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AAOF AND VSP Global Announce the 2021 Practice Excellence Scholarship Recipients

“We congratulate these impressive optometry students as they move closer to beginning a rewarding career in eye care.”




(PRESS RELEASE) RANCHO CORDOVA, CA — As part of its commitment to support the next generation of optometry, VSP Global, in partnership with American Academy of Optometry Foundation (AAOF), the philanthropic arm of the American Academy of Optometry (AAO), announced the recipients of this year’s Practice Excellence Scholarship.

The Practice Excellence Scholarship is a long-standing and prestigious scholarship that represents the very best in what optometry has to offer in patient care and practice management. Nearly $164,000 was awarded to 50 top-performing fourth-year optometry students in the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada.

“We congratulate these impressive optometry students as they move closer to beginning a rewarding career in eye care,” said VSP Global Board Chair Mary Anne Murphy, OD. “The Practice Excellence Scholarship is another example of our longstanding commitment to support and celebrate optometry’s next generation.”

Only two recipients from each of the 25 schools and colleges of Optometry were selected from nominations submitted by their individual institutions. Scholarship recipients were selected based on the student’s commitment to enter the independent practice of optometry, and their clinical and academic performance.

“We are very grateful to VSP for their support of future leaders in optometric practice and our Academy,” said AAOF President Wendy W. Harrison, OD, PhD, FAAO. “The VSP Practice Excellence Scholarship honors those students who excel at the core of what our profession is all about, patient care. Valuing the effort and accomplishments of these students will benefit their future patients and practices. Their continued partnership with the Foundation shows true support for the future of optometry.”

The scholarships are funded by VSP Global and administered through the AAOF. In total, VSP has awarded more than $2.5 million in scholarships to optometry students.


The recipients were recognized at a special reception hosted by VSP.

This year’s Practice Excellence Scholarship recipients are:

  • Chicago College of Optometry at Midwestern University — Brian Helmetag & Kennedy Hall
  • Illinois College of Optometry — Erica Kristina Payne & Frederick Neher
  • Indiana University School of Optometry — Emily Ertel & Teddy Hesterman
  • Inter American University of Puerto Rico, School of Optometry — Claudia Contreras & Savaira Patoli
  • Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences — Ashley Wallace & Vincent Thoren
  • Michigan College of Optometry — Amy Bell & Jordan Marentette
  • Midwestern University Arizona College of Optometry — Joel Naberhaus & Sarah Sipe
  • New England College of Optometry — Jessica Tarka & William Hogue
  • Northeastern State University Oklahoma, College of Optometry — Alex Kinsinger & Claire Burbee
  • NOVA Southeastern University College of Optometry — Joshua Black & Katty Nguyen
  • Ohio State University College of Optometry — Kalie Leone & Thomas Krainz
  • Pacific University College of Optometry — Alex Schoen & Christian DeJongh
  • Pennsylvania College of Optometry — Allie Decker & Olivia Ryan Burger
  • Rosenberg School of Optometry — Alejandro Cerrillo & Christian Lopez
  • Southern California College of Optometry — Natalie Breau & Theresa Tran
  • Southern College of Optometry — Alexandra Turner & Michael Wagner
  • State University of New York College of Optometry — Elise Regina & Melody Kordnaij
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham — Annie Lane & Riley Camp
  • University of California-Berkeley, School of Optometry — Kayle Edwards & Sophia Lam
  • University of Houston, College of Optometry — Mary Dang & Polly Luong
  • University of Missouri–St. Louis, College of Optometry — Elizabeth Voss & Riley Liss
  • University of Montreal, School of Optometry — Marilou Paquet & Nicolas Blais
  • University of Pikeville, Kentucky College of Optometry — Chelsey Curry & Laura Keith
  • University of Waterloo, School of Optometry and Vision Science — Cedrick Mah & Xiaojing Katrina Li
  • Western University of Health Sciences College of Optometry — Aruj Ali & Jacqueline Reyes



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