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Lobbying for Optometry

Senator Boozman

Meeting with Sen. Boozman (middle)

So one day I’m sitting down with a senator giving him my opinion on foreign policy (no big deal), the next I’m wired with caffeine at 5 a.m., sitting on my friend’s couch cramming for my Ocular Physiology exam. Just a day in the life I guess, ha! In all seriousness though, those events did happen last week, and it was crazy but incredible. Last Monday I flew to Washington, D.C., for the Congressional Advocacy Conference. I returned back home Wednesday at 10:30 p.m., crashing at my buddy’s house two blocks from campus and cramming as much as possible for my OcPys exam the following morning. On Thursday I took the exam on four hours of sleep, and also had clinic and a practical. Whoa!

For those of you unfamiliar with Congressional Advocacy Conference, every year optometrists and optometry students converge on Washington to lobby for pro-optometry bills and against anti-optometry ones. Attendees may also go to some fantastic restaurants and bars, meet tons of students and ODs (great networking opportunities!), and have the chance to rub elbows with some big names. Along with a few others, I got to sit down with Sen. John Boozman, OD at his beautiful office on Capitol Hill. He’s the only senator that’s also an optometrist, and he’s a great advocate for the profession and a very down-to-earth guy. We talked optometry, Arkansas football, and then he actually asked us for our thoughts on Syria before a meeting with Pres. Obama!

On Tuesday, we were prepped on how to lobby for specific optometry bills. We put that training to use on Wednesday, when we were each assigned states and then met with members of Congress who represented different districts in those states. Small groups of students were paired with an experienced representative from each state. It was amazing to be sitting there, actually doing what people in our profession have been working at for DECADES in order to keep optometry progressing and growing into what it is today. We still have a lot of work to do, and I’m very thankful to have had the opportunity to go to D.C. and meet so many motivated, passionate students and ODs, and to help continue what so many of those before us started. Be on the lookout for a short documentary of the event produced by and the American Optometric Student Association.


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