President's Calling - The Value of a Smile

Published June 24, 2020

The Value of a Smile

Dear Academy Membership,

We are returning to our same offices, but everything has changed. There are circles on the floor, six feet apart; there are chairs marked DO NOT SIT HERE; there are greeters at the door asking questions, taking temperatures. People are waiting in cars for the phone call that they can come in; there are family members sent away to reduce volume in the waiting room. Voices are muffled and hushed. There is a funeral solemnity to it all.
What I miss most are the smiles, the smirks, the grins, the upturned corners. The definition of a smile does not include its import: “to form one's features into a pleased, kind, or amused expression, typically with the corners of the mouth turned up and the front teeth exposed.” The mechanics of a smile are the peculiar dance of the zygomatic major and the orbicularis oculi muscles, stimulated by what; a kiss, a song, a friend passing in the street? The celebrated smile is the Duchenne, the one that crinkles the eyes, the one that shows despite the mask. Think Julia Roberts and Louis Armstrong.
There has been much ado about smiles over the years. How many words have been written about the Mona Lisa? How many dentists are whitening how many teeth? How many songs have broken our hearts?
We all have a favorite smile. Think of the first time a baby smiles, that open joy, that sweet reward. Everyone smiled back at Robin Williams. Then there is my favorite, Bobby Clarke's Stanley Cup-winning toothless grin.
There are no smiles observable in the clinic anymore, only eyes and furrowed foreheads. We have underestimated the value of a smile.
However, here at the Academy, we are smiling. Here at the midpoint of an extraordinary year, in the middle of a pandemic, this Academy is full of smiles. We are smiling at the committees that carry on through the unknown world of in-person versus online meetings. Smiling at the Sections and SIGs who prepare symposia and research projects, think about business meetings and the transition of power. Smiling at the staff who have shifted to working at home, doing double duty creating online learning. Smiling at the strategic plan implementation committee for plowing ahead with concepts created long ago, when we sat together in rooms, sharing, and inspired.
I would like to give all Academy members another reason to smile this year, as one of our greats is acknowledged. Surely we all smile when we recall our Annual Meetings. I cannot think of one without seeing the image of Tony Adams, surrounded by students, sipping red wine at the bar, raising serious questions from the audience. Throughout his celebrated career in vision science research and academia, Tony has remained a tireless supporter of our Academy. Over the past 50 years, Tony has twice served on the Research Committee, acting as its Chair in two different decades. He was appointed twice to the Editorial Board of the Academy’s journal and was its Editor in Chief for eleven years. Tony was a member of the Academy Board of Directors culminating in his Presidency from 1999 to 2000. He also served on the Board of Directors and was a highly successful President of our Foundation.
Since 1960, the Academy has given the Eminent Service Award to those persons who have rendered extraordinary and distinguished long-term service to the Academy. In recognition of a lifetime of contributions, the American Academy of Optometry Foundation and the Academy are excited to announce that this recognition is now named the Tony Adams Eminent Service Award. I know that he is smiling.

Our Foundation is our foundation:
Last month I highlighted a new research program to stimulate novel exploratory projects in specific areas of optometric interest through pilot funding. To inspire innovative thinking, our Foundation will be sponsoring a “Bright Ideas” competition. Ideas will be submitted, peer reviewed and presented to a panel of judges. Three winners will receive cash awards to provide seed development funding to move their projects to the next step. Another great example that your support of the Foundation truly makes a difference.

Barbara Caffery, OD, PhD, FAAO