Most families avoid political discussion around the dinner table. ICO’s Senior Director of Government and External Affairs, Vincent Brandys, OD ’90, had a different kind of upbringing. Growing up on the south side of Chicago, he was engaged in politics from a young age.
“My dad was a small businessman,” explains Dr. Brandys. “He ran for State Rep. I’d walk the precinct with my father, handing out campaign literature in my neighborhood. I follow in his footsteps.” Having run for office himself, Dr. Brandys sees political engagement as a way to be “part of the solution.”
Dr. Brandys was originally recruited to help ICO connect with its alumni. What he saw as a 2-year commitment became a lifelong career. Inevitably, his passion for politics took over. With encouragement from Drs. Augsburger and Messner, Dr. Brandys transitioned from alumni relations to full-time lobbyist.
One of Dr. Brandys’s favorite quotes is by Otto von Bismarck: “There are two things in life you never want to be seen made- sausage and laws.” …but someone has to do that work! Here is a Close Up look at Dr. Brandys’s unique job, and how he is working to expand the scope of optometric practice in Illinois.
“At least once a week, I walk around the campus. Nobody’s told me to do it. I’m just trying to get an overview- parking lot, exterior of the building. It’s like your house. You want to make sure it’s clean. You want to make sure our image is presented in the community. This morning, ICO looked great!”
“There are several websites I check on a daily basis- city, state, and federal. Recently, there was a bill that finally passed Congress that talked about an increase in non-defense spending. I sent an e-mail to Senator Durbin’s office asking where the money was going to go. Healthcare? Education? I wasn’t the only person who sent an e-mail to Durbin, but did it as soon as I knew about it; that puts me at the head of the list. ‘If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.’”
“I keep my wedding photos on my desk. The sign on my wall is about being a grandfather, which I recently became for the first time. My bobbleheads are three retired White Sox players and Ozzie the Cougar. I was the team optometrist for the Kane County Cougars for 3 years while I had my private practice. The last one is a Green Bay Packers player. I’m not a ‘Cheesehead,’ but I am a Packer Backer.”
“Springfield was about a 3-hour drive. We went there specifically to meet State Rep. Tom Demmer. This is the ‘third rail’ where all of the lobbyists hang out. It’s easier to reach your member by standing there. That day, I was working on the injectables and minor procedures bill, SB870. This is a law, but now the JCAR- Joint Committee on Administrative Rule- decides if the rules outlined in the legislation should be approved or not.”
“Did you know there is one state (Massachusetts) that doesn’t allow optometrists to treat glaucoma? It’s about access to care. Whether you are living in Bronzeville or you’re in rural Illinois, you shouldn’t have to travel 50 miles or more to find a provider. I see no reason why the rules within SB870 should not be approved. There are 14 other states that have this.”
“I asked the students to support the JCAR rule and the legislation. I encouraged them to spend a minute of their day to submit an e-mail to the State Department of Professional Regulation. Wherever you’re going to end up in practice, you want to be able to use the full extent of your education.”
“I went straight to Chinatown to a fundraiser for Anne Shaw, candidate for State Representative. I make sure we know all of our representatives and senators. We’re taking personal time and personal money to support candidates who support optometry. Once they get to office, they are educated on the issues. One of the phrases I live by- ‘There’s nothing worse than a legislator casting an uneducated vote.’”
“When you look at a legislator to support, you look at all sorts of issues- abortion, immigration… I would ask all optometrists to become ‘optocrats.’ Optocrats are doctors of optometry or affiliated family and friends who, when considering who to support or vote for in an election, look first and foremost at optometry and access to care.”