AOA president Dr. Steven Reed at the opening keynote reception.

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Last week, Optometry’s Meeting 2024 welcomed more than 4,500 doctors, students, paraoptometric staff and industry supporters to Nashville. Marking the 127th Annual American Optometric Association (AOA) Congress and 56th Annual American Optometric Student Association (AOSA) Conference, the annual four-day education, governance and networking event focused on optometry’s essential and expanding role in health care and saw its largest gathering of AOA doctors since 2018, the organization announced. The show attracted 4,674 attendees, the AOA said. Eye Care Square opened on Wednesday evening and featured 159 exhibitors and a sold-out exhibit floor, numbers not seen since before the COVID-19 outbreak, according to the group.

During his opening address, AOA president Steven T. Reed, OD, celebrated the organization's successes of the past year, including the advocacy for coverage and reimbursement fairness, which resulted in more than 10,000 meetings and interactions with policymakers, the group said. Additionally, Dr. Reed shared that through the AOA’s public awareness campaign, Eye Deserve More, more than 600,000 patients are actively seeking out AOA doctors.

“This is what I know will be a powerful week, filled with world-class continuing education, opportunities to connect with colleagues, conduct the business of our association, and reenergize ourselves for the work we want to accomplish together,” Dr. Reed said.

 Tom Lawry delivering the opening address on artificial intelligence (AI).
Leading artificial intelligence (AI) transformation advisor Tom Lawry helped kick off Optometry’s Meeting with a message about AI and the evolving impact on optometry. “AI is an opportunity, not a threat,” Lawry told the audience. “Leverage AI as part of your practice. Understand what AI can do and don’t worry about how it works. Understand what AI is good at and what it’s not. And practice responsible AI in service to all. It’s in your hands. Nobody is more qualified to drive it than you.”

Optometry’s Meeting kicked off day two with a report on the strength of the association, citing more than 500 new doctors joining AOA in the first six months of 2024, pushing membership to more than 50,000. Executive director Jon Hymes also shared that 75 percent of Americans indicate trust in an AOA-member doctor of optometry, a finding from a recent survey indicating that the AOA’s brand is stronger than ever.

Students celebrate the opening of Optometry’s Meeting in Nashville.
“We are growing in size, clout and effectiveness, and are well prepared to continue to do all that it takes to safeguard optometry’s essential and expanding role in health care and support the practice success of our doctors,” Hymes told attendees during the House of Delegates session.

Two events brought together paraoptometric attendees at Optometry’s Meeting. The Paraoptometric Awards Luncheon Celebration, supported by Alcon, is the annual celebration of AOA associate-member paraoptometrics, honored for their outstanding and significant contributions to the profession, the AOA said.

AOA also observed Juneteenth, a federal holiday, with a panel discussion celebrating the collaboration between Black EyeCare Perspective, the AOA, and Johnson & Johnson Vision, which is aimed at boosting Black representation in the eyecare sector to better mirror the demographics of the United States. This partnership demonstrates a joint dedication to fostering diversity and inclusivity in optometry, according to the AOA.

 (L to R) At Optometry's Meeting in Nashville, moderator Carla Calizaire, VP, North America sales and strategic accounts, vision care at J&J Vision, was joined by panelists Lydia Holland, current Black EyeCare Perspective Pre-Optometry Club (BEPPOC) president and entering first-year optometry student at the University of Missouri-St. Louis College of Optometry; Dr. Essence Johnson, executive director at Black EyeCare Perspective; and Dr. Jacobi Cleaver, chief program officer of Black EyeCare Perspective, co-founder and co-advisor of BEPPOC. Dr. Darryl Glover, co-founder of Black EyeCare Perspective, is not pictured here but he was a panel participant.
This year’s Paraoptometric Award winners were recognized for their outstanding dedication to the profession. Following the celebration was the Paraoptometric Idea Exchange, where attendees networked and discussed practice challenges and opportunities, and generated ideas on how to grow AOA associate membership.

On Thursday evening, Tyson Montgomery of The Ohio State University College of Optometry took home the trophy after another AOSA Optometry Student Bowl, powered by EssilorLuxottica. The high-speed, high-stakes test of optometric knowledge pits one champion from each school against all others. Michigan College of Optometry received the competition’s Spirit Award, the AOA said.

Friday was highlighted by the 2024 National Optometry Hall of Fame Induction & AOA Advocacy Awards ceremony, the EyeTalks series of panel-style discussions on cutting-edge trends and clinical solutions for every office, and the Celebration of Optometry closing party, the AOA said.

Optometry’s Meeting will be held in Minneapolis, Minn., next year at the Minneapolis Convention Center from June 25-28, 2025, in partnership with the World Council of Optometry to host the 5th World Congress of Optometry, according to the AOA.