Article Date: 11/1/2013

O.D. Scene

O.D. Scene



O.D. Scene creator, writer and editor Jack Schaeffer, O.D.

During a break from lecturing in Jackson Hole, Wyo., my wife and I went hiking in Yellowstone National Park. She had an accident that I knew required facial stitches. David Cockrell, O.D., who was attending the meeting at which I lectured, knew the area. So, I asked his assistance in finding a plastic surgeon. Not only did David locate a surgeon, he was in the emergency room, located three hours away, awaiting our arrival. THANK YOU, DAVID.

Great leaders are not only approachable, charismatic, dedicated and forward-thinking, they also sacrifice for others. And so it is no surprise to me, and others who know David, that he was chosen president-elect for the AOA. In fact, our AOA leadership excels when it comes to selflessness. They sacrifice personal, family and practice time to protect the profession and ensure we can practice at the highest level to provide our patients with the best care. Through their dedication, they inspire others to volunteer to join the effort.

This month is the first of a two-part series on the leadership of the AOA.

In addition to an interview with David, I also speak with current AOA president Mitch Munson, O.D., and Dennis Holter, chief advancement officer for Optometry Cares — The AOA Foundation. I am a current board member of Optometry Cares. This is OUR charity. Together we are helping so many to see and live better lives.

Please join me and support Optometry Cares with a donation or by joining Vision USA and the InfantSEE programs.

Key Opinion Leaders Weigh in…

Mitch Munson, O.D., AOA president and David A. Cockrell, president-elect, AOA

Q: Why did you decide to become an optometrist?

MM: I was unable to get into veterinary school. God had a different plan for me, and it was a far better one.

DC: I finished college early and learned at that time just exactly how valuable a zoology degree is, regardless of whether you have a pith helmet. So, I returned to college for a Masters degree, finished a commercial pilot’s license and applied to optometry school, not expecting to get in on my first application and not knowing whether I planned to pursue an O.D. degree. When I was accepted a few months before school started, I was flying as a charter pilot. I decided to attend optometry school and “see” whether I liked it. Once there, I decided to stay.

Q: Can you describe your practice?

MM: I’m in a group private practice that opened cold 25 years ago. We have four doctors and a staff of 10.

DC: The Cockrell Eyecare Center provides infant care — we are all InfantSEE providers — through geriatric care. This includes refractions, vision therapy and disease treatment. My wife, Cherry, and I started the practice in 1981. It includes four O.D.s.

Q: Why are you involved in the AOA?

MM: It allows me to stay abreast of what is happening in the profession and to be a part of the decisions. Also, it brings me closer to those who share my passion for optometry.

DC: I believe that our profession has advanced in every way possible due to the advocacy efforts of our state affiliates and the AOA. Only a national voice with a direct, constant commitment can do that. I practiced for five years before O.D.s gained recognition as physicians by Medicare, and I saw this occurred due to the AOA’s work. I realized then that I needed to be involved in both state and AOA advocacy efforts.

Q: What do you think is the biggest misconception O.D.s have about the AOA? And can you dispel it?

MM: I think the average O.D. has some misunderstanding about who we are, what we do and what we cannot do for the profession. The simplest way to dispel this is to share that all of us on the AOA board are practicing optometrists and that there is zero tolerance for personal agendas. Every decision we make is viewed through the filter of what we feel is best for our members and their patients.


“Enough to make any orthodontist proud,” says Dr. Munson of his daughters.

DC: I think the biggest misconception is that the AOA is disconnected from the life and practice of the “average O.D.” We have changed the way we communicate with our members to find the most effective way to reach them and communicate our challenges and results. This process will continue to evolve and now consists of several new initiatives, including our AOA app, news, AOAConnect, AOA Facebook and perhaps our most read, AOA First Look. If we can continue to adapt our outreach to the demographics of our members, we can dispel this misconception.


“I like ponies I don’t have to clean up after,” says Dr. Munson of his car collection.

Q: What is your favorite and least favorite part of your AOA position?

MM: My favorite: the one-on-one interaction with members, students and fellow board members. Least favorite: having to answer to the never-ending misconceptions and aspersions propagated by a few very vocal and apparently unhappy optometrists who seem to have way too much time on their hands…

DC: My favorite: meeting members throughout the country and helping them find answers to their questions or resolve an issue for them. Least favorite: traveling 100 plus days a year.

Q: What has been your most cherished moment as an AOA officer?

MM: Being elected president.

DC: So far it is simply having the opportunity to say “thank you” to the House of Delegates for the privilege of serving our profession on the Board of Trustees. I keep a note in my notebook that I represent the nearly 40,000 practicing optometrists in the United States to remind me that I am voting for them, not me.


Dr. Cockrell with wife Cherry on a trip to Zermatt, Switzerland.

Q: What advice would you give to a new practitioner other than to join the AOA?

MM: Put family first, work hard, commit to personal goals, treasure your profession’s independence, find a practice that allows you to pursue your individual passions, live within your means, get your debt under control, and read The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy (Taylor Trade Publishing, 2010).

DC: Be involved in every aspect of your career, work with other O.D.s in your community and state affiliate, and volunteer your time and talents at the local, state and national levels. Your life and career, community and profession will be better for your involvement.

Q: Do you feel a particular person or organization has shaped the profession?

MM: Without question the AOA has done more to influence, advance and shape our profession than any other organization in optometry. Period. Consider our training, scope, access and third-party reimbursement today vs. 25 years ago. These changes occurred through many years of dedicated and calculated service by passionate AOA members.

DC: We have several important optometry organizations, such as the AAO and ASCO. The AOA, through its members’ efforts and staff, has helped pass the legislation and make the regulatory changes that enable us to take advantage of the unique skills, training and expertise we command.

Q: How is the affordable care act going to affect optometry?

MM: It is my hope that the AOA’s efforts to make the pediatric essential benefit and the Harkin Amendment a reality will improve public access to optometry. The look of reimbursement remains unanswered. As business owners, I think we will be making major decisions about the provision of health care for our respective employees and families. I also think that for many of us personally, we will find Uncle Sam reaching a bit further into our pockets.

DC: We will see increased utilization of the healthcare system, so more patients have access to us. The Harkin Amendment will prove to be a truly significant win for optometry. That said, we likely will see continued changes by regulatory agencies as the ACA is implemented in a piecemeal fashion through the next several years. Those changes will be both unsettling and expensive.


Shepard, Cherry and Cherry Beth in Zermatt, Switzerland.

Q: Who are the members of your family, and what do you do for fun?

MM: I met the love of my life, Susie, in optometry school. We have three beautiful daughters now age 25, 22 and 20. I also have a son (in law). I am blessed beyond words. For fun, I collect classic Ford Mustang Shelbys and Ford Mustangs, I fly fish, golf, ride ATVs and play guitar. Further, I have a fondness for numbers and finance and enjoy ending my day in front of a grill.

DC: I met my wife, Cherry, at SCO. We were in the same class — she was one of six women out of 150 students. We have a daughter, Cherry Beth, in her third year of medical school, and a son, Shepard, completing a Master’s degree in Economics in London. I think I used to have a hobby and it was flying. Now, I’m a passenger. Seriously, I like reading mostly non-fiction historical books. And I enjoy farming and ranching.


“She’s still the one,” says Dr. Munson of wife Susie.

Q: What person, living or dead, would you like to hear speak and why?

MM: Abraham Lincoln. I was born in the “Land of Lincoln,” share his birthday and admire his persona, perseverance and articulation.

DC: Abraham Lincoln. He faced challenges during his life and presidency that demanded he take a position he believed was best for the long run of the United States. He not only had strong beliefs that he chose the right course, he was also required to demonstrate the commitment to finish what he knew to be the right course, in spite of the difficulties that resulted from the decision.

Q: What is your favorite movie, book, band and adult beverage of choice?

MM: Movie: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Book: Angels & Demons (Atria, 2003); Band: Genesis; Adult beverage of choice: Belvedere martini — very dry, dirty and cold.

DC: Movie: The Great Escape, Book: A History of the American People (Harper Perennial, 1999); Band: Garth Brooks; adult beverage of choice: Dr Pepper/Macallan scotch.

Q: What question would you like to be asked that no journalist has ever asked you?

MM: “What do I think of the media?”

DC: What was your first career goal? Answer: astronaut (I learned I didn’t have the eyes for it).

Special Industry Interview

Dennis Holter, chief advancement officer, AOA

Q: Can you describe your job?

A: I wear two hats at the AOA. I am director of the Corporate and Industry Relations Center and also chief advancement officer for Optometry Cares - the AOA Foundation. Both roles are responsible for raising financial support for the various programs in the AOA and the Foundation. It is rewarding to know that one’s work can have a positive effect on the greater good.

Q: Can you talk about Optometry Cares - The AOA Foundation and its related programs?

A: Optometry Cares supports multiple programs within the industry and profession, such as InfantSEE, VISION USA, Healthy Eyes Healthy People, Optometry’s Fund for Disaster Relief, AOA Archives & Museum, National Optometry Hall of Fame and various scholarships and endowments.


Barbara Horn, O.D., AOA Board of Trustee member, performs an eye exam through InfantSEE.

Q: Who is on the staff of Optometry Cares?

A: We have two individuals involved in actively seeking financial support: myself and Rebecca Hildebrand, who is our development officer. Also, two individuals manage the operations of the various programs. Damon Broadus is manager of Community Programs, and Sandi Gregson is a Community Programs specialist. Dr. Beth Kneib is involved in a supervisory role over program operations.


Twins Chase and Tyler Upchurch got their glasses through InfantSEE.

Q: Who are the industry partners involved with Optometry Cares?

A: We receive wonderful support from Allergan and the Allergan Foundation, VISTAKON and the Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Institute, Alcon and The Alcon Foundation, Essilor and the Essilor Vision Foundation, The Vision Council, Vision Expo West, OD Excellence, Cleinman Performance Partners, Luxottica and many others.

Q: What is the Optometry Cares Society?

A: The Optometry Cares Society is a donor recognition group that recognizes commitments and pledges at $500, $1,000 and $2,000 annually for three consecutive years. It started in June 2013 at Optometry’s Meeting. By year-end, our goal is to have 50 charter members of the society.

Q: Can you talk about the board of directors of Optometry Cares?

A: The Board of Directors of Optometry Cares -The AOA Foundation is comprised of a cross-section of influential AOA member optometrists and industry leaders from across the United States. Each member is committed to helping raise private financial support, plus helping to establish a prominent position in the philanthropic marketplace by developing key alignments with ophthalmic-related organizations, associations, buying groups, business alliances and societies.

Q: Why should a doctor donate to Optometry Cares?

A: Our goal is to become the domestic charity of choice for optometry. Our programs support those who are most vulnerable in our society, largely through the volunteer optometrists who donate their time and money for our programs.

This is a thank you letter from a VISION USA patient:“I just picked up my new glasses today, and I can see so much better. I am diabetic and I know it’s very important to get a yearly eye exam, but with my wife being forced into early retirement, due to her exhibiting signs of dementia, I have not been able to afford an eye exam, let alone a pair of glasses. I can now read my favorite books, see my grandchildren playing and truly enjoy time with my family. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You are truly a blessing.”

Q: How does one donate to Optometry Cares?

A: We have a “Donate Now” button on our website at www.aoafounda, or you can send a check in the mail made payable to “Optometry Cares” to 243 N. Lindbergh Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63141.

Optometric Management, Volume: 48 , Issue: November 2013, page(s): 38 39 40