Home Newsmakers Young OD of the Year Shares Message of Advocacy

Young OD of the Year Shares Message of Advocacy

Dr. Kelly Deering

In June, Kelly Deering, OD, FAAO, will be honored at Optometry’s Meeting as Young OD of the Year by the American Optometric Association.

Getting eyeglasses in first grade was “lifechanging” for Dr. Deering. “I didn’t realize I should’ve been seeing the leaves on trees,” she says. It was also inspiring. “I always liked math and science and thought about going into engineering or actuary science. But when I got a job as an optometric technician in high school, it rekindled my love for eye care.”

Dr. Deering with her first pair of glasses in first grade.
Dr. Deering with her first pair of glasses in first grade.

She chased that passion by attending the University of Missouri—St. Louis and spending her summers studying glaucoma in mice in Maine. She graduated in 2020 and now works full time at Premier Eyecare Associates (PEA) in North Central Missouri.

THE AOA AWARD

The award came as a “total surprise” to Dr. Deering. On a seemingly normal day in clinic, she was extra busy as the practice was down an OD. A staff member took a message while she juggled patients. “They said an ophthalmologist had called for me.” Dr. Deering says. “I asked who it was— [AOA Past President] Dr. Bob Layman had called.”

She Googled him as she ate her lunch. “I found out he was an OD in Ohio, so I assumed he was calling about a mutual patient. I pulled up my patient database and gave him a call, ready to type in a patient birthday or last name as I dialed his number.”

But Dr. Layman had a different message. “He said, ‘I just wanted to be the first to congratulate you on winning Young OD of the Year.’ I slammed my laptop shut, cried a bit and said ‘thank you’ profusely.”

Dr. Deering also extends a big “thank you” to her business partner and current Missouri Optometric Association (MOA) president Kevin Harris, OD; MOA executive director, LeeAnn Barrett, OD; and classmate, Krystal Matson, OD.

“I have such a great community and family support,” Dr. Deering says. “The owners and doctors at PEA have given me the freedom and support to treat patients the way they deserve. They are on the frontlines with me, and they are the reason I am getting this award.”

Dr. Deering is an active member of her local Rotary Club. Here, she leads the local high school's Interact Club in cleaning up a park.
Dr. Deering is an active member of her local Rotary Club and recently led the high school’s Interact Club in cleaning up a park.

WORK WITH THE MOA

Dr. Deering is the local society president of the Northwest region of the Missouri Optometric Association (MOA) and became a trustee on the MOA board of directors in 2021. She championed the MOA rebrand and is active on the MOA Scope Committee, a group dedicated to modernizing optometry in Missouri.

Dr. Deering, fourth from right, accepts her state award and poses with Dr. Duane Thompson, Dr. Bruce Brodmerkle, Dr. Kevin Harris and Dr. Bob Sloan.
Dr. Deering, fourth from right, accepts her state award and poses with Dr. Duane Thompson, Dr. Bruce Brodmerkle, Dr. Kevin Harris and Dr. Bob Sloan.

During the effort to rebrand the MOA, Dr. Deering spearheaded a project to get a survey out to every optometrist in Missouri. “We wanted to hear from all optometrists in our state—not just MOA members—about what is important to them,” she says. “The findings were clear: Missouri ODs want the MOA to protect, strengthen and advance optometry. Those are now the official MOA values.”

And progress is happening. Two bills, Senate Bill 956 and House Bill 1963, “may be difficult to pass this election year, but we’ve made such great strides already.” She says representation and advocacy is so important in optometry due to the fact that it’s a legislated profession. “Optometry looks different in every state,” she says. “Medicine changes so quickly, and the last time Missouri updated its scope of practice was in 1995. I was one year old. If we want to advance the profession, we need to be sure that our state allows us to do that.”

Dr. Deering treats a patient in Kenya.
Dr. Deering treats a patient in Kenya.

Dr. Deering often refers patients to local ophthalmologists; in this case, however, ‘local’ is at least over an hour away from her rural Missouri practice.  “I should be allowed to do what I am trained to do,” she says. “I am here and capable.”

As she continues to work to bring care to her community and strengthen the profession for all, she says optometry is stronger in numbers. “Support your local optometric association and support your legislature,” she says. “If no one took on these challenges, optometry wouldn’t look the way it does today.”

In her free time, Dr. Deering enjoys baking, hiking, spending time with friends and family, playing tennis with her husband and volunteering in the community.

Dr. Deering is a board member of her YMCA and participates in events and working out there; here she gets involved in a Color Run.
Dr. Deering is a board member of her YMCA and participates in events and working out there; here, she gets involved in a Color Run.

Read more newsmaker stories from WO here.

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