History of SOPO

The Society Of Professional Optometrists was founded in the summer of 1971, by Dr. Bill Shuman and several other OD’s, all of whom practiced in affiliation with retail optical stores.  In that era, Optometry was a very different profession than it is today.  It was divided into 2 distinct groups.  The traditional (private practice) group and the non-traditional group consisting of OD’s like Dr. Shuman.  The traditionalists were in the overwhelming majority and controlled things through the AOA and it’s affiliated state organizations, like the GOA.  In Georgia, a few GOA members decided they would  “purify” the profession by eliminating the non-traditional practices.  Since this could not be accomplished through legal means, various underhanded schemes were attempted.  In response to this mind set, Dr. Shuman and his cohorts felt compelled to form their own organization.  One through which they could have a chance to survive and practice Optometry to the legal definition, not the prejudicial definition of the traditionalists.

SOPO started out by offering it’s members a low cost group insurance plan and a convenient alternative to acquire the necessary continuing education hours to renew their license.  It has since evolved into an organization that offers one of the premier continuing education seminars in the Southeast.  SOPO is very proud of the fact that we are the only non AOA affiliated organization that enjoys automatic approval of ALL our continuing education hours by the Georgia State Board of Optometry.  Our seminars have always been held at the Center for Continuing Education at the University of Georgia campus in Athens.  SOPO is a ARBO administrator and was one of the first to have our complete seminar COPE approved. We try to be proactive in the continuing education arena, as evidenced by our being among the first, in the country, to utilize the latest technologies such as the Bar-code scanners and most recently the Smart Phone Apps to verify lecture attendance.  

From the start, SOPO has espoused no affiliation with any national organization nor had any political connections what so ever.  Our only aim is to offer OD’s the opportunity to fulfill their State’s CE requirement in an convenient relaxed atmosphere.  You will notice that our lecturers are the same that you will hear at the big conferences like SECO or Vision Expo.  We just do it in a more intimate and much less expensive environment.  Over the years, our membership has expanded from those few founding OD’s, to include OD’s from all modes of practice.  We have about equal numbers of OD’s in private practices as we do in corporate ones.  We also have a few OD’s who are in multi-disciplinary practices.  So you see our diversity is about the same as is found nationally.  Our attendance has grown from that small start of about 25 to today’s levels of around 100 at our January meeting and about 130 at our May meeting.  Several years ago SOPO expanded our conferences by allowing vendors to attend and exhibit their products.  The plan going forward is to expand vendor participation, while keeping the exhibit area in the same vein as our conference, intimate and relaxed.

SOPO has proven to be a viable force in the continuing education field in the Southeast for over 40 years.  With all of the changes happening in Optometry today, SOPO is responding and evolving to continue in that role.  The Board of Directors are committed to making the changes that will ensure SOPO’s continued existence for as long as OD’s exhibit their need and support for our seminars.

SOPO Exhibitors