History and Purpose

The Jill and George Mertz Scholarship is a biennial $30,000 award celebrating former American Academy of Optometry 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 AAOF 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."


The Jill and George Mertz Scholarship 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. AAOF shares in this idea of international cultural exchange so therefore looks forward to receiving innovative and exciting applications to this fellowship.

Eligibility and Application

The submission window opens Dec 1, 2017 and closes March 30, 2018.

A stipend of $30,000* (U.S. dollars) is to be awarded in 2018 (for the recipient via AAOF 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.

The host's institution is encouraged to supplement or match any AAOF 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 scholarship 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

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 scholarship 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 AAOF 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 AAOF@aaoptom.org and include the words “Mertz Scholarship (applicant last name)” in the subject line of the email. Attachments should be saved as pdfs with the title "(applicant last name) Mertz 2018."

Review Procedures

A committee convened by the American Academy of Optometry Foundation will review all Mertz Scholarship applications and send its recommendations to the AAOF Board which approves the final decision and administers the Mertz Scholarship. Award announcement is planned for September and funds will be distributed prior to Academy 2018 San Antonio in U.S. currency.

Program Notes

Please note: 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 Scholarship, the recipient agrees to:

  • Submit a one-page progress report after six months of completion of award study period.
  • Notify AAOF of changes in recipient's ability to complete the fellowship, contact information, or institution changes.
  • Acknowledge the AAOF in written and oral presentations (articles, abstracts, or research conducted) as a result of the Mertz Scholarship.
  • Attend the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Optometry including the AAOF Celebration Luncheon Academy 2018 San Antonio
  • *Host institution must include $750 in travel funds to annual meeting as part of budget request. Funds used for travel automatically disqualifies individual from receiving any additional travel awards through other AAO/AAOF 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 AAOF 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 AAOF annual report, website, and any AAOF or American Academy of Optometry Annual Meeting promotional materials.

For further information, contact:
Jennifer Rubin, Foundation Program Manager
American Academy of Optometry Foundation



2018:  Vinh D. Vu, OD
            Hanoi Medical Center, Vietnam
            Brien Holden Institute

2016:  Pauline Kang, PhD, FAAO
            University of New South Wales
            School of Optometry and Vision Science

2013:   Joel de Melo Bambamba
            Universidade Lurio, Mozambique Fellowship
            Inter-American University of Puerto Rico School of Optometry

Photo Credit: National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health (NEI/NIH)
Vinh Vu- Mertz

2018 Mertz Fellowship recipient
Vinh Vu, OD

Jill and George Mertz
Jill and George Mertz