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    Stuart McCracken Recognized for Service on the Council of the American Academy of Ophthalmology

    The NCSEPS extends its appreciation to Dr. Stuart McCracken (Durham) whose term on the on the Council of the American Academy of Ophthalmology ends on December 31, 2018 following six years as councilor preceded by six years as vice councilor. A fixture within the NCSEPS community, Dr. McCracken's membership and participation in the Society spans more than 35 years, during which time he has held numerous leadership positions, including 16 years as a member of the NCSEPS Board of Directors and NCSEPS President in 2004.

    Thank you, Dr. McCracken!

    Dr. McCracken was recognized for his service on the Academy's Council at the AAO 2018 in Chicago. (L-R) NCSEPS Executive Director Alan Skipper, Dr. McCracken, and NCSEPS President Dr. Kathleen Gordon.

    Representatives to the Academy's Council are elected by each state ophthalmology society and by ophthalmic subspecialty societies and specialized interest groups. Succeeding Dr. McCracken, NCSEPS Past President Dr. Sara Stoneburner (Greensboro) has been selected to represent the NCSEPS on the Academy's Council. Her term begins on January 1, 2019. As Councilor, Dr. Stoneburner will participate at the spring Council Meeting in conjunction with the April 10-13, Mid-Year Forum 2019 in Washington, D.C.

    The Council serves as an advisory body to the Academy's Board of Trustees. More than 100 Academy members serve on this body as liaisons between their society and the Academy. Councilors bring issues identified by their societies to the attention of the Academy's Board of Trustees through Council Advisory Recommendations (CARs). CARs are debated annually during the Council's spring meeting, and ultimately recommendations are formulated for Academy Board consideration.

    This year, one of the Council recommendations that was forwarded to the Board of Trustees for consideration emphasized the importance of Patient Advocacy Via the AAO. At the state level, the Academy continues to partner with state ophthalmological societies to engage patients as needed where we face optometric surgery initiatives. Through state-specific social media pages and other digital platforms - including the Academy's email advocacy tool "Voter Voice" patients can connect directly with their state legislators.

    Recently, the Academy's State Affairs Secretariat established a new Citizen Advocate for Patient Safety and Quality Eye Care Award. It was presented this year 2017-18 to Vickie Clark, of Greensboro, NC. She was honored for helping ophthalmologists in North Carolina to defeat HB 36, a dangerous optometric surgical scope expansion proposal.

    (L-R) AAO Surgical Scope Fund Chair Dr. Ken Cheng, Dr. Sara Stoneburner, Vickie Clark and AAO Secretary for State Affairs Dr. Kurt Heitman.

    At the Federal level, the Academy just presented to a group of patient organizations on the practitioner's perspective on the new "Step Therapy" authority for Medicare Advantage plans in the hope of building a broad coalition to ensure the best care for patients. The NCSEPS has engaged with the Academy on this issue at the federal level and has engaged in legislative debate at the NC General Assembly.

    Another Council recommendation forwarded to the Board of Trustees for consideration proposed an AAO Policy on Sexual Harassment. At the time the CAR was proposed, the Board of Trustees had already approved a new policy on sexual harassment. The Academy's new policy regarding sexual harassment was also included in the annual meeting section of the Academy's web site under Academy Annual Meeting Policies and Disclaimers. In August 2018, the Academy finalized processes related to the reporting and follow-up of sexual harassment claims by members and non-members. American Academy of Ophthalmology Policies and Procedures Governing Sexual Harassment was presented to the Board of Trustees on Sept. 22 and was approved.

    NCSEPS, AAO Join Forces to Stop Step Therapy Policy

    Aligned with the Trump administration's goal of reducing drug costs, a proposed rule unveiled by CMS this week includes prior authorizations and step therapy for Part D drugs. The NCSEPS has joined forces with the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) in opposition to its implementation.

    In a recent letter to the editor, NCSEPS President Dr. Kathleen Gordon applauds US Representative George Holding for his position on step therapy. Holding, who represents the state's 2nd Congressional District (southwest of Raleigh to just east of Rocky Mount), has called on the administration to halt implementation of the proposed plan. Holding expressed his opposition to moving forward with the proposed rule in a letter to CMS Administrator Seema Verma, writing, "Given the potential impact on patient access and care, I believe CMS should pause on moving forward with this policy in 2019."

    Dr. Gordon's response, which was published in the print edition of Raleigh's News & Observer on November 10, 2018, explains how step therapy policies impede the work of physicians and harm patients. "We applaud his stance, because as ophthalmologists, we know that sick patients - especially those facing permanent blindness - don't have the time for wait-and-see treatment policies."

    The debate over step therapy (or "fail first") pharmaceutical coverage insurance policies is taking place at the state level as well. In recent years, the NC General Assembly has considered legislation to regulate step therapy policies, but none have advanced beyond the committee level. The NCSEPS has supported prior legislative attempts to reign in the use of step therapy policies, arguing that such policies adversely impact patient care and safety.

    Governor Cooper Applauds Post-Florence Volunteer Efforts, Including Vision Screening

    Governor Roy Cooper visited the Word of Faith Ministries shelter on November 15, 2018 to thank the facility, staff and volunteers for their work to help those impacted by Hurricane Florence. In his remarks, Gov. Cooper made special mention of the volunteer support coordinated by the NC Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons and the NC Medical Society in making the October 13th vision screening event at the shelter possible.

    Dr. George Escaravage of Wilmington and Dr. Mike Geiger of Fayetteville volunteered their time and expertise at the event in Kenansville, NC. The two ophthalmologists screened over 60 shelter residents, and all who needed vision correction left with a pair of readers or a prescription that was filled at no cost by Centene, the event sponsor.

    In welcoming the Governor, shelter director Patsy Quinn expressed her gratitude to the NCSEPS and NCMS and specifically to Drs. Escaravage and Geiger. The Governor added his appreciation for their volunteer service in his remarks.

    Gov. Cooper, Shelter Director Patsy Smith, and NCSEPS Executive Director Alan Skipper at the Word of Faith Ministries shelter.

    Alan Skipper, Dr. George Escaravage and Dr. J. Michael Geiger at the Oct. 13 vision screening event in Kenansville.