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Optometry College Receives Record Gift

The Mark W. Franks and Mary Franks Scholarship and Loan Fund is valued at $1.5 million.

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The Southern College of Optometry has received a $1.5 million gift, the largest in its history.

An agreement between the Optometry Association of Louisiana and SCO resulted in the transfer of a trust to SCO, according to a press release from the college. The gift was made possible by the estate of the late Dr. Mark W. Franks, a 1955 SCO graduate and longtime Louisiana optometrist.

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“Southern College of Optometry is grateful to the Optometry Association of Louisiana and the memory of Dr. Franks and his wife in establishing this fund,” said Dr. Lewis Reich, SCO president. “Dr. Franks was a self-made man who came to Memphis for his optometric education back in the early 1950s. The education he received at SCO enabled him to practice optometry in Winnsboro, Louisiana until his death in 1989, so the collaboration on this gift is a fitting tribute to the memory of a remarkable SCO graduate.”

Following his death in 1989, Franks and his wife, Mary, bequeathed about $500,000 to the Optometry Association of Louisiana to establish a low interest loan trust for Louisiana optometry students who attended SCO. After several years of legal and financial transactions to establish the trust, it came to fruition in 2000, at which time the college agreed to help administer the loan program with oversight from the Optometry Association of Louisiana.

To expand upon the impact envisioned by Franks more than 30 years ago, this year an agreement was reached to donate the existing trust fund and its control to SCO to form the Mark W. Franks and Mary Franks Scholarship and Loan Fund. The fund’s total current value is about $1.5 million, making it the largest bequeathment gift in the college’s 87-year history.

CO Board of Trustees Chair Dr. James Sandefur, a 1965 SCO graduate, also serves as the OAL’s executive director and joined Reich in making the announcement at the college’s reception for alumni and friends during SECO International’s New Orleans convention for 6,000 optometric professionals from around the world.

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“Louisiana is one of the nation’s most forward-thinking states when it comes to the practice of optometry and the scope of our profession, so this gift underscores our state’s commitment to recruiting the best and brightest optometry students to join our profession and follow in the tradition of Dr. Mark Franks,” Sandefur said.

“As Board Chair of SCO and as Executive Director of the OAL, I know first-hand that Dr. Franks loved optometry, Louisiana, and knew how important it was to give back to his profession so future optometric physicians could follow in his footsteps.”

The New Orleans announcement paid tribute to Franks, who was born March 17, 1922, in Owasso, OK. After working in construction, he served his country in World War II and pursued an engineering degree before switching to optometry. He worked his way through SCO by serving as a draftsman on a Memphis railroad yard. Memories of Franks were also provided by his practice’s longtime partner, Dr. W.E. Marionneaux, a 1969 SCO graduate.

Since launching in 2014, INVISION has won 21 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INVISION's editors at editor@invisionmag.com.

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Shopko Optical Acquisition Completed; 80 Stores to Become Freestanding Locations

The previous owner filed for bankruptcy.

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GREEN BAY, WI — Monarch Alternative Capital LP announced the completion of its previously announced acquisition of Shopko Optical.

The company expects to relocate nearly 80 of its current locations housed inside Shopko stores to freestanding locations, according to a press release. Shopko is a retail chain that recently announced plans to wind down its operations.

“We are excited to welcome Shopko Optical into our portfolio and to invest in the company’s growth as we move forward with our strategy,” said Andrew Herenstein, co-founder and managing principal of Monarch. “Monarch has a long, successful history of investing in great companies undergoing transitions and working alongside their leadership teams to build strong, vibrant businesses of the future.”

Jim Eisen, former president of Visionworks, is working as an operating partner with Monarch alongside the Shopko Optical team.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to join the Shopko Optical team,” Eisen said. “We are committed to continuing to provide quality patient care and outstanding service that our affiliated doctors of optometry and opticians have provided for over 40 years. It is an exciting time to be part of the Shopko Optical family.”

Over the course of 2019, Shopko Optical expects to relocate approximately 80 stores, while continuing to serve patients and customers in their existing locations during the transition.

“As we move forward with our plans to operate 80 freestanding optical locations, we continue to be dedicated to our patients, doctors, opticians and the communities we serve,” said Russ Steinhorst, CEO of Shopko. “We encourage anyone with questions to please get in touch with our team. We appreciate the continued patronage of our patients and their understanding during what we hope to be a continued smooth transition.”

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FDA Approves Drug for Diabetic Eye Disease

About 8 million people live with diabetic retinopathy.

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TARRYTOWN, NY — Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Eylea Injection to treat all stages of diabetic retinopathy.

“Millions of people have been robbed of their vision due to the progression of diabetic retinopathy,” said Dr. David Brown, an investigator for the PANORAMA trial and director of research at Retina Consultants of Houston. “The prevention of worsening diabetic retinopathy with EYLEA provides a compelling rationale for early treatment of patients with this disease, particularly since eyes dosed with EYLEA as infrequently as every 16 weeks showed significant improvements in the pivotal PANORAMA trial.”

Approximately 8 million people live with diabetic retinopathy, a complication of diabetes characterized by damage to the blood vessels in the retina. The disease generally starts as non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy and often has no warning signs or symptoms.

Over time, non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy often progresses to proliferative diabetic retinopathy, a stage in which abnormal blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina and into the vitreous cavity, potentially causing severe vision loss.

“With today’s FDA approval, EYLEA has once again set a high bar for the treatment of diabetic eye diseases,” said Dr. George D. Yancopoulos, president and chief scientific officer at Regeneron.

“The PANORAMA trial showed that by one year 20% of untreated patients developed proliferative diabetic eye disease, and EYLEA reduced this risk by 85% to 88% when administered using an every 16-week or eight-week dosing regimen, respectively. In fact, 80% of patients who received the EYLEA eight-week dosing regimen had significant improvement in their diabetic retinopathy.”

Eylea (aflibercept) is the only vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) inhibitor approved with two dosing options for diabetic retinopathy, allowing doctors to customize treatment to patients’ needs, according to a press release.

In diabetic retinopathy, Eylea may be dosed every eight weeks following five initial monthly injections, or every four weeks.

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Longtime AOA Leader and Volunteer Dies at Age 62

She was a ‘dedicated, driven leader for the profession of optometry.’

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Beth Kneib, an optometrist who spent years as a leader and volunteer with the American Optometric Association, has died.

She was 62, AOA reports.

“Beth was a dedicated, driven leader for the profession of optometry. Beth was a passionate advocate for patients and for quality improvement in the field of optometry,” said AOA President Samuel D. Pierce, OD. “She will truly be missed by all her colleagues here at the AOA. Our heart goes out to her family.”

Beginning in 2011, Kneib held leadership roles in the following AOA initiatives and committees: Optometric Registry; Ophthalmic Standards; Ethics and Values; New Technology; Community Health Programs, including InfantSEE, Healthy Eyes Healthy People and VISION USA. Most recently, she served as director of the AOA Clinical Resources Group, including the AOA Council on Research, Health Promotions Committee, and development, management and production of the AOA’s monumental, evidence-based clinical practice guidelines.

“The guidelines were her passion and a core element of her professional work,” Andrew Morgenstern, OD, AOA consultant. “The clinical guidelines are not only a great legacy that Beth will live on by and leave behind, but also one of the greatest tools that doctors of optometry have to drive evidence-based clinical practice for the benefit of our patients for many years to come.”

Prior to her work with the AOA, Kneib served for more than 20 years on numerous committees for professional organizations and continued to promote educational initiatives for continuous quality improvement. She was a member of the Agency for Quality Alliance Steering Group, overseeing AQA activities, strategic planning and governance structure.

Kneib graduated from the Southern California College of Optometry and completed her residency in hospital-based ocular disease at the American Lake Veterans Administration Medical Center. She worked in hospital-based services, surgical co-management centers, surgical quality assurance, and directed professional relations programs for both privately and publicly owned companies. She developed and delivered training materials and programs for optometrists throughout the country and served as an adjunct faculty member to three optometric colleges and universities.

Kneib was a true trailblazer in the profession. In 1985, she was the first American Optometric Student Association female president leading the first AOSA all-women executive council.

“As a person so proud of and focused on her family, a skilled and accomplished doctor, a highly respected health industry executive, a longtime AOA volunteer and, of course, cherished staff leader, and an extraordinarily caring person, Beth touched, aided, healed and improved many, many lives,” said AOA Executive Director Jon Hymes. “Her resilience, great courage and undiminished sense of humor throughout the time of her illness will remain a testament to her admirable strength and powerful spirit.”

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