National opticians’ organizations announce merger

The Opticians Association of America (OAA), and the National Federation of Opticianry Schools (NFOS), have completed a merger, with continuing funding provided by the American Board of Opticianry & National Contact Lens Examiners (ABO & NCLE) that has created a model opticianry association representing over 80,000 opticians and contact lens professionals throughout North America.

OAA has proudly been committed to promoting a professional stature of opticianry through leadership education and communication since 1925, and NFOS has been dedicated to facilitating the development of formal educational programs, upgrading the standards of opticianry education, and working for uniformity of opticianry education since 1999.

The vote took place at Vision Expo East and the decision by delegates was “unanimous,” as announced by Bob Reynolds, Secretary of Delegate Assembly and Past President of OAA, who noted “this is the next step in a very bright future for opticians.”

ABO & NCLE has been providing minimum competency examinations and continuing education certification of opticians and contact lens professionals since 1959.

The new organization will be named United Opticians Association (UOA), and will honor OAA’s long and storied history by reflecting that the newly structured organization has been “Representing Contact Lens and Spectacle Opticians since 1925.”

The new restructured organization will begin operations on July 1, 2024.

By unifying, the new organization will be able to effectively provide membership services focused on state societies, individuals and firm (guild) owners, formal education and apprenticeship training, continuing education and governmental relations focused on both national and state initiatives.

The officers for the combined organization are Ronnie Harbert, OAA president, as the new board president; Dr. Aarlan Aceto, NFOS president, as the new vice president; Dr. William Underwood, ABO & NCLE vice president, and ABO chair, as the new treasurer; and Sandy Brown, ABO & NCLE president and NCLE chair, as secretary. The combined organization board includes equal representation from each of the pre-merger boards of both OAA and NFOS, as well as from ABO & NCLE.

UOA president, Ronnie Harbert, is confident about this united effort. “With this merger, we have created a model for the future of opticianry that focuses on promoting the profession of spectacle and contact lens opticians, while also adopting the use of structured educational standards keeping vision care patients healthy and safe, through high-quality, properly trained opticians,”
In addition to the newly integrated board of directors, an enterprise leadership team is being selected from each organization as the dynamic integration process is now moving forward.

“We’re pleased with how our organizations have come together,” said Dr. Aceto. “Our work is well underway, and we are being very thoughtful about moving the best of our systems forward to continue providing the highest quality of representation for the opticianry and contact lens professions that we serve. We will advance our mission and better serve the entire profession together.”

For further information, contact Ron Harbert at r.harbert@oaa.org.