I agree with many of my patients - this year seems faster than those previous! It's hard to believe that we've turned the calendar to October!
We've done a lot in 2022 and we are looking to finish the year strong by gearing up for an even better 2023. It's why I am writing today.
The passage of the Consumer Protection in Eye Care Act is an important win. This long sought-after law places necessary guardrails on online eye tests being marketed to Rhode Islanders across our state.
The core of our advocacy efforts remained on the importance of the doctor-patient relationship and comprehensive eye exams as well as the role we, as primary eye care doctors, play in the lives of the patients entrusted to us.
I'd be remiss if I did not specifically offer a special thank you and hearty congratulations to our State Government Affairs Committee on a job very well done! Drs. Stephen Montaquila (Chair), Paul Zerbiniopoulos (AOA SGRC Committee Member) and Maria Jablonski never wavered in the face of resilient, corporately funded opposition.
This was a team win. I know many members contacted lawmakers regarding this issue over the years. Thank you for being engaged and invested in our efforts.
Persistent and unshakeable, the RIOA has solidified its reputation as a heavily engaged organization committed to first-class, patient-centered eye care.
As for the bill's impact nationally, Dr. Zerbinopoulos summed it up best:
Over years of testimony, it is important for eye care providers across the U.S. to realize that the goal of the online industry is to eliminate the need for an Rx for contact lenses and devalue and undermine the doctor patient relationship when prescribing a FDA classified medical device worn on the eye.
Here, we must remain ever-vigilant; It's up to each and every RIOA member to help protect and advance our profession. Advocacy never stops.
One of the ways we are strengthening our Association is through the RIOA's Young Optometrists of Rhode Island committee. We hope to announce another social event before the end of year.
From there, YORI doctors will be asked to help lead an RIOA Blue Sky (strategic planning) Meeting to be held early in 2023. It will be at this meeting that we will begin to chart the next 10 years of our profession.
Concurrent to those actions, I, along with Dr. Zerbinopoulos and RIOA Executive Director Tim Bonin, will be attending an AOA / Northeast state affiliates government relations conference in Portland, Maine later this month. We expect to learn from other state leaders and discuss, among other things, future goals, and initiatives of the region's AOA state affiliates.
Our association is what makes us strong. Thank you for your unwavering support of our shared mission.
Kathleen Abarr, OD
It is a tremendous honor and privilege to serve as the 101st President of the Rhode Island Optometric Association!
I pledge to do my very best to lead our profession over the next few years, to build on the successes of my predecessors and lead in the same way as they have... by building consensus and never wavering in the advancement (and defense) of our shared and chosen profession.
I couldn't be more excited to work with all of you and the members of our RIOA Board - a group consisting of deeply talented, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic practitioners. Our board is a healthy mix of veteran and newly minted leaders. Each will bring their own ideas and experiences to the table.
The RIOA could not have a better team to help chart the waters of the next few years.
It seems not that long ago that I sat in the chair of Dr. Paul Zerbinopoulos as a patient. I was struck by Dr. Z's enthusiasm for his practice and the care he was providing his patients. I was searching for a challenging and impactful career. He allowed me to shadow him for a bit. Optometry became, at that time, a possible option for me and my career.
As an undergraduate student at Stonehill, I studied neuroscience where I became more and more intrigued with the visual system. Soon after I enrolled at SUNY where I also earned a Master's in Vision Science where I took part in research exploring the neurological planning and initiation of saccades and myopia control.
These experiences led me to a residency within the VA Boston Healthcare System at the Brockton Campus where I met Immediate Past President Dr. Robert Parks. He, too, had the same passion and zeal for his work as Dr. Z and only reinforced my excitement for the career path I had chosen.
In 2016, I began practicing in Rhode Island and Dr. Parks further introduced me to the RIOA and the importance of being involved in the Association's work. The rest, as they say, is history!
I enter my Presidency with the goal of increasing the number of "younger optometrists" involved in our Association. Through the Association's Young Optometrists of Rhode Island (YORI) group, we will do just that! Be on the lookout for future YORI events!
Should you have questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us! I look forward to seeing you at a future RIOA event soon!
Kathleen Abarr, OD