AOA 2016 Volunteer Meeting

Here’s what went down at the AOA 2016 Volunteer Meeting

The American Optometric Association (AOA) recently met for their 2016 volunteer meeting and some big issues were discussed. On February 5th and 6th, over 180 volunteers met in St. Louis, Missouri and exchanged ideas. Programs and resources were discussed, as well as the AOA benefits that members receive. Opened by AOA Resident Steven A. Loomis, O.D., the meeting involved a good deal of updates on important highlights and discussions about how to move forward. This meeting was of great importance because what is discussed at this meeting each year has a large effect on how optometry advances in the future.

Loomis opened the meeting by updating volunteers of the priorities and achievement of the AOA, like the tremendously successful Think about Your Eyes public awareness campaign. the Campaign has been increasing awareness of optometry since July 2013. In addition to this campaign, the AOA has created a new membership initiative in two pilot states. Loomis also spoke about the entreaty created to advocate for continued support of the AOA-Political Action Committee (AOA-PAC). This committee dedicates itself to making sure that optometry’s voice is heard and that the volunteers’ hard work is recognized.

Here are some of the most important takeaways from the AOA volunteer meeting that will affect the future of optometry:

1) The deadline for AOA MORE is approaching

Any doctors who enroll in AOA MORE (Measures and Outcomes Registry for Eyecare) show their intent to use AOA MORE as their specialized data registry for the 2016 EHR Incentive Program year. This also implies that they plan to meet the public health objective for specialized registry reporting. But the deadline for this is quickly approaching on February 29, 2016.

2) Advocacy committees are now providing third party legislative updates.

The volunteers have been advocating the Dental and Optometric Care Access Act, the National Health Service Corps Improvement Act and the Veterans’ Affairs optometric residencies amendment. The AOA also discussed the work being done in states that will soon see legislation regarding unilateral pricing policy. There have also been increases in resources, such as vision services available through community health centers. There was also a call to action to get more people to join the AOA Keypersons Network.

3) Paraoptometric Group gives us some updates.

One of the most important contingents to the AOA is the paraoptometrics. There are over 10,000 paraoptometrics enrolled as AOA associate members, so it is important that the AOA works to benefit them as well. At the meeting, emphasis was placed on the Paraoptometric Career Ladder educational tool. The tool was launched in June 2015 and has been downloaded 1,000 times since its launch. This tool allows the paraoptometric staff to acquire job proficiency with regard to six different responsibilities necessary for a paraoptometric career.

4) Clinical resources committees acknowledge accomplishments

The clinical resources committees have come very far this year. The Contact Lens & Cornea Section’s “Join the Fight Campaign”, an initiative that works to expose the illegal sales of contact lenses through 83 online sites and 19 establishments. This initiative was launched by the Contact Lens Watchdog Group. And that wasn’t the only accomplishment. The Sports Vision Section delivered sports-vision kits to 12 schools and colleges.

5) Discussions about Boston’s upcoming meeting

The conference called “Optometry’s Meeting” will take place in Boston from June 29th to July 3rd. This conference will introduce new, cutting edge formats for spreading education. All attendees will be sure to have an unforgettable experience. The Keynote address will be delivered by former NASA astronaut Buzz Aldrin, and Broadway celebrity Laura Osnes will be speaking as well.

It is clear from the happenings of the 2016 AOA volunteers meeting that there are a lot of exciting things in store for the world of optometry. In the future, we can expect even more endeavors in the way of disseminating valuable information about eye health. A lot of action has been taken to improve the field of optometry, and there are even more exciting advancements coming up in the future.


Newest Technology in Optometry

Ralph CotranTechnology has truly come a long way in all aspects of our lives, especially in the field of medicine. Researches are rolling out a new app kit called “Peek” which allows to physicians to test a patients’ eyesight in remote areas around the world. Optometrists can use a smartphone device to conduct the tests, which have been proven to be just as accurate as the traditional letter chart we are all so familiar with. 

The technology to make this device possible was put together by scientist at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and researchers from the University of St Andrews. The app works in connection to a special device called the “Peek Retina” which allows for a thorough testing of the retina. Researched from JAMA Ophthalmology tested over 233 Kenyans in their homes, then distributed the patients to eye care centers around the world to be re-evaluated. Both tests showed similar results, meaning that scores derived from the Peek were just as reliable as the traditional visual acuity chart. 

So, what does this mean for the optometry community?

The new device can be used to detect early signs of poor vision, and as most of the world’s blind population resides in poor rural areas, this is a great opportunity to help millions around the world. Technology is becoming more and more accessible, and with the help of smart devices such as iPhones and tablets, bringing medical devices closer to those who are less fortunate has become much easier. 

Lead researcher and author of the study, Dr Andrew Bastawrous, was quoted that the ultimate goal of this apparatus is to use Peek Retina on people who need timely and appropriate treatment in order to diagnose their condition and hopefully see clearly again. The Peek Acuity test works by having the physician display a letter and positioning it in four different alignment, and then asking the patient to point the direction of the letter. Once the patient has answered, the doctor can easily move on to the next slide.

The only study conducted focused on Kenyan residents between over the age 55, however, this narrow test groups leaves some questions unanswered. Specialists believe that in order for Peek Acuity to take off, broader studies need to be conducted, inclusive of larger populations of different ages and backgrounds. 

Healthy Eating for Your Eye Sight

Ralph CotranEveryone has been told at some point in their lives to eat carrots in order to improve their vision, and according to Cynthia Cupal. O.D., F.A.A.O., of the Fenton Vision Center, nutrition is a very important step in maintaining a healthy vision. Cupal believes that healthy eating habits are extremely important, especially for people who have a past of being treated for multiple diseases. In order to practice what she preaches, Cynthia herself leads a healthy life style. She is a certified raw food nutritionist, as well as a member of the Ocular Nutrition Society. The ONS is a nation wide group  of optometrists that are dedicated to the prevention of ocular and systemic disease, and patient eye care. 

Below is a list of foods that could potentially help improve your vision once introduced to a healthy and balanced meal plan. 

  • Once consumed, foods that contain beta-carotene are easily turned into Vitamin A, which is an excellent resource for promoting healthy eyesight, a strong immune system and youthful skin. Beta- carotene can be found in daily foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, and pumpkins.
  • Vitamin C is also an excellent contributor when you are looking to improve your healthy living lifestyle. Childhood favorites like broccoli and brussels sprouts and bell peppers contain antioxidants that are able to shield your eyes from outside danger and give it fast healing properties. Vitamin C can also decelerate age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma.
  • Dry eyes is an ongoing problem for many people who wear contacts regularly. One way to mend this issue is by eating foods that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in fish and nuts. Chia and hemps seeds are also great amino acids that can restore the production of the master antioxidant and glutathione.

While consuming the foods mentioned above can be a great way to improve your eyesight, these healthy eating habits are also great for your general immune system. Despite your age, you should visit your eye doctor at least twice a year and keep up with the changes in your frames. 

Sony To Release Google Glass Competititor


Google Glass was released in early 2013 to developers and in 2014 anyone who had $1,500 could purchase a pair of the newest wearable. Most critics consider the release a complete failure. They didn’t sell well and people wearing the new technology received a lot of backlash. Another common critique is that Google Glass lacked the aesthetics and price point to lead to widespread adoption. Now, you rarely see anyone wearing Glass in public.

You wouldn’t think this entice a lot of other companies to get into the market, but Sony has done just that.

Sony believes there will be a market and that they have solved all the problems with Google Glass with one simple change. Their SmartGlass is a detachable clip that you can attach to either your sunglasses or prescriptions. In theory, this solves the aesthetic issue because the user will choose the glasses they like. If the user is going to be on a crowded area where people might take offense to the smart glasses they can be removed.

As far as functionality Sony’s new smart glasses are pretty similar to Glass. Unfortunately, they haven’t released any but have demonstrated some of the functionalities that were most popular with Google Glass. One important difference between the two which many have criticized is that the display is not right in front of you like with Glass but rather off to the side. This could prove problematic in certain situations.

Sony’s new device looks like it achieves the same ends as Google Glass without some of the issues. Google has recently picked up a few patents and is working on a second version of Glass, it is ery possible that they will solve some of the problems with the initial release. They are also going to sell to commercial customers as many of them have found ways for them to be more useful.

Tour of US Optical

Check out youtube tour of our Syracuse, NY facilities.

US Optical Interview with Eye Care Professional

US Optical
Providing First Class Lab Service – All Within 24 Hours

EyeCare Professional’s Paul DiGiovanni, LDO, speaking with Ralph CotranCo-Owner, US Optical.

Ralph Cotran

Robert Cotran

Ronald Cotran

Please provide a brief history of US Optical.
US Optical was created on March 1, 2008 by myself and my two brothers Ron and Robert. Previously we owned another lab, Optogenics, which we sold to Essilor of America in 1999. We decided to come back into the Independent lab business as we were very excited about Free form, new lens technologies, new AR coatings, digital equipment and the rapid innovation in the optical industry.

We are entrepreneurs and wanted to create another viable Independent lab to help consumers see better – much better – and this time digitally better.

This focus, coupled with our unique 24HR turnaround on uncut lenses, and very fast service on complete and edged jobs, has catapulted US Optical to the fourth largest Independent lab in the US. We are humbled by the support the independent eye care professionals have given us.

US Optical is the largest supermarket of Free form lenses, giving ECPs endless choices. We have also invested in automation with 3 Free form generators and 6 digital polishers, four Zeiss AR machines and two MEI edgers – the fastest edger in the world that specializes in wrap technology and drill mounts as well as conventional jobs.

US Optical is positioned to continue to lead the Independent wholesale lab industry in the areas of new technologies, Free form, turnaround time and superior finishing jobs.

What brands of lenses are available to your customers?
We provide the following lens brands: Zeiss, Shamir, Seiko, Younger, Hoya, Sola, Vision-Ease, Essilor, Signet, Carrera Xcede, Kbco, Pixel & US Optical Freeform. It is our goal to give customers choices and we do this by increasing lens selections and AR coatings. Our two newest products are Hoya Free-Form and Zeiss Individual II Wrap Free Form technology. We also have a large number of Zeiss AR coatings available.

In your opinion, what differentiates US Optical from its competitors?
What differentiates US Optical is our USP! (Unique Selling Proposition) We provide our customers with 7 incredible reasons to use US Optical and these are accompanied by 7 benefits that add thousands of dollars to the eye care professional’s bottom line!


  1. FASTEST LAB IN AMERICA!™ ECP’s will receive 24 hour turnaround on uncut lenses (with or without Zeiss AR coatings), and 3-5 working days turnaround on edged or complete jobs. This service will WOW your customers and is worth tens of thousands of dollars to your practice. It will differentiate you from the pack. NO OTHER LAB CAN DO THIS! Our turnaround time will give you a distinctive competitive advantage. You will blow your competition away.

  2. Family owned, independent just like our customers. Our goal is to help you serve your customers, grow your business profitably and make you happy. We understand your needs as an Independent Professional.

  3. Largest supermarket of brand Free form High Definition lenses. You will be able to offer your customers endless lens choices such as the Zeiss Individual II, Shamir Autograph II, Seiko Surmount, Hoya ID and Essilor Definity. We have recently launched our value line of US Optical proprietary Free form HD lenses, such as the Ultimate HD™ and the Wrap HD™.

  4. We are easy to work with. Our customer service is extremely knowledgeable and will be helpful to your practice. We answer all your questions promptly.

  5. Our prices are Net, Competitive and Fair. All these benefits, including our 24Hour service are equivalent to a 50% price value discount over any other lab! We do not inflate our price pages!

  6. We use the most advanced MEI edger in the world for Wraps and Sunglass frames. (6 & 8 bases) Our proprietary SUN RX Lens HD technology produces distortion free & cosmetically beautiful sunglasses making your customers very happy and your practice known as Sunglass RX experts!

  7. We pioneer and specialize in new technologies such as Free form lenses, PhotoFusion® by Zeiss, Transitions New Vantage® polarized lenses, Carrera’s Xcede Sun RX, and Pixel’s emPower!™ Electronic Eyeglasses. As our customer, you will always know and have access to the finest and latest optical technologies giving you an edge over the competition.

What is the turn-around time for a standard job to be completed and returned to the customer?
Finished jobs take between 3 to 5 working days from when we receive the customer’s frame (3 without AR and 5 with AR). Add a day or two for drill mounts. Edged only jobs can be produced in 3 days even with Zeiss AR coatings! (It pays for an ECP to have a tracer as well.) Completed jobs are shipped by either FedEx or UPS overnight.

What factors should ECPs consider when determining which lab to use?
ECPs should look at VALUE. Does the lab they work with help them make money.

You make money when your lab consistently executes with delivery and quality and is willing to become a partner, helping you with your challenges. Is customer service friendly and proactive, are they knowledgeable? Does the lab have reasonable pricing, fair policies and excellent consistent turnaround time? If a problem or challenge occurs will the lab take responsibility and fix the problem, expedite a job or redo the job correctly? Do they have most of the products that you need? Do they give you choices? Can they handle your sunglasses? Will the managers pick up the phone and talk to you when you need a special lens or have a complex question? Are they EASY to work with? If you find that most of the time the answer is YES, then you found the lab that brings you VALUE.

We at US OPTICAL believe we are the best VALUE play in America – besides being the FASTEST LAB IN AMERICA™. Value is also all about profitability and ease of relationship for the ECP. A win-win situation for the ECP and the Lab creates Value and is a great result for the American consumer!

What’s new at US Optical?
US Optical is adding approximately 7,500 to 8,000 square feet to its facility. We need extra room to keep up with our fast turnaround, growth, personnel and service.

In addition we bought our second BISPHERA MEI edger which will cut and edge 45 pairs of eyeglass lenses per hour and will house this new edger and peripherals in this new addition. Also another digital surfacing line with two digital polishers will be purchased which will sit next to the MEI edger. Because we are growing quite fast we will need the expansion to increase our lens inventory and additional space for our current employees as well as future ones. We anticipate an additional 15 employees in the next two to three years.

We will also be building another employee cafeteria in the new space and moving some equipment from our current space into the new space. This will allow us to increase our customer service area which is very crowded currently. The expansion is needed for further growth, new digital equipment, and a new coating center, in line with our desire to stay at the cutting edge of new technologies and continue to be one of the leaders in lens digital manufacturing in the USA.

We also need to maintain our ability to turnaround jobs in twenty four hours as we continue to grow in order to maintain our service standard and business model which we believe differentiates us from thousands of competitors.

Please explain the MEI edger used for wrap around sunglasses and the technology behind it?
The MEI edger is a breakthrough in technology. These edgers can produce about 45 pairs of glasses an hour of any type, zyl or metal, rimless or drilled. It can also produce all the specialty wrap frames such as Rudy Project, Oakley Jacket and Flak Jacket, Liberty Sport, Nike Show and Skyline, Carrera Xcede and all of the Wiley X frames. It can do this because every edger has 12 different tools that it uses to edge the lenses. These tools are controlled by proprietary Cad Software that cuts the lenses in sequence to achieve the complex shapes of these lenses.


US Optical Launches New Technologies and Products

From the July Issue of Vision Monday Magazine

SYRACUSE, N.Y.- US Optical recently installed a 1200-DLX AR coater and a VFT-Orbit lens generator, both manufactured by Satisloh. The ne AR coater will add an additional 750 Crizal AR and digital AR jobs capacity per day, while the VFT-Orbit lens generator will produce an additional 350 Digital surfaced jobs per day, according to US Optical.

“To maintain our dominant position as the ‘Fastest Lab in America’ with our 24- to 48-hour turnaround on uncut lenses, this expansion in machinery, coatings and lens designs is necessary,” said Ralph Cotran, vice president and co-owner of US Optical, which Vision Monday ranked as the third largest independent U.S. wholesale lab in its 2013 Top Labs Report.

The Syracuse, N.Y.-based lab has also launched several new lens products including:

  • The US Optical Personal Computer-HD (PC-HD), a new personal computer lens designed for patients requiring extra vision while working at a desk or computer. The lens comes in three modes: more reading, more desk work, or more computer work.
  • The US Optical Blu Tech lens series: A new, impact-resistant lens from Eye Solution Technology that protects against damage from UV radiation and high energy blue light emitted by computers, digital devices, iPhones and iPads. It is now available in US Optical’s branded products: The Single Vision HD, the Ultimate HD, the Wrap HD, The Advanced HD and the PC-HD.
  • Shamir Duo, a Freeform bifocal the eliminates the segment line and is available from US Optical in 24 hours.
  • Two new anti-reflective coatings from Essilor Lens of America: Crizal Optifog for fog-free vision and Crizal Prevencia, an AR coating that protects against harmful blue light and UV.
  • Carl Zeiss’ new anti-reflective coatings Allure Plus and Purecoat PLUS which have an ultra extra tough hard coat that offers 50 percent more scratch resistance while delivering crisper vision.

“We will continue to invest into new machinery, new technology and new lens designs for branded products from both the large manufacturers and our own US Optical established brand,” said Ronald Cotran, vice president and co-owner of US Optical. “As an independent lab, we can bring countless choices, along with extremely fast service to eyecare professional nationally, We will continuously invest in America, not overseas.”

Ralph Cotran’s Blog

Ralph Cotran's Blog Introduction

This is the blog page for Ralph Cotran on Ralph Cotran’s “Seven Reasons” Website. Stay posted for additional content in the coming months.