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The power of one

Posted By Chet Seward, Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Niranjan Manoharan, MD
Numbers were running through my head as I walked through the security screen at the Russel Senate Office Building on the way to a meeting with Senator Corey Gardner. Well actually it was a number. I was one of 150 residents and fellows sponsored this year to participate in the AAO Advocacy Day and Mid-Year Forum in Washington, DC in April. I was one of just two residents from Colorado (my colleague Lacey Echalier, MD, joined us for the trip). I was one of the 10-member delegation from Colorado tasked with representing the interests of more than 200 practicing Colorado ophthalmologists. Finally, as a newly minted member of the AAO Advocacy Ambassador Program, I was now one of a growing number of ophthalmologists standing up for their profession. 
Suddenly being “one” seemed a bit nerve wracking.  

It was an eye-opening experience to realize that improving patient care goes beyond the clinic and operating room. But after I got started the nerves quickly went away and the fun began (check out the photos here). Colorado's advocacy representatives met with the offices of Sens. Corey Gardner and Michael Bennett, and Reps. Diana Degette and Jared Polis. We continually honed our talking points and by the last meeting I felt like I was part of well-trained team. The truth is that I was proud to do my singular part in a larger strategy. 

State societies and the AAO are fighting for multiple legislative issues to protect and/or improve patient care (i.e. access to compounded drugs, eye-related research funding, health care reform, etc.). Historically, ophthalmologists have lost some of these battles because legislators just had not heard the important and relevant perspective from the ophthalmologist and patient. That’s why every single visit, connection and relationship with federal and state legislators is important. 

One is a powerful number. Every ophthalmologist can play a role because we need increased advocacy and participation. The Advocacy Ambassador program enables young ophthalmologists to be aware of pressing issues and become involved early in their careers. I encourage all ophthalmologists to learn more about the advocacy process and current issues affecting ophthalmology via the AAO website or even participating in next year's AAO Advocacy Day and Mid-Year Forum.

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