Vicksburg optometrist named president-elect of American Optometric Association

Published 12:54 pm Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Dr. Steven Reed recently became the first Mississippian to be elected President-Elect of the American Optometric Association.

Reed, a Vicksburg resident, has served on the AOA Board of Trustees since 2016 and previously served as the president of the Mississippi Optometric Association. The election to his latest role, Reed said, is something he hopes to use to advance his organization’s cause and improve the optometric health of Americans.

“We have goals as a board and a strategic plan, and my job is to make sure we work as a board to accomplish these overall goals,” Reed said. “One of our biggest objectives is, we’re always looking for ways to educate the general public on the need for a comprehensive eye exam.”

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A challenge to that goal, he said, is that oftentimes people view their eyes as a separate part of their body. However, from a medical point of view, Reed said the old adage that the “eyes are the windows to the soul” rings true.

Through programming from the AOA and its members, as well as lobbying at the state and national level, Reed said he hopes to reinforce the need for annual eye exams and inspire people to take care of their eyes.

“At last count, there were more than 270 diseases that display signs and symptoms in the eyes,” he said. “So really, the eyes should be part of someone’s overall health care, not just them saying, ‘Oh, I’m going to go get my eyes checked.’

“Just in the 30 years I’ve been (practicing), I’ve diagnosed brain tumors, many diabetics, multiple sclerosis, sarcoidosis, and many other diseases,” Reed added. “And that’s what we (the AOA) want people to understand: Eye care is part of your overall health care strategy.”

One of the campaigns Reed is helping lead as part of his President-Elect role is called “Eye Deserve More.” The campaign pinpoints members of the public that oftentimes might neglect their vision. Most recently, the campaign has appealed to gamers, people who spend long hours on either computers or gaming systems, staring at a digital screen.

By emphasizing the importance of eye health amid hours of screen time, Reed said AOA metrics show the campaign has been successful in motivating members of the public to get their eyes examined.

In addition to promoting overall eye health, Reed said his role as president-elect also encompasses liaison work with other states. As president-elect, Reed serves as a liaison to Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

“I go to their state meetings and they ask me to give a presentation to the membership about what the AOA is doing and how the AOA is working for them,” he said. “I meet with their boards all year long, and if they need something, it’s my job to be a connection between those state organizations and AOA.”

Other objectives Reed said he hopes to accomplish during his one-year term as president-elect include enacting a federal law to vision insurance plan abuses and fighting against abuses of Medicare Advantage plans.

“Vision plans in general are really not concerned about patient care,” Reed said. “They’re concerned about their bottom line. The rules we have to follow with many vision plans oftentimes end up costing patients more, and it limits their choices. Plus, we have to wait on (the insurance companies’) laboratories, which limits what we can do in a timely manner.

“We’re fighting on a federal level for those kinds of issues for patients.”

As president-elect, Reed serves as a liaison to several committees within the AOA, including the Sports and Performance Committee,  the Federal Relations Committee, the Advocacy Committee, the Political Action Committee, and the Meetings Committee.

A graduate of Southern College of Optometry, Reed was the 2010 and 2016 recipient of the MOA James P. Brownlee Optometrist of the Year Award.

Reed owns and operates private practices in Magee, Collins and Prentiss, and is co-owner of practices in Clinton, Flowood, Forest and Vicksburg.

He lives in Vicksburg with his wife, Kendra, and their dog, Cosmo. He has two children, Calder and Emily Reed.