• The Secret to Florida’s Defeat of a Bad Bill for Patients

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    “No one is big enough to be independent of others.” — Dr. William Worrall Mayo

    It was well after midnight and we were preparing to testify in Tallahassee against House Bill 1037. This scope-expansion bill would let thousands of ODs perform eye surgery and prescribe opioids — despite declarations by both our governor and president that the nation’s opioid epidemic is a public health emergency. I had already practiced my testimony several times with our team and my wife. But it still wasn’t perfect. Several of my colleagues sat around the table, clearly tired and ready to get some sleep. But they could tell I wasn’t satisfied. “Let’s do it again,” they said.

    Academy’s Secretariat for State Affairs Meeting
    From left to right: Mark Michels, MD; Ryan Smith, MD, a resident from the University of Florida; Amy Young, a lobbyist; Nathaniel Ruttig, MD; and Darby Miller, MD.

    A few hours later, we testified before the Florida House Health Quality Committee. A month later, the bill was tabled for the remainder of the year.

    The Florida Society of Ophthalmology had established an amazing team to fight this dangerous bill, but we ultimately prevailed because we were joined by others like the Academy’s State Affairs team and the Surgical Scope Fund. We battled together. It was a major victory for our patients.  

    Together We Can Do So Much

    Unfortunately, this battle hasn’t ended — optometrists have already announced that they will re-introduce the same bill in a few months. Similiar battles are also occuring throughout the country, and a loss in any state sets a dangerous precedent.

    One thing is clear: We must work together to protect our patients and our profession. This past July at the Academy’s Secretariat for State Affairs meeting, a recurring theme saturated our discussions: “Others” play a vital role in our success.

    Others in our professional life, such as our colleagues and mentors. Others in our public life, such as our lobbyists and legislators. And others that we care about most — our family, friends and patients.

    We cannot succeed alone. We cannot succeed in a vacuum. We must stand and work together to protect the sight of our patients and the integrity our profession.

    Contact your state legislators, work with your state ophthalmology society and fellow ophthalmologists and give to the Academy’s Surgical Scope and OPHTHPAC Funds as well as your state EyePAC. The safety of our patients and the future of our profession depends on us.  

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    About the author: Darby D. Miller, MD MPH is an assistant professor of ophthalmology at the Mayo Clinic, president-elect of the Florida Society of Ophthalmology and a member of the Academy’s YO Advocacy Subcommittee.