Article Date: 12/1/2013

O.D. Scene
O.D. Scene

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader,” said sixth President of the United States John Quincy Adams. The AOA's leadership meets this definition indeed. Through their motivation, dedication, sacrifice and actions, with an eye on the future of healthcare, they have inspired optometrists to do all the above.

In Part two of this two-part series on the leadership of the AOA, I speak with Steven Loomis, O.D., AOA vice president, Andrea P. Thau, O.D., F.A.A.O., F.C.O.V.D., D.P.N.A.P., AOA secretary-treasurer, and Ronald Lee Hopping, O.D., M.P.H. D.O.S., F.A.A.O., D.P.N.A.P., AOA immediate past president.

In addition, this month's Special Industry Interview is with Lori Lee, director of Optometry's Meeting. Ms. Lee provides a behind-the-scenes look at the AOA's annual meeting and why you should attend.

On a personal note, I have discovered industry meetings that are open to M.D.-employed optometrists only. Many of our colleagues feel this is not in the best interest of patient care. An influential group of your colleagues have decided to not attend or participate in any meeting not open to all optometrists. I will keep you posted.

Enjoy learning about our profession's leaders. It is my hope that this two-part series inspires you to join the effort in serving and protecting our profession.


Key Opinion Leaders Weigh in…

Steven Loomis, O.D., AOA vice president, Andrea P. Thau, O.D., F.A.A.O., F.C.O.V.D., D.P.N.A.P., AOA secretary-treasurer, and Ronald Lee Hopping, O.D., M.P.H. D.O.S., F.A.A.O., D.P.N.A.P., AOA immediate past president

Q: Why did you decide to become an optometrist?

SL: I had a high school teacher who had an interest in optometry. When I told him I planned to go into medicine, he steered me toward optometry. . .

AT: My father was an O.D. I was exposed to his love of the profession for as long as I can remember. I made my official decision in 7th grade after doing my science fair project on the eye's function. I won second prize.

RH: I liked helping people, wanted an intellectually stimulating career and to be my own boss. . .

Q: Can you describe your optometry practice?

SL: I established my practice in 1981 in Littleton, Colo. Today, I have two partners and one associate. We practice full-scope optometry for patients aged 6 months to 101 years.

AT: I own and practice in a four-woman, full-scope, primary-care practice, with an emphasis on pediatrics, in Manhattan, N.Y. Also, I am an associate clinical professor at the SUNY College of Optometry.

RH: It's a group independent practice in the Clear Lake suburb of Houston, Texas, which serves NASA.


Dr. Thau with husband John Lieberman at a Virginia Optometric Association meeting.

Q: Why are you involved in the AOA?

SL: From the time Charles Prentice was jailed for charging for an eye exam until today, all professional advancements are a direct result of state associations and the AOA promoting those advancements. I inherited a great profession and have always wanted to build upon the shoulders of the giants who preceded me. . .

AT: I feel a debt of gratitude to all the volunteers of the state associations and the AOA who came before me and shaped the profession that I inherited. The only way to thank them is by paying it forward: by volunteering my time, energy and efforts to further advance our beloved profession for the next generation . . .

RH: I think we all owe something to this profession, which has given us so much, so I see this as giving my part.


Dr. Loomis with wife Kathy and their grandkids.

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

SL: Probably that we don't actually practice optometry or that we own huge practices and aren't really connected to the real world. The fact is, all Board members practice optometry, and the practice of optometry is their source of income, just like all the members of the AOA.

AT: The biggest misconception is the thought that optometrists don't need to be involved and that our profession would survive without the AOA. We try to dispel this by interacting with as many members as possible and sharing the AOA's ongoing successes in advancing our profession . . .

RH: I think members, and especially non-members, often forget that AOA leaders are folks who totally support themselves by practicing optometry in the same real world in which the AOA members practice. So, the opportunity for every O.D. member to be successful is critically important to an AOA leader . . .

Q: What are your favorite and least favorite parts about your AOA position?

SL: My favorite part is working alongside some of the best and the brightest in our profession. Also, I like being a part of policy decisions that look at the larger picture. In addition, I like the notion that I am returning payment for those who have preceded me. Least favorite part: working a room at a cocktail party. It's just not me. . .

AT: The best part is getting to know so many of our wonderful colleagues across the country. We are truly a family. I have developed close friendships with O.D.s throughout the U.S. It is a wonderful feeling to help advance our profession. Least favorite: dealing with the negativity and pessimism of some of our colleagues . . .

RH: I like fixing things and making things better. So when I have been able to do that, it has been wonderful. Least favorite: being away from family and the practice . . .

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

SL: Upon returning from Washington, D.C. to Denver last year, I was seated next to my U.S. Senator from Colorado. The then Secretary of the Interior, who was also from Colorado, walked up the aisle to speak to the Senator. I had met the Secretary at another function in Colorado, and he remembered that I was an optometrist. He looked at my Senator and said, “You pay attention to him (meaning me). He's an optometrist. Optometrists are powerful.” He had come to know our Washington, D.C. office staff, and that we are a respected healthcare presence in D.C. It made me very proud, and I wish all our members could have experienced that moment.


Dr. Hopping checking out a NASA Space Shuttle trainer.

AT: Being elected by my colleagues at the house of delegates and being part of the team that created InfantSEE.

RH: . . . There have been so many cherished moments with members, with legislative and regulatory victories, helping affiliates and making changes in AOA communications and the volunteer structure, that we would certainly run out of space to list them all.

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

SL: Live where you really want to live, remember who the most important person is in the exam room, dress like a doctor (your patient deserves it), and never assume anyone is pregnant. Never.

AT: The more you give back to your profession by becoming involved in your state association and the AOA, the more successful you will be. I'd also say, if you always do what is right for the patient, you will be very successful.

RH: Attending the state AOA and national meetings greatly increases your practice success and also your income. Beyond that, I would tell a young O.D. to always do what is best for their patient, and success will follow.

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

SL: The most influential person I know in optometry today is David Cockrell, O.D. Dr. Cockrell has fearlessly led this profession through controversial issues by being accurate, well spoken, thoughtful and impeccably honest. We are lucky to have him in our profession.

AT: The American Optometric Association, our state affiliates and our volunteers have shaped our profession.

RH: We are where we are today solely because of the AOA and the many dedicated optometrists and AOA staff, who have given huge amounts of their time and fortune to better our profession. Optometry and our patients have benefited far more than most of us realize because of those individuals.

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

SL: The AOA has well-positioned optometry for the ACA in that we have always focused on patient access to eye care throughout the process. Presumably, more patients will have insurance under the ACA, and so more patients should have access to their family eye doctor . . .


Dr. Loomis with wife Kathy at the Great Wall of China.

AT: Thanks to the efforts of the AOA, the Affordable Care Act, with the Harkin Amendment, further secures optometry's role as the primary eyecare provider for all Americans. All children will have access to comprehensive eye and vision care, as well as materials from birth to age 18.

RH: The AOA has positioned optometry exceptionally well in the ACA, so our opportunities are really endless. However, the ACA will require all of us to adapt and to make careful business decisions to be successful in this new world. Or, we can choose to not change and we will not be successful. The AOA will help our members who want to adapt and be successful.


Dr. Thau providing an InfantSEE exam.

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

SL: I have been married to my wife, Kathy, for 35 years, who works within the practice on accounts receivable and payable. We have three grown and married children (a son and two daughters), who are now contributing to our group of grandchildren. For fun: I love to ski, hike, hang out with my family, read and watch the Denver Broncos. Also, my wife and I are active in our church.

AT: I have been married to my husband, John, for 29 years, and we are blessed with two wonderful sons, Evan, who is in medical school, and Richard, who will graduate from college this year. For fun: I enjoy the ballet and yoga, and I love Broadway shows and movies.

RH: I am married to a wonderful woman, Desiree Hopping, O.D., and we practice together. We have two sons: Reed, who is now in an ocular pathology residency and will join our practice next summer, and Grant, a senior biochemistry major at Rice University, who has an interest in medicine and optometry. For fun: I like gardening, reading and cooking. I have created an excellent chili, Key lime pie and margarita recipe (“Ronaritas”).


The Hopping family at Grand Teton National Park.

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

SL: Winston Churchill. I want to know if he really said all the things I have attributed to him through the years.

AT: Moses, who was considered one of the greatest leaders of all time.

RH: Leonardo da Vinci. I admire his ability to think outside the box and not be constrained in his thinking.

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

SL: Movie: Weekend at Bernie's (somebody has to love that movie); Book: Lonesome Dove (Simon and Schuster, 2010); Band: Mumford & Sons; Adult beverage of choice: McCallan.

AT: Movie: There are too many that I love; Book: I can't pick just one; Band: The Beatles and Billy Joel; Adult beverage of choice: a bottle of wine.

RH: Movie: Casablanca; Book: I like Robert Ludlum's books; Band: Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefers; Adult beverage of choice: My own recipe Ronaritas, of course.

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