Article Date: 10/1/2008

Becoming an Influence in Your Community
from the AOSA

Becoming an Influence in Your Community

One way to help improve patient care is to attend a political fundraiser.

By Ray Pirozzolo,
Secretary, AOSA

RECENTLY, I WAS GIVEN the opportunity with two fellow optometrists to attend a fundraiser for assemblyman Mike Cusick (D-Staten Island, N.Y.). When I say "given the opportunity," I mean that a local optometrist, who knew I was up-and-coming in the community, urged me to attend. At first I didn't want to go because I knew I wouldn't know anyone at the event, and I wasn't sure what I'd do there. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how important it might be to attend.

Assemblyman Cusick is a member of the assembly's higher education committee in New York State, which enables him to play a major role in reviewing a bill that will allow optometrists to prescribe oral medications in New York. All bills concerning scope of practice must go through the higher education committee before they reach the floor of the legislature.

Hobnobbing at the Main Event

When we walked in the door of the fundraiser, some of Assemblyman Cusick's supporters, who were volunteering to work for his campaign, welcomed us.

Once the reception began, more supporters, some of whom were prominent figures in the community, greeted us. One of the optometrists who accompanied me knew one of the supporters very well. We began speaking and soon Assemblyman Cusick came over to join us. We introduced ourselves and discussed our roles in the community and in optometry. He thanked us for our support and quickly moved on to the next group of people.

Short Stay

After drinks and hors d'oeuvres, my colleagues and I decided to leave the fundraiser. We were there for only an hour. On our way out, we said goodbye to Assemblyman Cusick and the other people we'd met at the event.

During the drive home, I asked my colleagues "why did we leave so early?" and "was the fundraiser really worth attending since we were there for only an hour and spent about 5 minutes with the assemblyman?" I wondered how such minimal exposure could help us get our legislation passed in the future. The response was interesting.

One colleague explained that face time with the candidate is important, but face time with his key supporters is just as valuable. I learned that the man we'd been speaking with most of the evening was a prominent member of the Democratic Party in Staten Island. So talking to him was almost as important as conversing with the assemblyman.

Mr. Pirozzolo graduated with a bachelor of science degree in biology from Manhattan College in 2005. Born and raised in Staten Island, N.Y., he's a fourth-year intern at SUNY College of Optometry and will graduate in 2009. You can reach him at

When Opportunity Knocks

I learned something very important. Being well known in your community and the area in which you practice or plan to practice is powerful. The earlier you begin introducing yourself to your local assemblyman, senator and congressman, the better. You can be instrumental in changing the laws in your community even before you graduate, and you can help shape the scope of practice in your state. Politicians are eager to hear from students, and they're particularly willing to listen to those who are striving to further their profession and, in our case, improve patient care.

So whether you have 5 minutes with a local politician or 1 hour with his key supporters, every bit of face time counts when you're trying to make a name for yourself in your community and in the profession of optometry. nOD

Optometric Management, Issue: October 2008