A Response from the Board of Directors

Enough is Enough

It is an unfortunate and grave error on the part of the American Optometric Association that today we have cause to publish a speech made by Dr. Dennis Brtva, an Energeyes member and practicing LensCrafters optometrist, to terminate his candidacy for the AOA Board of Trustees for the second year running. This was an opportunity, as was last year’s elections, for the AOA Board to recognize the need for our practice modality and over 10,000 optometrists that practice within it, to be represented and included. Instead, this week, the AOA has once again sent a message that corporate affiliated optometrists are the ‘other’ group of optometrists in our industry and once again, we do not have a seat at the table.

We want to recognize Dr. Brtva for his courage.  How many of us would be willing to be that ‘first’ against very challenging odds and do it two years in a row?  Not many.  Dr. Brtva has spent untold hours dedicated to this effort because he felt it was important. He put himself out there in the hope of bettering our position within this organization. He is to be commended and we only hope after what he has put into his campaigns that there may be someone else who is willing, who holds the courage of Dr. Brtva, to try again.   

Each of us have their own story to tell of being snubbed, a snide comment or frankly, simply being unwelcome at meetings. And yet we are urged to join the AOA, to be a part. We really would like to be.  Many of us are AOA members and take that membership seriously, being leaders on committees and at the State level. But our request to be a part has fallen on deaf ears for too long.

We recognize how unpopular it is too say this aloud.  Our silence has allowed this wrong to be perpetuated for far too many years.  Today, like a parent scolding a child who has done wrong, we are here to say to the AOA leadership that while we support the AOA, we do not support your behavior.

The Board of Directors of the Energeyes Association urge all optometrists who have chosen this honorable career modality, to think. Think about how you feel about another year with no corporate optometrists, ever, in a leadership position within the AOA Board of Trustees. Decide if this is important to you or not. And once decided, please act. We are not here to recommend a specific path of action but instead urge you to take that action that suits your decision. Write to the AOA leadership and express your opinion.  Write an open letter that we will publish in our newsletter.  Examine your AOA membership. Are you really a part of something bigger?  

The Board of Directors of the Energeyes Association

____________________________________

Dr. Brtva's Speech to the AOA Board of Trustees

Mr. Speaker, AOA Board of Trustees, Friends and Colleagues across the nation:  It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that I stand before you today to terminate my campaign for AOA trustee.  Like ALL candidates for this position, I have dedicated a substantial amount of time and treasure over the last two years because I truly believed that my commitment to our profession having served as our state president and many years on a variety of AOA committees provided me with a broad list of qualifications AND I have something unique and valuable to offer the Board of Trustees… a varied and slightly different perspective.  A perspective that, quite frankly, I believe is desperately needed; a perspective that all optometrists deserve to be welcome and treated with respect regardless of who owns the roof over their practice and the frames in their dispensary and know that their AOA and state associations continue to be their optometric champion.

I genuinely thought the time was right for ALL of optometry to be represented by the AOA board of trustees, but I have heard the will of the House of Delegates and I am sad and disappointed to learn that I was not the person with broad experience to also represent a large and growing segment of our profession.  While I respect the sovereign will of the delegates, I do worry for the future health of the profession but more importantly – OUR AOA.

 Over 150 years ago, a great leader from the state of Illinois made this proclamation:  “A house divided against itself cannot stand” and those powerful words ring just as true today as when they were first uttered.  How can we naively believe that adding a Join Now button to our website will solve our membership problems when most of the millennial doctors this button would appeal to, practice in a modality that is unconsciously made to feel less than fully welcome?  Our associations cannot afford to alienate a large segment of the profession by making corporate affiliated doctors feel like second class citizens… that they are perpetually doomed to sit at the kids’ table while those in private practice are offered a seat at the adult table. 

“A house divided against itself cannot stand”… such wise and powerful words.  I do not stand before you today trying to divide the profession or the AOA that I love, a profession and association that has been very good to me through the years.  Instead I stand before you today to declare that I will continue to serve the profession and the AOA to the very best of my ability.  I am also here to declare that in spite of terminating my campaign, I still believe the time has come for ALL of optometry to be represented on the board of trustees, and I dedicate myself to finding and mentoring someone else to carry this message forward… a leader who can not only unite us but can also represent ALL of us.  I congratulate all the candidates this year and wish nothing but the best for Dr. Thau and her new board and our great AOA!  Thank you.