Jill and George Mertz Fellowship

Background - A few words about Jill and George Mertz

The Jill and George Mertz Fellowship is a biennial $30,000 award celebrating former American Optometric Foundation President George Mertz and his wife Jill. Both passed away too soon. Jill’s estate and George’s colleagues created a substantial fund to honor their commitment to optometry and education. George once stated "The training of qualified educator(s)/researchers is critical to the bright future we all want for optometry.  Those who choose academic careers in optometry have less than half the lifetime earning power of those who enter most of the various modes of optometric practice.  The few who sacrifice personal gain for the good of the profession in this way are deserving of our gratitude and support.  While the AOF has a distinguished record of support for post-graduate optometric education through Ezell Fellowships and other programs, there is still a need to do much more."

Eligibility and Award

The Jill and George Mertz Fellowship is designed to favor an individual who has recently completed his/her optometric or vision science training or someone in the middle of a successful career.

Jill and George both traveled internationally and valued the experience. AOF shares in this idea of international cultural exchange so therefore looks forward to receiving innovative and exciting applications to this program.

A stipend of $30,000* (U.S. dollars) is to be awarded in 2015 (for the recipient via AOF funds issued to the host institution) in support of travel and study for a set period at another institution of no less than one academic quarter or semester.

Hosts insitutions are encouraged to supplement or match any AOF award funds to encourage that the best rising optometric leaders, like George Mertz, be chosen to join and learn from their outstanding team of academic and research leaders. This philosophy in turn will allow the chosen recipient to better expand their portfolio of experience.

Note: This program is not designed to merely extend a period of study or employment, or include major equipment purchases for an institution.


An application submission should meet the following criteria:

  • Promotion of an exchange of educational or scientific methodologies
  • Potential for outcomes not otherwise possible by encouraging a diversity of experience and thinking

The applicant must be either:

  • a U.S., Puerto Rico, or Canadian citizen (or permanent resident) who will conduct his/her fellowship outside North America; or
  • a foreign national from a recognized optometric academic institution who will conduct his/her fellowship in North America


New Program Deadline is January 29, 2016

Applications must begin with a cover letter consisting of full contact information including how the applicant's degree should appear in reports and or news items and full contact information for the host administrator and institution.

The application has two key components:

  1. The applicant must submit a two-page description of how the Mertz Fellowship will be used, the exceptional opportunity that it will provide, and the impact it will have on the applicant's career. The period of the Fellowship is not fixed, but must be at least six months in duration and the travel taken within one year of award announcement. A curriculum vitae of no more than three pages should accompany the application.
  2. The proposed host institution must submit a letter of support and a budget* describing how the Mertz Fellowship funds will be used. The institution may match or supplement the Fellowship to increase the value of the experience. The award will be made to the host institution. The AOF is a non-profit organization and does not supply any indirect costs associated with this or any other of it's programs.

Applications should be emailed to AOF@aaoptom.org and include the words “Mertz Fellowship (+applicant last name)” in the subject line of the email. Attachments should be saved as pdfs with the title "(applicant last name) Mertz 2015."

Review Procedures

A committee convened by the American Optometric Foundation will review all Mertz Fellowship applications and send its recommendations to the AOF Board which approves the final decision and administers the Mertz Fellowships. Award announcement is planned for September and funds will be distributed prior to Academy 2015 New Orleans U.S. currency.

Program Notes

Please note: the submission window for this program opens September 20th and ends at midnight on November 20th, 2015. Prior to window open, changes may occur to the criteria and guidelines for submission to this program.  Applicants are strongly encouraged to visit this program page during the open window to ensure they receive all details needed to apply.

In accepting a Mertz Fellowship, the recipient agrees to:

  • Submit a one-page progress report after six months of completion of award study period.
  • Notify AOF of changes in recipient's ability to complete the fellowship, contact information, or institution changes.
  • Acknowledge the AOF in written and oral presentations (articles, abstracts, or research conducted) as a result of the Mertz Fellowship.
  • Attend the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Optometry including the AOF Celebration Luncheon Academy 2016 Anaheim (*Host institution must include $750 in travel funds to annual meeting as part of budget request). Funds used to travel automatically disqualifies indvidual from receiving any additional travel awards through other AAO/AOF programs.

All submissions will receive a confirmation email within 3 business days of receipt. The applicant will receive an additional message only if the application is incomplete.

On acceptance of an award recipients agree to allow the AOF to publish their name, image, institution information, and any statement or quote provided by the recipient. These may appear in a variety of media formats that will announce and promote the program including, but not limited to, the AOF annual report, website, and any AOF or American Academy of Optometry Annual Meeting promotional materials.

For further information, contact:
Tracy Kitts
Foundation Coordinator
American Optometric Foundation


ORLANDO, FL (April 17, 2013) - The American Optometric Foundation (AOF) is excited to be able to present the inaugural Jill and George Mertz Fellowship to Joel De Melo Bambamba, an optometry graduate from and faculty member of the Universidade Lurio School of Optometry in Mozambique. Mr. Bambamba is planning to carry out his Fellowship at the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico in order to further develop his clinical and didactic teaching skills and to gain advanced knowledge of North American Doctor of Optometry programs. He hopes to share the learning experiences acquired during the Fellowship program with the UniLurio School of Optometry and other Schools of Optometry in both Africa and Latin America. AOF President Kathy Dumbleton said, “We congratulate Mr. Bambamba on this award and look forward to meeting him at Academy 2013 Seattle in October. We believe that this will be a transformative experience for him.”