AOA award winners to be honored at Optometry’s Meeting®

June 11, 2013
Dr. Lewis

Dr. Lewis

The winners of the AOA annual awards will be recognized at the 2013 Optometry’s Meeting® Opening General Session.

Sponsored by Essilor, the session will also feature Iraq war vet, actor and author J.R. Martinez and his inspiring life story.

The Distinguished Service Award recognizes Thomas L. Lewis, O.D., Ph.D., for his unusually significant contributions to the profession of optometry.

The Optometrist of the Year Award recognizes Neil Draisin, O.D., for his performance of outstanding services on behalf of the profession and to the visual welfare of the public.

The Young Optometrist of the Year Award recognizes Sandra Fortenberry, O.D., who has been in practice less than 10 years and demonstrates remarkable leadership skills when serving the profession, patients and her community.

The Optometric Educator Award recognizes Michael J. Earley, O.D., Ph.D., for performance of outstanding services on behalf of the profession, optometric education and to the visual welfare of the public.

The Apollo Award honors Sen. Tom Harkin for distinguished service to the visual welfare of the public.

The Paraoptometric of the Year Award honors Amy Godeaux, CPOT, for her significant contributions to the field of paraoptometry.

Distinguished Service Award

Thomas L. Lewis, O.D., Ph.D., has contributed significantly to the profession of optometry. As a 1970 graduate of Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO), he has gone on to hold various administrative and teaching positions at PCO, including dean of Academic Affairs from 1980-1989.

In 1989, Dr. Lewis was named president of PCO. Under his leadership, the college grew to university status, Salus University, and now includes four different professional degree programs with more than 1,000 students enrolled.

As an advocate for lifelong learning, Dr. Lewis has presented more than 200 continuing education courses in all 50 states. His research career began as a research fellow, supported by the National Eye Institute, in the Department of Ophthalmology, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. He has published more than 30 abstracts, editorials, papers, research papers and book chapters.

Dr. Lewis also maintains an international lecture schedule, and in Europe, he developed postgraduate programs in optometry and vision science.

Dr. Lewis has served in leadership positions in nearly every national optometric organization. He served as president of the American Academy of Optometry, president of the Partnership Foundation for Optometric Education, president, National Board of Examiners in Optometry, and as president, Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry.

In addition, he has served on numerous committees for the AOA, including the Council on Research, Council of Education Task Force, New Technology Committee, Clinical Guidelines Coordinating Committee, Federal Relations Committee, and several others.

At the state level, he served on the Pennsylvania Optometric Association’s (POA) legal/ legislative committee. He was recently awarded the H. Ward Ewalt Meritorious Service Award by the POA.

He is also a strong advocate for optometry’s involvement in the American Public Health Association and has been involved in the institutional planning of public health optometry curricula at Salus University.

Dr. Lewis championed board certification for optometry, serving on the Joint Board Certification Project Team and formulating the model that was implemented to bring board certification to the profession.

He was inducted into the National Optometry Hall of Fame in 2012.

Optometrist of the Year Award

Dr. Draisin

Dr. Draisin

Mentor and children’s vision advocate Neil Draisin, O.D., has served his profession from his hometown all the way to the national level. Majoring in biology at the College of Charleston, he went on to graduate from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry in 1971. He completed a residency in pediatric optometry and vision therapy at State University of New York.

He has practiced optometry in Charleston for more than 40 years and actively gives back to his community. He has served as president of the Jewish Community Center and vice president of the Charleston Jewish Federation and received the National JWB Young Leadership Award. Dr. Draisin has served on the Executive Board of the Charleston Boy Scout Council and is an active member of the St. Andrews Rotary Club. He also serves on the College of Charleston Foundation Board and in 2011 was named Alumnus of the Year.

Dr. Draisin specialized in vision therapy after hearing about the therapy in a seminar he attended during his senior year of school. Because he is committed to helping children succeed, he became certified in vision development from the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD) and established his practice, The Draisin Vision Group, in 1972.

In 1976, Dr. Draisin established the Head Start Vision Screening Program in Charleston. Since then, nearly 1,500 children are screened each year through this eye health program. When the program started, Dr. Draisin and his staff spent an entire day screening nearly 70 children; anyone who failed was referred for a full examination in Dr. Draisin’s office. He was invited by Head Start to establish a screening program throughout Charleston County. He reached out to his colleagues in the Coastal Carolina Optometric Society to be a part of this project and helped establish the screening guidelines. Fourteen additional sites have been established throughout the county. Still today, following the screenings, Dr. Draisin evaluates each report and makes follow-up recommendations for children who fail the screening. Dr. Draisin has enlisted the support of several local labs to help with the costs of glasses.

Throughout Dr. Draisin’s professional career, he has served as a role model and mentor to young practitioners. He serves as an adjunct professor for the Pennsylvania College of Optometry, the Southern College of Optometry and the University of Alabama College of Optometry, serving as a preceptor for their externship programs. Dr. Draisin is committed to offering externships in his practice to provide the opportunity to participate in the clinical treatment of eye disease, expanding the educational and clinical experience.

Giving back to the profession and to his colleagues has always been a priority for Dr. Draisin. He served in numerous positions on the board of directors of COVD and is actively involved with the Southeastern Council of Optometrists. He has been a member of the South Carolina Optometric Physicians Association (SCOPA) and the AOA for more than 40 years. Dr. Draisin has served in a variety of leadership positions with SCOPA and, in August 2011, was recognized by his colleagues as the SCOPA Optometrist of the Year. He has been recognized by the AOA’s Optometric Recognition Award Program consecutively since 1994 and has served on the AOA’s Pediatric and Binocular Vision and Communications committees.

Young OD of the Year Award

Dr. Fortenberry

Dr. Fortenberry

Sandra Fortenberry, O.D., has worked for students almost her entire life. She is one of the main reasons a new optometry school will successfully graduate its first class this year. She has become a vital leader in optometry.

Her first foray into student career development occurred while in optometry school at the University of Houston College of Optometry (UHCO), when she was a student teacher for the “bridging” program called TEXOCOP, the Texas Optometry Career Opportunities Program. She received clinical letters of excellence from various teachers at UHCO while working as a teaching assistant and faculty assistant. She worked as an extern and completed a residency in various subspecialties of optometry, including low vision.

Following her graduation from UHCO in 2007, she moved into teaching as a clinical attending, instructor and assistant professor. She was then recruited for the neophyte optometry school in San Antonio at the University of the Incarnate Word, which later became the Rosenberg School of Optometry (RSO). After enduring a challenging period during the start‐up phase of the program, she helped usher in a partnership with organized optometry, with industry and with faculty.

She is a tireless advocate for RSO. As director of Continuing Education & Professional Relations, she has represented the optometry school at functions all around the country, raising money for students and programs. She is committed to increasing student membership and involvement throughout the Texas Optometric Associaiton (TOA) and AOA. In fact, her involvement with students resulted in RSO Dean Andrew Buzzelli, O.D., committing to 100 percent student membership in both the TOA and AOA. Their next job is to do the same with faculty.

Last year, Dr. Fortenberry was elected to a three-year term on the TOA Board of Directors. This year, she and her optician husband, Jake, also took on a private solo practice, all while parenting a small daughter and mentoring her many students.

Optometric Educator Award

Dr. Earley

Dr. Earley

Michael Earley, O.D., Ph.D., assistant dean for Clinical Services at The Ohio State University College of Optometry (OSU), is a teacher, lecturer, advisor, clinician and researcher. He received OSU’s highest teaching award, the Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching. Receiving his O.D., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from OSU, he has been inducted into Ohio State’s Academy of Teaching.

Working with children with special needs and with patients following traumatic brain injury, Dr. Earley teaches coursework in neuroanatomy, histology, ocular anatomy, binocular vision, and visual processing. He is an author of more than 80 abstracts, book reviews, publications and chapters in edited books and has lectured nationally at more than 50 sites. His clinical research projects have included participation in the Convergence Insufficiency Treatment Trial (CITT), Amblyopia Treatment Studies (ATS), and Vision in Preschoolers (VIP). A current research project is collaborative research between optometry, audiology, educational psychology and speech pathology (Interdisciplinary Sensory Processing in Reading Evaluation).

He has served as an adviser to 27 Master degree students and serves on the MS/PhD candidacy committee.

Dr. Earley also serves the profession as a member of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, the American Academy of Optometry, and as a participant in the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry’s clinic directors’ special interest group. He led a panel presentation in 2011 at the AOA’s School Readiness Summit: Focus on Vision, which resulted in 30 national organizations signing a joint statement supporting comprehensive eye exams for school-age children as a foundation for a coordinated and improved approach to addressing children’s vision and eye health issues.

His service to the visual welfare of the public includes his participation as a volunteer for the VISION USA and InfantSEE® programs through Optometry Cares® – the AOA Foundation. He is also a presenter of the Ohio Optometric Association Realeyes program, which educates students in preschool through eighth-grade on the importance of eye care and vision safety.

Apollo Award 

U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Senate's health committee, and AOA Washington office Director Jon Hymes meet prior to the president's State of the Union message in 2010.

U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Senate’s health committee, and AOA Washington office Director Jon Hymes meet prior to the president’s State of the Union message in 2010.

Recently announcing his retirement from public service, U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin will be sorely missed by optometrists in his home state of Iowa and in communities across the country. During his lengthy and distinguished career as a top-level lawmaker and leading policymaker, Sen. Harkin consistently and compellingly advocated for greater access to the comprehensive eye and vision care provided by America’s doctors of optometry to millions of patients nationwide.

After serving 10 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, Sen. Harkin won election to the U.S. Senate in 1984 and quickly climbed to positions of great influence in the upper chamber, most recently chairing the powerful Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee as well as the influential Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.

Sen. Harkin notes that while he has been able to help many Iowans and citizens from around the nation, he counts one of his proudest days in the Senate that came on July 26, 1990, when his bill, the Americans With Disabilities Act, was signed into law. From that point forward, people with disabilities now have the same access to education, public facilities, and employment as all other Americans.

Meeting with Sen. Harkin in 2010 from left are Abie Chadderdon, O.D., former PAC Board chair; then-AOA trustee Steve Loomis, O.D.; then-AOA President Joe Ellis, O.D.; Sen. Harkin, Richard Skotowski, O.D., former Iowa Optometric Association (IOA) president; Gary Ellis IOA executive director; and AOA Washington office Director Jon Hymes.

Meeting with Sen. Harkin in 2010 from left are Abie Chadderdon, O.D., former PAC Board chair; then-AOA trustee Steve Loomis, O.D.; then-AOA President Joe Ellis, O.D.; Sen. Harkin, Richard Skotowski, O.D., former Iowa Optometric Association (IOA) president; Gary Ellis IOA executive director; and AOA Washington office Director Jon Hymes.

Among his many important accomplishments, Sen. Harkin championed the AOA-backed provider non-discrimination provision included in the Affordable Care Act. Affectionately known as the Harkin amendment, this first-ever federal standard of provider non‐discrimination will bar health insurers from discriminating in plan coverage and participation against ODs and is expected to increase access to comprehensive eye and

vision care for millions of Americans.

Sen. Harkin was also responsible for leading the effort to secure federal recognition and funding for the AOA’s InfantSEE® program. Because of his efforts, thousands more Iowa babies have recently received a no‐cost InfantSEE® comprehensive eye and vision assessment at such a critical time in their overall development.

Optometry is losing an important champion for patients and the profession with the retirement of Sen. Tom Harkin.

Paraoptometric of the Year

Amy Godeaux, CPOT

Amy Godeaux, CPOT

Amy Godeaux, CPOT, began her paraoptometric career in 2008 with Jay Miller, O.D. She demonstrated an extremely high level of dedication and scholarship by becoming a certified paraoptometric (CPO) four months later. Godeaux graduated from the Madison Area Technical College Ophthalmic Technician program in 2011. She also became a certified paraoptometric technician (CPOT) that same year.

Among her numerous honors and distinctions, Godeaux worked diligently to revive the Louisiana Paraoptometric Association, more than doubling its membership in less than two years. She currently serves as president.

Involved in her community, Godeaux volunteers for the Lion’s Club community glaucoma screenings, InfantSEE® assessments, community sports screenings, and assists with the Junior Auxiliary in vision screenings at a local school.

Additionally, she served as the clinical review coordinator for a glaucoma trial conducted in her office.

Godeaux is active in the AOA Paraoptometric Section. She served on the Awards Committee in 2010-2011 and currently serves on the Membership Committee.

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