Greetings AVAO Members and Potential Members:

Our AVAO Executive Board worked diligently throughout the year to represent the interests of

VA Ophthalmologists and ensure the highest quality eye care for veterans.  To accomplish these

goals, monthly AVAO conference calls are held to discuss hot topics, challenges and current issues

facing VA Ophthalmologists.  These calls provide a forum for discussion that not only includes

AVAO leadership, but also the current and past VA National Program Director (Ophthalmology

Services), Ophthalmology Surgical Advisory Board (SAB) Chair, Ophthalmology Field Advisory

Committee (FAC) Chair, VA/DOD Center of Excellence Leadership, the AVAO Councilor to the AAO,

JCAHPO Representative and the Secretariat for State Affairs. The combined experiences and subject

matter expertise of this energetic group provides excellent dialog and input on national policy and

legislation relevant to veterans' eye care.   Highlights from this past year are summarized in this

annual report.

AVAO Activities at the AAO Annual Meeting

AVAO members, who are attending the AAO Annual Meeting

in New Orleans, should plan to participate in the following AVAO activities

occurring on Monday, November 18:

*Annual AVAO Breakfast Business Meeting

New Orleans Marriott at the Convention Center:   River Bend 1 room

7:00am – 09:30am

*Seating is limited. Please RSVP for this meeting on the form included with this mailing.

Paid membership required.

VA/DOD Noontime Symposium (See attached flyer)

Room 217

“VA/DOD Leading the Way:  Simulation in Eye Care"

12:45 – 1:45 pm

*Annual AVAO Evening Social Reception

Hampton Inn and Suites New Orleans Convention Center: Fulton Room

5:00pm – 7:30pm

(RSVP on the form included with this mailing).


The AVAO Executive Board meets in monthly conference calls.  Communication with members is

through AVAO e-mail group, VISN Consultants, and the AVAO web site:

Physician Pay for VA Ophthalmologists

AVAO continues to recommend the move of Ophthalmologists to a higher pay table.


Membership renewal forms have been sent to you along with this President’s Report. Please remit

your membership dues as soon as possible, and RSVP for the Annual Business Meeting and AVAO

Reception. Membership renewals can also be processed online with a credit card payment, by

logging into your profile on the AVAO website ( If you do not recall your username

or password, please contact Stephen Moss at The AVAO Treasurer, Dr. Andrew

Thliveris, will also collect dues (check or cash only) at the Annual Business Meeting.

The AVAO is a non-profit organization that is completely self-supported and cannot accept any
commercial support. Your dues directly support our annual business meeting and AAO events,

management expenses, monthly Executive Board conference calls, contributions to the Surgery

by Surgeons campaign and to the Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology

(JCAHPO) education foundation, and support for a resident to attend the AAO mid-year forum.  A

full Treasurer’s report will be reviewed at the Annual Business Meeting.

Accepting Nominations for AVAO Secretary

The AVAO Executive Board is now accepting nominations for the position of Secretary. Election

for the Secretary position will occur at the Annual Business Meeting. Interested individuals should

submit a brief candidate statement to me at  Upon completion of the

remaining year of a 2 year term, Secretary, the AVAO Executive Board succession requires a 6-year

commitment to the Executive Board. We encourage highly motivated individuals with desire to

impact issues that affect VA ophthalmologists and how we care for our veteran patients to submit

their nominations.

Ophthalmic Advocacy Leadership Group (OALG)

AVAO President, Joy Robinson, MD and Councilor, Mary Lawrence, MD, MPH participated in the

annual OALG meeting in Washington, D.C. on January 25, 2013.  Dr. Lawrence gave a power point

presentation on the VA and Vision Centers of Excellence.   The AAO created the OALG as a forum

for ophthalmic subspecialty and special interest groups to provide input on advocacy issues facing

our profession. This OALG meeting has been held yearly in January in Washington, DC since 2009. 

As a special interest society, AVAO is represented, as the VA is always featured on the agenda.  At

the meeting, detailed discussions are held between the representative special groups, senior AAO

leadership and Federal Affairs staff from the AAO DC office.

AAO Advocacy Ambassador Program

AVAO participated in the 2013 AAO Advocacy Ambassador Program which facilitates an

Ophthalmology mentorship in advocacy for future leaders in our field.  Our society sponsored

a resident-in-training for attendance at this program which was held at the Mid-Year Forum in

Washington, D.C. in April 2013.  It was University of Pittsburg Medical Center Ophthalmology

Resident, Dr. Angela Elam, who was chosen by the AVAO Board through a nationwide competition

to participate in the program and share her experiences on an AVAO Conference Call and with her

Residency training program.

Title 38 Hybrid Conversion of Ophthalmic Technicians

The AVAO continues to support the conversion of Ophthalmic Technicians from Title 5 to Title 38

Hybrid. This will establish a new occupational series for eye technicians that will include positions

at various skill levels (e.g., COA COT, COMT). The May 5, 2010, legislation (Public Law No: 111-163, the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010) to amend Title 38, United States Code, allows VHA to change the status of eye technicians. AVAO and AAO provided support for the bill.   In June 2012, the VA Under Secretary for Health signed an Executive Decision Memorandum to begin the human resource process to develop the occupational series.

The latest information on the status of this conversion will be presented at our Annual Business



AVAO  members worked with the Ophthalmology Field Advisory Committee ( FAC) and VA

Pharmacy Management Board (PMB) to add desired medications to the VA National Pharmacy and

to provide guidance on medication usage protocols; i.e.,  Avastin/Lucentis situation. As many of you

are aware, due to complications resulting from irregularities in multi-dose preparation of Avastin at

a site, the VHA temporarily discontinued all Avastin use for intravitreal injections. With changes in

protocols for preparation and delivery, Avastin is again being used in VA facilities nation-wide, but

only as a single dose per vial. An Executive Decision memorandum is currently being developed to

address options for multi-dose preparation from a single vial.

Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology (AUPO) meeting

On behalf of AVAO, Dr. Laura Wayman gave a presentation on the VA at the AUPO Annual meeting.  

AUPO represents academic departments of Ophthalmology by providing information, support,

and leadership opportunities to department chairs, program directors and faculty to promote the

highest quality in education, research, ethical practices and clinical care.  Since the VA funds over

300 residency positions and many university faculty hold joint appointments with VA affiliates, the

AVAO continues to support a strong relationship with AUPO.

AAO Leadership Development Program (LDP)

Andrew Thliveris, MD, PhD, AVAO nominee for LDP, was chosen by AAO for the Leadership

Development Program (LDP XVI) Class of 2014.  This highly competitive one year program was

designed to enhance participants' knowledge of AAO roles, broaden understanding of current

Ophthalmology issues, improve communication and media skills, and develop leadership qualities.

AVAO Bylaws Revision

Extensive updates were made to our bylaws including changes to membership criteria,

and detailed descriptions of duties required of each executive board officer.  The

final document, attached to this message, will be voted upon at our annual meeting in


Closing Remarks

It has been an honor and a privilege to lead this energetic group of Ophthalmologists.  The actions

and accomplishments in this report are just a few examples of the dedicated service that AVAO

officers and members performed on behalf of VA Ophthalmologists throughout the last year.  I

am truly grateful to the Executive Board for volunteering their personal time, diligent efforts and

special expertise when addressing complex AVAO issues and projects.

We have strong leadership and commitment within AVAO.   Thanks to each of you for your service

and commitment towards the highest quality eye care for our veterans.  Please show your support

for AVAO by sending in your dues payment today, attending the Monday morning AVAO Business

Breakfast meeting, the Noontime Symposium, and the evening AVAO Social Reception.  We need

you involved.

Please contact me or any member of the Executive Board to become more involved in any of our

AVAO projects, or if you are interested in a leadership position.

See you in New Orleans!


AVAO Executive Board

President: Joy Dixon Robinson, MD

Vice-President: Millicent Palmer, MD

Treasurer: Andrew Thliveris, MD, PhD

Secretary:   Linda Wedemeyer, MD

Councilor to AAO: Mary Lawrence, MD, MPH

Immediate Past President: Francisco Garcia-Ferrer, MD

Secretariat for State Affairs/FAC Chair: Amy Chomsky, MD (non-voting)

National Program Director: Glenn Cockerham, MD (non-voting)

Other Conference Call Attendees

Past National Program Director:  James Orcutt, MD, PhD

SAB Chair:  Amy Chomsky, MD

JCAHPO Representative:  Mary Lynch, MD

Past President:  Linda Margulies, MD

Past President:  Jay Perlman, MD

Past Councilor:  Michael Sulewski, MD

AAO Federal Affairs:  Rebecca Hyder (upon request)

AVAO Program Manager:  Stephen Moss with SF AMS (upon request)

The President’s Report 2013