Greetings AVAO Members and Potential Members:

It has been an honor and a privilege serving as your President of AVAO for the past two years.

Our AVAO Executive Board has toiled diligently to represent the interests of VA Ophthalmologists

and ensure the highest quality eye care for veterans. To accomplish these goals, monthly

AVAO conference calls were held to discuss hot topics, challenges and current issues facing VA

Ophthalmologists. These calls provided a forum for discussion that included AVAO leadership,

current and past VA National Program Director of Ophthalmology, 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 provided 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 Chicago, should plan to participate in the following AVAO activities

all on Monday, October 20:

Annual AVAO Breakfast Business Meeting*

Hyatt Regency McCormick Place

Room: Dusable (CC21)AB

7:00am – 09:30am

VA/DOD Noontime Special Event Meeting: Life Goes On After Traumatic Brain Injury

Featuring Special Guest:

Bob Woodruff, ABC News Anchor

“Visual Impact of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): Lessons Learned”

Room S102abc at the Convention Center

12:45 – 1:45 pm

AAO/AVAO/SMO Joint Reception with Special Guest, News Journalist Bob Woodruff*

Hyatt Regency McCormick Place

Room: Adler (CC24) AB

2:30 pm – 4:00 pm

*Seating is limited. Please RSVP for this meeting by clicking on the RSVP Link.

Paid membership required.

<<RSVP Button>>


The AVAO Executive Board meets via 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 will be sent to you by early September 2014 along with the President’s

Report. Please remit your membership dues as soon as possible, and RSVP for the Annual Business

Meeting and AAO/AVAO/SMO Joint Reception with Special Guest, News Journalist, Bob Woodruff.

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 AVAO client service support at or 415-561-8523. 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 (e-blast sent 7/29/14)

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. The person elected will

serve a two year term before advancing to the positions of Treasurer, then Vice President, then

President. The term for each office is expected to be two years. Self-nominations are allowable

and encouraged. Interested individuals should submit a brief candidate statement to me at by September 10, 2014.

Accepting Nominations for AVAO Councilor (e-blast sent 7/29/14)

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

Councilor is the AVAO’s representative to the Council of the American Academy of Ophthalmology

and is elected at the annual meeting to serve a full term of three (3) years commencing January 1

of the ensuing calendar year. A Councilor who serves for one (1) full term of three years shall be

eligible to serve for no more than one (1) additional full term. The Councilor during his/her term

of office cannot concurrently hold another elected office on AVAO Executive Board. The person

elected will be expected to do two Semi-annual reports to the American Academy of Ophthalmology

and to attend the Council meeting at the Mid-year Forum and the annual AAO meeting. Self-

nominations are allowable and encouraged. Interested individuals should submit a brief candidate

statement to me at by September 10, 2014.

Ophthalmic Advocacy Leadership Group (OALG)

AVAO President, Joy Robinson, MD participated in the annual OALG meeting in Washington, D.C. on

January 24, 2014. 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 and actively partakes in the forum to discuss issues of concern for ophthalmology

within the VA. At the meeting, collaborative 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 2014 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 2014. It was Washington University School of Medicine Department of

Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences Ophthalmology Resident, Dr. Michael Stock, who was chosen

by the AVAO Board through a nationwide competition to participate in the program and share his

experiences on an AVAO Conference Call and with his Residency training program. Dr. Stock is also

actively involved in research on the VA OSOD (Ophthalmic Surgical Outcomes Pilot) project.

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 and Lucentis situation. The latest

information on approved formulary drugs for Ophthalmic use will be presented at the meeting and

opportunity for membership to weigh in on recommendations for new drugs to be presented.

Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology (AUPO) meeting

On behalf of AVAO, Dr. Amy Chomsky 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. Dr. Chomsky highlighted VA’s

commitment to residency education.

AAO Leadership Development Program (LDP)

Dr. Andrew Thliveris, our AVAO nominee, completed the Leadership Development Program

(LDP XVI) Class of 2014. Dr. David Vollman will be participating in the upcoming Leadership

Development Program (LDP XVII) Class of 2015. It is noteworthy that we have had several current

and past AVAO members that have completed the AAO Leadership Development Program (LDP)

including: Andrew Thliveris, MD, PhD, Millicent Palmer, MD, Joy Robinson, MD, Mary Lawrence,

MD, MPH, Michael Sulewski, MD, and Ivan Suner, MD to name a few. 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.

Closing Remarks

It has been a challenging yet exciting two years serving as AVAO President and working alongside

such a vibrant group of Ophthalmologists. The AVAO programs and successes 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 greatly appreciative to the Executive Board

for offering their personal time, meticulous efforts and special expertise when addressing complex

AVAO issues and projects.

We have robust leadership and solid commitment within AVAO. Thanks to each of you for your

service and tireless dedication 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 Special Event with Guest Speaker,

News Journalist: Bob Woodruff, and the AAO/AVAO/SMO Joint Reception. We need you actively


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 Chicago!


AVAO Executive Board

President: Joy Dixon Robinson, MD

Vice-President: Millicent Palmer, MD

Treasurer: Andrew Thliveris, MD, PhD

Secretary: David Vollman, MD

Councilor to AAO: Mary Lawrence, MD, MPH

Immediate Past President: Linda Margulies, MD

Secretariat for State Affairs/SAB Chair: Amy Chomsky, MD

FAC Chair / JCAHPO Representative: Mary Lynch, MD

National Program Director: Glenn Cockerham, MD

Past National Program Director: James Orcutt, MD, PhD


AAO Federal Affairs: Rebecca Hyder

AVAO Manager: Deborah Nysather with SF AMS

AVAO Coordinator: Liz Sharpe with SF AMS

The President’s Report 2014