President's Calling - Passing the Gavel

Published October 18, 2018

Dear Academy Membership,
Next month in San Antonio, the time-honored tradition of passing the gavel to celebrate new leadership will take place at the Saturday evening banquet. Incoming president, Barbara Caffery, is primed and ready to take charge. The entire board, our executive director and staff are confident in her leadership ability and I know she is eager to serve as your next president. Please join me in congratulating Barbara in San Antonio. For those who can’t be there please drop her a note of encouragement. She has several ambitious goals including comprehensive strategic planning for the early part of 2019. We have invited all the past presidents of the Academy to participate in the planning process in January at our face-to-face board meeting. On a sad note, the board has to say good-bye to immediate past president, Brett Bence, who has been an incredible Academy leader and board member for the past 16 years.
As this is my last President’s Calling, I’d like to thank the many who helped fashion, and impact in so many ways, my term. Thank you to all the volunteers (committee members, Section and SIG leaders, journal editors), our executive director, staff and board members responsible for, by all measures, a very productive past two years!
If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to cite a few of the more significant activities or accomplishments this year. Several of the highlights relate to communication with other organizations (AOA, ASCO, ARBO, WCO, AAOphth), joint programs with the American Academy of Ophthalmology, “Academy Presents” with Heart of America, co-sponsorship of Academy 2019 Orlando with the World Council of Optometry, and a draft CE accreditation MOU with ARBO and ASCO.
This past year, the Academy collaborated with other stakeholders in co-sponsoring the 2018 Focus on Eye Health National Summit with Prevent Blindness and has committed resources for the upcoming FDA workshop, Forum on Laser Based Imaging. We will continue to co-lead with ASCO to explore sub-specialization in optometry.
Our journal, led by editor, Michael Twa, and associate editors Andrew Mick and Don Mutti, continues to move the Academy forward as the impact scores improve with each evaluation. We remain the most cited optometry journal internationally. Feature issues this past year included Glaucoma and Assistive Technology in Vision Impairment. A joint initiative with our journal, Ophthalmic and Physiologic Optics and Clinical and Experimental Optometry provides complimentary access to some of the top recent papers published at
The Academy’s Research Committee, under the capable leadership of Karla Zadnik, held the inaugural Research Academy in Columbus, OH this year with 60 vision researchers, graduate students and health agency officials in attendance. Its primary goal is to share information on how to bring research ideas to fruition. By all measures this first meeting was an incredible success and the Academy looks forward to future meetings.
The website has been revamped for a “cleaner” look and a new on-line learning platform, Academy Online, for additional CE options has been launched. If you haven’t visited the website recently please take the time to view the many valuable resources contained within the platform.
The Academy’s Foundation continues to fund research initiatives at an impressive level and strives to promote eye and vision research in optometry. A record number of applicants will be funded this year! The Foundation’s board is preparing for an ambitious fundraising initiative. We continue to work with AEVR/NAEVR advocating for increased funding for eye and vision research. The Academy will again fund both the Career Development Award (Alexandra Benavente-Perez) and the Clinical Research Award (Ava Bittner) in 2019.
Our meeting attendance trajectory continues to astound. So far, our most recent pace report suggests San Antonio may be our largest meeting ever! That makes the past two meetings our two largest meetings in Academy history. This year promises to be exciting with the inaugural Essilor Student Academic Challenge at Academy Stadium on Thursday evening.
The Board earlier in the year completed a succession plan. The timing was good since we are now beginning a search for a new executive director. The Academy Ethics Committee headed by Bernie Dolan has recently revamped our conflict of interest policy.
These are just a few of the highlights that have taken place the past year and we look forward to continuing productive years in the future. I encourage all members to attend the annual business meetings on Thursday and Friday for a more complete listing of activities and achievements. In addition, this is an election year for new Board members, so please plan to attend.
Serving as your president has been the pinnacle of my career. It’s truly been an incredible honor and pleasure to serve as the Academy’s 47th President. I hope to be a past president that “won’t go away” for many years. My affection for the Academy is an endearing passion and I will continue to hold a strong commitment to our mission.
In Memoriam: Our dear friend, “Uncle” Frank Fontana, passed on earlier this month doing what he did best, serving as an ambassador for optometry. He was attending Vision Expo West in California when stricken ill. Frank was an ardent Academy member and Diplomate in the Section on Cornea & Contact Lenses (now Section on Cornea, Contact Lenses and Refractive Technologies). He will be sorely missed.
Joseph P. Shovlin, OD, FAAO