Why Student Involvement Matters, and How You Can Contribute by Joining the American Optometric Student Association (AOSA)

September 15, 2016

Posted by: Katie Rachon, Indiana University School of Optometry

Take a moment to reflect on the accomplishments you plan to achieve as a Doctor of Optometry. Maybe your hopes and dreams mirror those of a family member who is a Doctor of Optometry or maybe they are the result of a relationship you have with a mentor who is in the optometric field. Possibly your goals are simply ones that you have imagined yourself. Now envision that upon graduation, you are not allowed to prescribe the drugs you used to treat patients in your clinical rotations, or that your ability to performexceptional refractions is undermined due to the popularity of a phone app. How do you give the best health and eye care to your patients? Often our ability to see the past as well as the future is blurred. It seems unfathomable to imagine the profession of Optometry 50 years ago and even harder to envision what it might become. The great strides made in the field of optometry are, in part, thanks to the American Optometric Association (AOA), which has fought for, and continues to fight for optometrists’ rights to provide the highest standard of care for our patients as well as ASCO, which is committed to achieving excellence in optometric education and to helping its member schools, including my own, prepare well-qualified graduates for entrance into the field.

Why should I become a member of the AOSA?

Student Freebies

When you join, the AOSA will send you useful and fun items each year, such as baseball caps, pins, clipboards, binocular vision and contact lens kits, business cards, and much more! You will also receive a copy of the AOSA magazine, Foresight, and the AOA magazine Focus to keep you up to date with student activities and opportunities. In addition, you will be informed on how the AOA is fighting for your optometric future. Members can earn travel grants to Optometry’s Meeting and Academy, as well as scholarships. AOSA members have the most student resources available to them, which will give them advantages upon graduation when they become doctors and full AOA members.

Leadership and networking opportunities

Being in optometry school already shows initiative and hard work beyond that of an average student. Becoming the best Doctor of Optometry you can be requires more than just studying hard. It requires interaction with your peers and broader experiences. By becoming involved in AOSA, you have the opportunity to plan events, represent your school nationally, write journal articles, and participate in ASCO-sponsored podcasts and blog posts. The networking opportunities are plentiful and you have the ability to meet students and faculty from other institutions, doctors currently in practice, and many leaders in the optometric community.

Being part of something bigger

The AOSA is the student partner of the AOA, and by association, your participation and support is a critical part of maintaining and promoting the standards of optometric care. We are the next generation that will be responsible for the nation’s eye health, and who doesn’t want to be the best they can be? By being a participating member, not only can you be sure that your dues and efforts are going to a good cause, but your participation provides many benefits.

How can I join the AOSA?

The AOSA accepts applications from all optometry students at every level, and is also open to undergraduate students who are interested in optometry and completing pre-optometry coursework. Joining is a simple, and you can begin to benefits the benefits of membership right away.

Pre-Optometry Membership

If you are a pre-optometry student, you are also encouraged to join! Pre-optometry clubs have the opportunity to receive membership money back if more than 25 members of their club become members. It is easy to join online at www.theaosa.org.

Fill out a paper application with your school’s AOSA Trustee

Keep an eye out for AOSA events happening at your school near the beginning of the school year; attending an event is a great way to learn about each school’s benefits and fill out a paper application. Some institutions even offer a one-time payment for all four years, which conveniently provides you with membership without having to worry about repeatedly paying.

Fill out an online application

If you aren’t able to attend an AOSA event, an application can be completed online. Visit the AOSA’s website and you’ll find the link to the application under the “Membership in the AOSA/AOA” tab.

Automatic Enrollment

If your school doesn’t offer applications, it may be that you attend an institution with automatic enrollment. Either paid for by the school, or included in your tuition, you are automatically a member for all four years!

Am I already a member and have I already paid for the current year?

To find out if you are a member of the AOSA, contact your school’s AOSA Trustee. To determine who that may be, go to theaosa.org and under the “About” header, click the “16-17 AOSA Board of Trustees” tab and scroll until you find the representative from your school. He or she will be more than happy to help you and will also be eager to answer all the questions you may have.

How can I become more involved once I join?

Being a member not only shows your commitment to the profession and your fellow students, but membership also offers many amazing opportunities to have fun with your classmates, build your leadership skills and network with doctors in your state and across the country.

Attending your school’s local events

Giving yourself time to relax amongst the mountain of schoolwork is very important to making optometry school fun and memorable. Many institutions’ AOSA chapters host events, parties, and dances (can you say prom repeat?), or work closely with the local student government chapter. An event ticket with an AOSA membership may even cost you significantly less than a ticket for a non-member!

State Association Meeting

Being involved with the AOA chapter in your state or your school’s state has many networking benefits for students. Many state associations meet once or twice a year, and welcome students to come interact with doctors and faculty, as well as listen to presentations and award ceremonies. To see how your state is active in the AOA community, visit theaosa.org and under the “Membership in the AOSA/AOA” tab, click on “Know your state optometric association” for a list of contacts and websites.

Optometry’s Meeting

At Optometry’s Meeting, doctors from all over the nation gather once a year to reconnect, network, listen to lectures and continuing education, and vote in the House of Delegates. As a student, there are several networking opportunities, such as the exhibit hall where you can talk to vendors such as equipment companies and pharmaceutical reps, an alumni reception for your school, and a residency meet and greet where you can learn about all the residencies available. At Hoya’s Trivia challenge, you can network with students from other schools to win amazing prizes. The biggest student event is the Varilux Optometry Student Bowl, where a student from each school uses their optometry knowledge to win bragging rights for his or her school! During this event, you enjoy some friendly competition and team spirit.

Will it really matter if I don’t join?

We’re all feeling Olympic fever so, imagine that you are Usain Bolt. You’re so good at what you do that you don’t need any insurance, because you’ll never have a problem running. The next week during training you have a bad fall, subsequently injuring your leg. What do you do now? You didn’t get insurance because you thought this would never happen to you. Now in an instant, your career is over.

This is a common analogy in optometry that the AOSA/AOA is your insurance. You may think that by not joining it won’t make a difference, but if everyone thinks that way, we as the next generation of optometrists will have no protection of our profession. By joining, not only are you supporting your classmates and your professors, you are ensuring that the optometry dreams you recalled at the beginning of this article have a chance of coming true. Our profession is a great and rewarding one.  It is up to us to keep it that way!