Published in Business

Major opticianry organizations announce merger at Vision Expo East

This is editorially independent content
3 min read

As Vision Expo East 2024 comes to a close for the final time in New York, the National Federation of Opticianry Schools (NFOS) and the Opticians Association of America (OAA) have announced a merger.

Let’s set the stage.

Since 1999, NFOS has operated as an international organization to promote formal opticianry education provided by accredited education institutions; its member schools are located within North America (United States and Canada).

Originally established in 1926 as the Guild of Prescription Opticians, OAA presents itself as “the only national organization representing opticianry’s business, professional, educational, legislative, and regulatory interests.”

Where does their funding come from?

NFOS receives sponsorships from EssilorLuxottica, Hilco Vision, Eschenbach Optik, and—most notably—the American Board of Opticianry & National Contact Lens Examiners (ABO & NCLE).

Established in 1959, the ABO & NCLE provide “minimum competency examinations and continuing education (CE) certification” for opticians and contact lens professionals.

And the purpose behind this merger?

Per the organizations’ announcement, the intent is to collectively provide membership services focused on the following:

  • State societies
  • Individuals and firm (guild) owners
  • Formal education and apprenticeship training
  • CE
  • Governmental relations (national and state initiatives)

Will they adopt a new name?

Yes! The combined organization will be named United Opticians Association (UOA).

And who are the new leaders?

Existing executives from the OAA, NFOS, and ABO & NCLE:

  • Board President: Ronnie Harbet
    • Previously: OAA president
  • Vice President: Aarlan Aceto, OD
    • Previously: NFOS president
  • Treasurer: William Underwood, ABO
    • Previously: NCLE vice president; ABO chair
  • Secretary: Sandy Brown, ABO
    • Previously: NCLE president; NCLE chair

Further, the UOA will also be forming an enterprise leadership team comprised of leaders from each of the involved organizations in an effort to develop a “dynamic integration process.”

Any input from these organizations?

Harbet, UOA’s new president, noted that the merger has created a model for the future of opticians that is focused on promoting the spectacle and contact lens opticians’ profession.

This model for the future, he stated, will also adopt “the use of structured educational standards keeping vision care patients healthy and safe, through high-quality, properly trained opticians.”

Dr. Aceto, UOA’s new vice president, added: “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 [profession].”

Lastly … when will UOA begin operations?

July 1, 2024.

See here for more Vision Expo East coverage.

Vision Expo East is being held at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City, New York, from March 14-17, 2024.