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ASCO Announces Special Recognition Award Recipients

Dr. Douglas J. Hoffman was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award.




(PRESS RELEASE) ROCKVILLE, MD — The Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) announces the recipients of the 2021 Special Recognition Awards.

ASCO Lifetime Achievement Award

Dr. Douglas J. Hoffman is this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award. This award recognizes an outstanding individual who, over an extended period of time, provided exceptional leadership to ASCO and to optometric education; made outstanding contributions to the optometric community; and displayed exemplary commitment and dedication to the association.

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Within ASCO, Dr. Hoffman has served in several capacities including as Co-chair of the Residency Educators Special Interest Group, Chair of the ORMatch Committee, Chair of the Residency Titles Task Force and a member of the Residency Affairs Committee.

Dr. Hoffman earned his OD degree at the New England College of Optometry (NECO) and has been a longtime advocate for optometric residencies and community health center based optometry. He served as NECO’s Director of Residencies from 1985 to 2020 and was Director of Eye Care Services for 35 years at DotHouse Health, a Boston community health center.

“I am honored to be the recipient of the 2021 ASCO Lifetime Achievement Award. It is truly gratifying to be recognized by my peers and mentors,” says Dr. Hoffman. “ASCO has provided the blueprint and been a key facilitator as the quality, quantity and value of residencies have increased steadily. Residency trained optometrists make a difference for their patients every day while strengthening the profession and inspiring others to follow in their path. I am confident that the progress we have made will continue in the years ahead.”


Dr. Jack Bennett Innovation in Optometric Education Award

This award was established in March 2000 to recognize an ASCO volunteer for an outstanding innovation to optometric education. The award was named in June 2000 in honor of Dr. Bennett, a creative leader in optometric education, who served as Dean at three optometric institutions.

One of ASCO’s two winners of this award this year, Dr. Linda Casser, graduated in 1978 from the Indiana University School of Optometry and completed a two-year primary care optometry residency program at the Wilson Health Center in Rochester, NY. From January 2009 through 2013, Dr. Casser served as Dean, Salus University Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO), and subsequently Interim Associate Dean for the Practice of Optometric Medicine until August 2014. In 2015, she served as Interim Director of Education for the Physician Assistant Program, Salus University College of Health Sciences. Dr. Casser currently serves as a tenured professor at PCO as well as Coordinator of Interprofessional Education for Salus University in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania.

“It is a great honor for me to receive the 2021 Dr. Jack Bennett Innovation in Optometric Education Award,” says Dr. Casser. “I am very appreciative of the wonderful support from Dr. John Nishimoto, current Chair of the ASCO Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice (IPECP) Committee, who very kindly nominated me, the ASCO Resolutions and Awards Committee, and the ASCO Board of Directors. Dr. Bennett was Dean at the Indiana University School of Optometry during my tenure on the faculty there, so it is very special to me that the Award is in his name given Dr. Bennett’s career-long dedication to optometric education.

I greatly value the efforts of ASCO on behalf of optometric education and our profession, and it is a sincere pleasure to continue serving in its volunteer structure. I extend heartfelt thanks, once again, to ASCO for honoring me as the recipient of the 2021 Dr. Jack Bennett Innovation in Optometric Education Award.”

ASCO’s other winner in this category is Dr. Gary Chu, the Vice President of Professional Affairs at NECO. Dr. Chu received his Doctor of Optometry degree from NECO and his Masters of Public Health from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.


He has been in practice and optometric education for more than 25 years and is involved in the changing landscape of eye care, health care and public health. Dr. Chu has been in the forefront of eye care innovations through the development of collaborative partnerships with health systems, federally qualified health centers, social service agencies, government, school systems, health payors, optometry employer groups, ophthalmic industry and start-ups.

Dr. Chu has been immersed in the issues of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging for more than ten years and has served on ASCO’s Diversity and Cultural Competency Committee. He is the founding Chair of ASCO’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Special Interest Group and was the guest editor for the Journal of Optometric Education’s theme issue on diversity and cultural competency in 2017.

“Thank you for this honor to be named a recipient of the 2021 Dr. Jack Bennett Innovation in Optometric Education Award. I am speechless and in awe,” says Dr. Chu. “I can honestly say that this journey towards diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging has been a journey of self reflection and learning. I am glad to have had the opportunity to work and collaborate with the numerous colleagues from other schools and the staff of ASCO in wrestling through the issues of DEI. Each person has helped me emerge to become a better person who is comfortable in their own skin and collectively we have given others a voice and courage to know they belong in this profession. The work is not done and I look forward to our continued progress.”

ASCO Rising Star Award

Sponsored by Oculus, the ASCO Rising Star Award is given to an outstanding faculty member or administrator with less than seven years of service who has made noteworthy contributions to fulfilling the mission, strategic objections, or programs of ASCO. This year’s Rising Star awardee is Dr. Katherine Green.

Dr. Green is an Assistant Professor at Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry (NOVA) where she serves as the Director of the Acquired Brain Injury Visual Rehabilitation Clinic as well as the coordinator for the Pediatrics and Binocular Vision Residency Program. Dr. Green precepts students in both the Pediatrics and Binocular Vision and the Low Vision Rehabilitation clinics.


Dr. Green received her Doctor of Optometry degree from the Illinois College of Optometry before moving to South Florida to complete a residency in pediatrics and binocular vision at NOVA. She is the current Chair of the ASCO Neuro-Optometric Rehab Educators Special Interest Group, a member of the ASCO Clinical Affairs Committee, and an active member of the College of Optometrists in Visual Development.

“I am incredibly honored to have been nominated and selected for this award,” says Dr. Green. “Having the opportunity to work with students and watch them grow into the future leaders of our profession is the highlight of my job. I look forward to working with ASCO to create amazing educational opportunities for our students as we continue to grow as a profession.”

Dr. Lester Janoff Award for Writing Excellence

The Dr. Lester Janoff Award for Writing Excellence recognizes the outstanding writing of a research article published in the ASCO Journal Optometric Education. The award is named in honor of Dr. Lester E. Janoff, Editor of the Journal from 2002-2005, and long-time member of the editorial review board who was known as an exceptional optometric educator, administrator, contact lens clinician and researcher. Dr. Janoff was also a beloved mentor of young writers.

This year’s Janoff Award is given to Dr. Elena Z. Biffi for her article, Interactive Multimedia Learning vs Traditional Learning in Optometry: a Randomized Trial, B-scan Example (Click here). The paper was published in the Summer 2019 issue of Optometric Education.

Dr. Elena Z. Biffi is currently an Associate Professor of Optometry at NECO and an Attending Optometrist at NECO Center for Eye Care/South Boston Community Health Center Eye Clinic.

Dr. Biffi is a first-generation immigrant and a first-generation doctoral student. She received her Bachelor of Science from University of Massachusetts summa cum laude, and earned her Doctor of Optometry and Master in Visual Sciences degrees from NECO in 2010.

“As the world shifted to remote learning over the past year, effective digital learning platforms have become even more crucial in providing effective educational experiences,” according to Dr. Biffi. “Interactive multimedia lectures can not only provide in-depth understanding of a topic, but also ensure greater student satisfaction. This study demonstrated the effectiveness of an interactive multimedia module designed to prepare graduate students for in-person training on the B-scan Ultrasound, a clinical diagnostic procedure commonly employed in optometry and ophthalmology.

In addition, the study provides a robust, easily implemented methodological framework for the integration of educational technology into in-person classrooms.”

ASCO Student Award in Clinical Ethics

This annual national award, sponsored by Alcon, is available to optometry students during any point of their professional program at an ASCO-affiliated school or college of optometry in the United States and Canada. The application consists of an essay of up to 1,500 words describing any one of the following scenarios:

  1. A patient based case-study that the student encountered as part of their clinical learning experience.
  2. A research based case scenario that the student has encountered during their clinical or didactic learning experience.
  3. A professional ethics based scenario that the student has encountered during their clinical or didactic learning.

ASCO and the Ethics Educators SIG announce Mr. Tam Tran as the winner of the 2021 Student Award in Clinical Ethics. This annual national award provides the winner with a $1,000 award check and an acrylic engraved plaque.

Mr. Tran is a 2021 graduate of the Illinois College of Optometry. His winning essay, The Ethical Muddle of Sick Notes: Can We Do Better? will be featured in an upcoming issue of ASCO’s Journal, Optometric Education.

“Many thanks to ASCO for selecting me as the recipient of 2021 Student Award in Clinical Ethics. It is my great honor,” says Tran. “As we transition from students to independent optometrists, we realize that practicing optometry in clinic is more complicated than solving technical cases in class, and we often find ourselves in ethical dilemmas. Thank you ASCO for providing this platform for optometry students to share our clinical experience and thoughts on navigating tough ethical situations. I would be extremely elated if my essay could contribute to optimizing the use of sick notes to better assist the workplace in supporting employees during and after sickness.”

All award winners will be acknowledged during ASCO’s virtual Annual Business Meeting on June 16, 2021. ASCO’s Annual Meeting is open to all who wish to attend. Register for the meeting here. Registrants will receive a link to attend the meeting soon after.



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