to perform basic ophthalmic procedures. Every state surrounding Texas had now passed a similar bill. If Texas fell, other battleground states would not have a good outlook in the years to come. 

    I was able to compose myself and deliver my rehearsed speech on why Texas Senate Bill 1223 and House Bill 3505 would place patients at unnecessary risk and would not improve access to care. 

    Thankfully, the Texas Ophthalmological Association, with help from the Academy’s Secretariat for State Affairs, ran a well-planned campaign to educate Texas legislators about differences in training between ophthalmologists and optometrists. We gained a small victory when the Senate and House bills were not passed at the end of session. However, the Texas Congress will open its session in 2021, and the scope of practice battle will start anew. 

    As the speaker on advocacy at this year’s Virtual L.E.A.P. Forward event, Laura Green, MD, a member of the Academy’s Secretariat for State Affairs from the Krieger Eye Institute at Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, pointedly affirmed, “This is not the time to sit on the sidelines. If you can sit on the sidelines and complain, you are not a part of the solution, you are a part of the problem.” 

    This statement resonates with me. Exposed to advocacy in medical school through the American Medical Association as well as at the state level, my passion to not only protect the field of medicine but more importantly to ensure the safety of patients has only grown. I grew tired of yelling at the proverbial TV and knew I could do better. 

    Just as with all of the different fields of medicine and subspecialties, there are many different ways to advocate for patients and protect the field of ophthalmology. Some are better-suited to meet and discuss with local and national legislators, while others may choose to support the effort behind the scenes. 

    Whichever route you take, advocacy is for everyone. Whether it is donating to the Academy’s political action committee, OPHTHPAC®, or to the Surgical Scope Fund or by speaking directly to legislators, your help is needed. Surgical scope battles are happening whether we are prepared or not. We must not give up ground. Let us proactively respond to this real and imminent threat instead of reacting to what may possibly come.

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    About the author: Timothy P. Sipos, MD, is a resident at Baylor Scott & White Health in Texas. He was sponsored as an Academy 2020 Advocacy Ambassador Program participant by the Texas Ophthalmological Association.