The American Academy of Optometry Foundation (AAOF) was founded in 1947 for the “upholding, broadening, fostering, promoting and aiding of optometric education; the profession of optometry and its practitioners.” The guiding force behind the creation of the organization was William C. Ezell, OD, of Spartanburg, South Carolina. Based in Orlando, FL, the AAOF is a philanthropic organization devoted to the advancement of optometric education and research. The AAOF is proud to be an affiliate of the American Academy of Optometry (AAO). Today, sources of support for the AAOF include optometrists, corporations, other foundations, state associations, and private citizens interested in vision care. The AAOF's record of achievement is a strong history of dedication to the improved visual welfare of the public.

A Message from Wendy Harrison, President


Wow - what a year this has been! Our first Academy meeting in our homes or offices, is not what anyone expected when we said goodbye to each other in Orlando during the 2019 meeting. However, the American Academy of Optometry Foundation (AAOF) continues to work hard towards advancing our mission and adding new programs to meet our Fellows needs, helping them to continuously improve patient care.

The mission of the Foundation is to develop and provide financial support for optometric research and education in vision and eye health to improve patient clinical care. Thanks to many generous supporters, we are fulfilling our mission in many ways, but there is always more we can do, for which we can use more help!

As this year winds down, the Foundation is gearing up and launching six new programs. These programs are designed to meet the needs of all our donors from private practice to research. The programs provide on-boarding training for new staff in optometry practices; research funds for private practice or academia optometrists; an OD to PhD bridge program which will provide financial assistance for qualifying ODs who wish to pursue their PhD in vision science; a pitch competition for new ideas in which the winning recipient(s) will receive seed funding; a certificate for an OD seeking to add clinical research to their practice; and clinical podcasts recapping new research articles for the busy practitioner to listen to at their convenience. While there is something for everyone we need your help, time, and contributions to bring them to fruition.

Our flagship program continues to be the Ezell Fellowships. This year, we awarded 11 deserving PhD student researchers with this award. Our Ezell Fellows further the profession with their innovative research and new product developments, and they continue to make us proud with all they accomplish.  These 11 researchers join more than 400 Ezell Fellows who lead our profession and our Academy.

While 2020 was not the year we expected, it was still a great year to be a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry and a contributor to the exciting things in development at our Foundation.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the Foundation, or if I can be of any help.

Best regards, and I look forward to seeing you in Boston.

Hopefully in person!

Wendy Harrison, OD, PhD, FAAO
President, American Academy of Optometry Foundation

Photo Credit: National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health (NEI/NIH)

Our Mission Statement

The AAOF is a philanthropic organization that develops and provides financial support for optometric research and education in vision and eye health to improve clinical patient care. The AAOF is organized under Section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service Code. The goals of the AAOF are:

To solicit, receive and invest grants, bequests, donations, and other funds for the purpose of upholding, broadening, fostering, and promoting optometric education and research in vision and eye health;

To provide fellowships at the graduate level to students planning a teaching and/or research career in vision and eye health;

To recognize and honor achievements which further the visual welfare of humanity; and

To foster inter-professional and intra-professional relations and representation with organizations and groups that share common goals.