I remember being a first-year optometry student and hearing terms like “Academy”, “Expo”, and “OM” being thrown around. I knew that these were conferences but I had no idea what they were for and where they were. Do I go to them? Is it worth it for me? Well, now that I am a wise third year, I have officially figured it all out. Here is my guide to optometry-related conferences that I hope will clarify things for you too! (Click on any conference name for more information.)
Academy is one of the largest conferences in optometry which is presented by the American Academy of Optometry. This conference is heavily focused on residency, fellowships, and research. Students can complete a student fellowship by attending poster presentations, paper presentations, and continuing education talks. The location changes each year.
Fun Fact: This year the location was in Chicago and next year it will be San Antonio.
Optometry’s Meeting, aka OM, is another very large conference. One thing that I have found is that this is one of the most student-oriented conferences. During OM, Essilor sponsors the Student Quiz Bowl. This is one of my favorite parts of optometry school. Each school sends a representative to the event. The bowl is basically a giant optometry-related jeopardy game and it is a ton of fun! Similar to Academy, you can also attend CE credits and additional events at the meeting. The location of this event also changes each year.
Fun Fact: The winner of the Student Quiz Bowl this year was the Illinois College of Optometry.
Interested in private practice? If so, you should really check out one of the Vision Expo meetings. West is always in Las Vegas and East is always in New York. The talks and events at this meeting focus on private practice optometry. The expo itself is the largest of all of the meetings I’ve been to so far with industry advertising their newest products.
Fun Fact: My favorite part was the actual expo. Each booth was incredibly impressive and there were many samples too.
If you are interested in specializing within optometry, most specialties also have their own national conference each year. COVD, OEP, Envision, NORA; there are many to choose from. You can learn more about which specialty holds which meeting by contacting the national organization or the leaders of that specialty’s section within the American Academy of Optometry.
Fun Fact: Many of these meetings incorporate interprofessionalism and allow you to learn more about the team effort behind vision care.
Companies that work with eye doctors have been starting to hold more of their own conferences. For example, this year Luxottica held a conference for students where they could visit the headquarters in Ohio and continue to learn more about industry’s role in optometry. There was also a strong private practice education presence there. Other companies offer similar meetings and you simply have to reach out to the company to learn more about it.
Fun Fact: One of these meetings also takes place at Disney!
You may have heard that optometry is a very legislative profession. Healthcare, in general, is intertwined with law and politics. Because of this, each state has their own organization to push for the rights of optometry’s patients and growth within the profession. Each state also holds conferences where practicing eye doctors within that state can meet and network. There is also a national meeting presented by AOA-PAC which is usually in Washington, D.C. each year.
Fun Fact: Every few years the AOA-PAC and Optometry’s Meeting are combined meetings in D.C.
Regardless of your interests within eye care, there is most likely a conference for you. I highly recommend attending conferences because it is a great way to step outside your school or clinic and really get to know others in the field who share similar interests. While optometry is a fairly small field, it is a great way to be able to build and maintain your large network.