Friday, July 11, 2014

John McAllister, the father of optometry

Well, if you weren’t in Philadelphia for AOA’s Optometry’s Meeting, you missed at least three great reunions: on a personal level, a reunion with your friends; on an academic level, a probable reunion with your alma mater (Pennsylvania College of Optometry); and on a historic level, two old (very old) friends named Ben and John (Franklin and McAllister, that is.)

Indeed it only seemed appropriate – what with our national meeting taking place in Philadelphia – to have Ben’s old friend, John McAllister, the true father of eye care in America, stop by the POA reception.

John McAllister, born in 1753, immigrated to New York from Scotland in 1775. In becoming a newfound Patriot, he was taken prisoner by the British a few weeks after the colonists declared their independence in 1776. Upon his release, he headed to Philadelphia in 1781 and started a whip and cane business on Second and Market Street. He expanded his wares by purchasing the stock of a hardware merchant, within which he discovered a bushel basket of ready-to-wear eyeglasses. His business prospered as customers sampled what seemed to best suit their needs.

The British naval blockade provided John his revenge because no longer would eyeglasses be coming from Europe; his challenge, though, was to develop techniques for making lenses and frames. He was the first to accomplish this in America. His friend, Benjamin Franklin encouraged him to pursue an even greater pursuit; vision care, which is now known as Optometry. In those days, quackery was common and often resulted in blindness. In 1796, he moved his business to 48 Chestnut Street where he not only provided glasses but also sight testing. Additionally, he made scientific instruments. His knowledge of optics continued to increase and he applied this knowledge towards eye care.

His son, John Jr. was born in 1786 to the former widow Frances Wardale (a cousin of the famed navigator Captain Cook). Since Philadelphia was still the capital of the United States, John, Jr. grew up attending the Congressional debates and knew George Washington and John Adams. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1803 with honors and joined his father’s work in 1811. Between them, they served the ophthalmic needs of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Chief Justice Tilghman, Count Joseph Bonoparte, Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, et al.

John, Sr. died in 1830. John, Jr. continued to advance eye care and was the first to diagnose and correct astigmatism. He also provided eye examinations and glasses at Wills Eye Hospital. He served as the manager of Wills Eye Hospital from 1848 to 1859. Civically, he devised a system for numbering the houses according to street layout and was a lifelong member of the Pennsylvania Historical Society, which still houses his collection. He died in 1877 at the age of 91.

John, Jr.’s sons William Young, John and Thomas continued the family’s legacy in eye care. Thomas Hamilton McAllister established the first optometric practice in New York City where it flourished until his death in 1899. Like his father, William was also associated with the Wills Eye Hospital and served on the Philadelphia City Council. He was the first to teach physicians in the country the practice of optometry. He retired in 1882 and his sons (John, Sr.’s great grandsons) continued his practice well into the first third of the twentieth century. One of his sons Frank W. McAllister settled in Baltimore in 1879 and was one of the founders of the AOA. His son, John McAllister’s great-great-great grandson, was Dr. John Warden McAllister who (at the time of this reference’s publication [1968]) was practicing on Franklin Street in Baltimore. Five generations of ophthalmic care, birthed in the City of Brotherly Love.

This historic account was gleaned from a pamphlet published in conjunction with an optometric exhibit at the William Penn Memorial Museum in Harrisburg. The exhibit was the result of a grant from the POA and the Vision Conservation Institute

Respectfully shared,

Robert Owens, O.D., F.A.A.O.
Diplomate, ABO

A Reflection on Campaigning

Anthony S. Diecidue, O.D., M.S.
POA Past President

The time was right. I had just sold my practice, my oldest child had already graduated college and my youngest was a sophomore. I was entertaining thoughts of retirement when redistricting created a new legislative district in my home town. So, knowing full-well how optometry is a legislated profession, and how advantageous it would be to have an OD in the legislature, I thought that this was the right time for me to run for the State House of Representatives here in Pennsylvania.

Unfortunately, my run was not successful. But I, and those involved, learned some valuable lessons that I would like to pass on so that any other OD that decides to step up and take a shot at a House or even a Senate seat can be more efficacious.

Know the playing field before you get in – Knowing when to run is critical. The ducks may be in a row for you personally, but check out your competition and assess your chances of winning prior to getting in the race. Gauge your competition’s strengths. Do they know the issues and have solutions? Do they have a connection to the people? Are they influential? Do they have support and a good team behind them? You may find that this is not the best time to run and delaying your campaign for another election year with less competition or better conditions may be a better way to go.

Volunteers – There are two types of people in the world: those that DO and those that DON’T. To run an effective campaign, you will need help and lots of it. In any political party there are going to be those individuals who do the work and those who sit idly by. If you have competition in a primary election, you will be running against someone from your own party and will have to compete for the “doers” in the party. Too many people in the same party running for the same seat will simply dilute the pool of helpers and make it more difficult for everyone.

These folks are going to be the ones that help you make phone calls, knock on doors, put out yard signs, get your printed materials, manage your schedule, plan your strategy and spread the good word about your campaign. They’re also going to be the ones having meet-n-greets and fundraisers for you, so your helpers should have lots of friends and influence in the community.

It’s expensive – Although the cost of running for an office is highly variable, you can count on it costing some money, and on the local level, the expenses can be pretty reasonable. Undertaking a run for the state or federal level ups the ante considerably.

State Representative campaigns can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $80,000, or even up to $100,000. A Senate seat can be anywhere between $200,000 to $800,000 and more! Having a plan on how to get that money before you throw your hat in the ring is one of the most important things you can do. Be prepared to spend some of your own money, too. A percentage of your total budget, 10-25%, will come out of your personal funds.

In the beginning of any campaign the expenses will be light because you will be concentrating on building your war chest for what is to come. This will involve getting out to see people by going to spaghetti dinners and pancake breakfasts, asking for contributions and having fundraisers.
At the end of the campaign, the expenses will mount up exponentially with increased advertising, mailers, TV, radio, newspaper and whatever other media you deem appropriate to get the populace to vote for you in the election.

Time – You’ll need plenty of this. As a matter of fact, when running for a state-level office, plan to take a lot of time away from your practice. Timing is important here. When you announce your candidacy and start your campaign is critical, and the earlier you announce the more volunteers you will be able to get. That also means that you will start campaigning earlier, too. So, the dinners, breakfasts, civic meetings and more will begin early also.

Getting volunteers to help with your campaign is crucial but, in the end, the voters want to hear from you. That means you will need to make phone calls, go door-to-door and ask for contributions. More and more of your time will be in demand as the campaign continues.

Campaign manager vs. campaign advisor – Nothing is more important than having a good, experienced, well-connected campaign manager (CM). Dr. Doug Clark, an OD from Alabama, is running for his State House and has managed to procure the former Alabama Speaker of the House as his campaign manager. You can’t ask for a better CM than that!

One of the main jobs of the CM is to rally the troops for you. That person needs to coerce, cajole and otherwise twist the arms of every person he or she can to support you in one way or another. The CM will organize your meet-n-greets, fundraisers and House parties. They will also manage your schedule so that you attend the important civic meetings like school board meetings, town councils, debates, etcetera. He or she will also coordinate with your “team” to divvy up the jobs needed to promote your campaign and get as many volunteers as possible. Choose your CM wisely as he or she can make or break your run for office.

There are companies and organizations that will act as campaign advisors. For novice candidates, these organizations can be a valuable resource. They generally provide advice along with marketing suggestions. But beware, they can be expensive and can chew through your budget pretty quickly if you let them.

Connecting to the people – In the end it’s all about getting votes, and you get votes by connecting with the people in your community. That will mean going to plenty of affairs, but it also means calling folks and asking for their vote even though they probably don’t know you. It means knocking on strangers’ doors and introducing yourself as their candidate. At the same time, you’ll probably be asking them for money or support in some fashion and in return they’ll get a button or a pen.

Having an OD in the legislature would be a win for optometry and I hope I’m not the last person to make a run for the House or Senate. I also hope this information will be useful to the next person who gives it a try. I was extremely fortunate in having the support of the POA and its members to help fund my campaign and I can’t thank those who contributed and those who volunteered enough. There are too many to mention here, but you know who you are and I thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Accommodating patients with a hearing disability

What your obligations are and are not

Sooner or later, a practice will face a communication challenge when a patient with a hearing impairment schedules an appointment. The protocol on how to deal with this type of disability in an examination has led to some confusion in the past.

First and foremost, an optometric office, regardless of the title ‘private practice,’ is a public accommodation. As a public accommodation, steps to ensure the practice and services are accessible to individuals with disabilities should be taken. Individuals with disabilities, as defined by the September 2008 amended Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), are those with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one of more major life activities of such individual; a record of such an impairment; or being regarded as having such impairment.

Patients with a hearing impairment may request a sign language interpreter, but an optometrist is not required to hire one unless both parties have agreed on it. Other means of communication are an option, like having a family member of the patient or a certified employee interpret, writing a conversation with the patient on a note pad, or using various tools like a computer or phone to communicate. Auxiliary aids or services should be agreed upon prior to the scheduled appointment.

An optometrist is permitted to deny the use of an interpreter if there is proof that the cost or service of the interpreter would be an undue burden. An undue burden is a significant difficulty or expense for the practice. Factors in deciding the inclusion of an interpreter are: cost against financial status of the practice, the need for enhanced communication and the availability of the service desired. If an interpreter is needed, the optometric office is responsible for covering the cost. The patient holds no obligation to incur the fee. Passing this cost along to the patient would be a violation of the ADA, as would refusing to see the patient based on the needs of their disability or referring the person to another physician solely because the patient wants an interpreter.

The person with disability is entitled to only reasonable accommodation and cannot demand an interpreter if other alternative services are available. If no satisfactory services can be found, the practitioner is required to provide an interpreter. The downside to this justification is that ‘satisfactory’ differs for each person, but this means an interpreter is not always necessary. If a reasonable alternative is found, and would otherwise be acceptable, the patient cannot refuse the accommodation.

If hiring an interpreter, the best way to find one would be through a licensed audiologist. Using one of these professionals can ensure premium service and occasionally a discount.

Under the ADA, an optometrist is responsible to accommodate every disabled patient wanting to use the practice’s services, but are not obligated to accommodate with only an interpreter. Exploring all options is beneficial to the practice and the patient, who may assume the only option is an interpreter. Discussing all available auxiliary aids and services with patients helps to reduce financial cost in the long run. A person may not be denied an appointment or referred away from the practice based on their disability or desire to have accommodations made.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Optometry's Meeting®

AOA and POA members surged to Philadelphia in full-force for AOA's annual Optometry's Meeting®. The Pennsylvania Optometric Association had the honor of hosting the meeting. Below are some photos highlighting POA's involvement in the event.

Dr. Boltz, president of POA, waits to proudly represent Pennsylvania in the flag procession.
Dr. Boltz addresses attendees at the Opening General Session of Optometry's Meeting in Philadelphia.
Roberta Beers, CPOT accepts the 2014 Paraoptometric of the Year Award presented by AOA President Dr. Mitchell Munson.
Former figure skater Scott Hamilton entertains and enlightens the audience after the awards ceremony.
Dr. James Spangler discusses the Kids Welcome Here® program with attendees in the Exhibit Hall.
Dr. Boltz, Dr. Lori Gray and Dr. Robert Owens (dressed as John McAllister) pose with Benjamin Franklin, the special guest invited to POA's member reception.
Have some photos from Optometry's Meeting® that you want to share? 
Email and you might see your photo on this blog or our Facebook page!

Please only submit photos belonging to you.