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American Optometric Association Announces 2023 Award Recipients

Award recipients will be honored throughout Optometry’s Meeting in Washington, D.C. on June 21-24, 2023.

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(PRESS RELEASE) ST. LOUIS, MO — The American Optometric Association (AOA), American Optometric Student Association (AOSA) and Optometry Cares —The AOA Foundation announce the 2023 winners of the organizations’ annual awards, including the AOA awards, AOSA Student of the Year, National Optometry Hall of Fame, Dr. W. David Sullins Jr. InfantSEE Award, and Paraoptometric Professional awards.

The AOA thanks its longstanding Visionary Supporter Johnson & Johnson Vision for their recognition of these exemplary individuals. Award recipients will be honored throughout Optometry’s Meeting in Washington, D.C. on June 21-24, 2023.

The AOA’s annual Doctor of Optometry awards for Optometric Educator of the Year, Distinguished Service, Optometrist of the Year and Young Optometrist of the Year are submitted by affiliate associations. The 2023 award recipients include:

  • Dr. Glen Steele, Tennessee – Distinguished Service Award
    Supporting the AOA for many years, Dr. Steele served on several task forces and committees before serving as the chair of the Children’s and Binocular Vision Topical Interest Group in 2000. From there, Dr. Steele supported the AOA’s Children’s Vision Project through lecturers, a national radio tour and as a consultant to the AOA’s Communications Group. In 2003, the Infant Vision Project Team transformed into InfantSEE with Dr. Steele serving as a task force member, lecturer, management team member, committee chair and co-chair.
  • Dr. Jon Pederson, Colorado – Optometrist of the Year
    Dr. Pederson has an extensive service record with the Colorado Optometric Association with committee and society positions as well as serving as the district trustee, secretary/treasurer and president. Dr. Pederson was awarded Optometrist of the Year in 2015 by the Colorado Optometric Association and in 2022 from the Great Western Council of Optometry. Since 2005, Dr. Pederson has volunteered his time to the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless providing comprehensive eye care for unhoused patients and began volunteering with the Fort Logan Mental Health Center as a consultant optometrist in 2007.
  • Dr. Amy Puerto, Louisiana – Young Optometrist of the Year
    Dr. Puerto began her residency at Bond Wroten Eye Clinics and was awarded “Best of AOA 2016” at Optometry’s Meeting for her poster and continuing education case presentation. Through externships, Dr. Puerto provided care to nearly 800 patients at the Eye Care Center in 2014 and participated in National Eye Institute grand rounds at Walter Reed Military Medical Center in 2015. An active member of the Optometry Association of Louisiana, Dr. Puerto served as executive board secretary/treasurer, vice president and is currently the president. Additionally, Dr. Puerto organized a pilot patch program for Girls and Boys Scouts to explore optometry as a career.
  • Dr. George Veliky, New Jersey – Optometric Educator of the Year
    Dr. Veliky served on the New Jersey Society of Optometric Physicians Board of Directors and as chair of the Finance Committee as well as secretary/treasurer, vice president, president-elect and president. Additionally, Dr. Veliky currently serves as the co-chair of the AOA’s Continuing Education Committee and has a background as a member of the Continuing Education Subcommittee since 2017. Dr. Veliky is an adjunct faculty for Pennsylvania College of Optometry at SALUS University, the New England College of Optometry, State University of New York – College of Optometry, the Ohio State University College of Optometry and University of Missouri – St. Louis, College of Optometry.

The AOA’s Apollo Award is the highest award presented to the general public. It honors persons or organizations for distinguished service to the visual welfare of the public. This year’s winner is the Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety. The Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety (HCAPS) was founded in 2018 to advocate for patient safety and to protect and defend the doctor-patient relationship—the essential foundation of personalized health care decision. HCAPS supports and advocates for the safest, healthiest and most effective use of medical devices while promoting the advancements in technology to create better patient health outcomes.

The AOSA Student of the Year Award recognizes optometry students in their third or fourth year of school who show leadership skills when serving their profession, patients and community. This year’s winner is Caitlin Parks. Caitlin is currently in her third year at Indiana University School of Optometry. As AOA-PAC liaison, Caitlin has taken an active role in communicating the importance of donating to the PAC and has organized different events to encourage donations. Serving as the class representative, she has worked with associate instructors to schedule review sessions, communicated student concerns to professors, and organized in-person social events to facilitate relationships following the virtual semesters.

The National Optometry Hall of Fame recognizes and honors optometrists who are luminaries of the professions—those who have made significant and long-lasting contributions to the optometric profession. The award is administered through Optometry Cares – The AOA Foundation. This year’s winners include:

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  • Joseph Shovlin, O.D.
    Upon graduating from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry, Dr. Shovlin became involved as a leader within the AOA, especially within the Contact Lens Section. From 1985 to 1988, he served as a member of the section’s Standards Committee, Industry Relations Committee, and Section Council. During that same period, he was the chair of the Research Committee. In 1991, he ascended to being the chair of the Contact Lens Section after serving as secretary, vice chair, and chair-elect. Outside of the Contact Lens Section, he was a member on the Nominating Committee, Industry Relations Committee, Clinical Guidelines Committee, and Leadership Cabinet Pool Committee. On the state level, Dr. Shovlin was active in the Pennsylvania Optometric Association as a participant in several committees.
  • Siu Wong, O.D., MPH
    As an educator and leader in public health optometry, Dr. Wong has demonstrated an exceptional record of public health service. She was a trailblazer for optometry in the U.S. Public Health Service – Indian Health Service (IHS) where she served for nearly 30 years. Beginning as one of the first optometrists selected for the USPHS – Indian Health Service, she went on to be the first chief optometrist of an administrative region and the first woman to hold the position of chief optometric consultant to the IHS. She concluded her career as chief operating officer for the New Mexico Tribal Health Care Alliance. She also served on a plethora of committees, task forces and advisory councils with the goal of expanding the position of optometry within a multidisciplinary setting.
  • Mitchell Scheiman, O.D., Ph.D.
    Dr. Scheiman has been highly influential to the profession of optometry, particularly in vision science, pediatric optometry, and binocular vision. He has significantly contributed to the understanding of binocular vision and the management of binocular vision disorders. Dr. Scheiman has 226 publications in high-impact journals and was principal author on the AOA Pediatric Examination Clinical Practice Guidelines and consulting author on the AOA Accommodative / Binocular Vision Disorders Clinical Practice Guidelines. He has more than 500 national and international invited presentations and led a series of NEI-funded randomized clinical trials on the effectiveness of convergence insufficiency therapy.

Optometry Cares—The AOA Foundation also awards the Dr. W. David Sullins, Jr., InfantSEE Award, recognizing an individual doctor of optometry who has made significant contributions to optometry or the community for outstanding public service involving the InfantSEE program. This year’s winner is Andrea Thau, O.D., FAAO, FCOVD, FNAP. Dr. Thau is one of the founders of AOA’s InfantSEE public health program and is a founding member and former VP of the New York Children’s Vision Coalition, a multi-disciplinary coalition dedicated to ensuring that every child in New York receives an eye examination prior to school entry. Dr. Thau is a nationally recognized lecturer in the area of infants’ and children’s vision.

Members were asked to submit an award nomination for a colleague or peer who embodies passion for the vision community and works to further the profession for the Paraoptometric Professional awards, including Paraoptometric of the Year, Paraoptometric Community Service and Paraoptometric Lifetime Achievement Awards. The 2023 award recipients include:

  • Brandy Yeack, Oregon – Paraoptometric of the Year
    Brandy Yeack, CPOA, has served as a Vision Source Facilitator for the past two years and is responsible for coaching and supporting the paraoptometric staff of 70 Vision Source practices. Rising through the ranks and earning CPO, CPOA, and Medical Office Administrator certification, Brandy has established a support network among the paraoptometric staff and now mentors new facilitators across the country on how to take pride in the patient care they deliver. Additionally, she has written articles on how to provide exceptional patient care and has lectured nationally on dry eye care and office culture.
  • Brianne Speaks, Mississippi – Paraoptometric Community Service
    Brianne Speaks, CPOA, has worked with Dr. Brooks at Brooks Eye Center for over 20 years. Passionate about patient access to care, Brianne initiated and facilitates the OneSight Foundation Changing Life Through Lenses program, which provides eyewear at no cost to those who cannot afford it. As a former president of the American Businesswomen’s Association in Mississippi, Brianne was responsible for empowering and encouraging other executives to excel in the workplace.

The AOA honors three winners of the Paraoptometric Lifetime Achievement Award.

  • Roberta Beers, Pennsylvania
    Roberta Beers, CPOT, began working as an optometric assistant in 1980 and started her long-standing involvement with the Pennsylvania Paraoptometric Association (PPA) as chair of the Membership Task Force in 1986 before serving as president twice. With a rich history of service, Roberta also volunteered her time to the Erie Crawford County Paraoptometric Society and the AOA. In 1997 and 2012, Roberta was named Paraoptometric of the Year by the PPA. In 2014, she was honored as the AOA Paraoptometric of the Year.
  • Beverly Roberts, Mississippi
    Beverly Roberts, CPOT, began her career in optometry as an optometric technician in 1996. Twenty-two years later, she currently serves as clinic director for multiple doctor practices. Her accomplishments include motivational and educational speaking, consulting, staff training and the “Breakfast with Beverly” YouTube channel that allows managers to have free access to needed materials to build their office teams. In 2007, she received the Mississippi Paraoptometric of the Year Award and the AOA Paraoptometric of the Year Award in 2008. In 2014, an award was named in her honor, the Beverly Roberts Paraoptometric of the Year Award, which is given annually during the Mississippi Fall Conference.
  • Erlinda Rodriguez, New Jersey
    Erlinda Rodriguez, CPO, has dedicated her life to the advancement of the paraoptometric community. Erlinda has served as the chair for the AOA’s Paraoptometric Resource Committee (PRC) and has volunteered her time to the committee for years. Her passion for elevating the importance of the role of the paraoptometric in the profession has made a lasting impression in her home state of New Jersey and throughout the United States. Additionally, Erlinda tirelessly promotes quality training and education programs for paraoptometric staff and educates doctors on the value of paraoptometric certification.

To access the rules and criteria for the Paraoptometric Professional awards, click here.

The AOA honors these members and recognize their exemplary service, contributions to optometry and passionate leadership. The AOA congratulates all 2023 award nominees.

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