History and Purpose

The American Academy of Optometry portends a leadership culture.  At the Academy annual meeting, we highlight and encourage attendance at our introductory as well as advanced leadership training courses.  The Merton C. Flom Leadership Insight© Program at the Academy annual meeting is often regarded as the leading courses in the profession to further our knowledge of leadership fundamentals and principles. This student travel fellowship includes paid attendance to one of the two leadership classes.

Dr. Bence was the 46th President of the American Academy of Optometry.  He was past Chair of the Lectures and Workshops committee and Chair and Program Chair of the previous Disease Section.  He participated in the Leadership InSight program while at the Academy annual meeting in 1998.  He also served as President of the Optometric Physicians of Washington, the state optometry association, in 2002-2003.  He is a partner and Director of Optometry at Northwest Eye Surgeons, co-management medical and surgical centers in the Puget Sound area of Washington State.


The fellowship is available to third or fourth year students and residents enrolled in an accredited optometry school. They must be in good academic standing and see themselves as leaders in their future careers in private practice. These fellowships are designed to encourage optometry students to attend key national meetings and contribute to the body of knowledge within the field. 

Eligibility and Application

The submission window opens July 23, 2018 and closes Aug 13, 2018.

  • Must be a 3rd or 4th year student or resident
  • Plans to pursue a career in private practice
  • Must be a member of the American Academy of Optometry

Fellowship Requirements

  • Write an essay (about 500 words) describing any leadership experience that you have acquired to date, and outline how you plan to use this experience as you assume future leadership roles in our profession, your practice, and your community.

  • Two letters of recommendation from Fellows in good standing, at least one being a faculty member of their school

Materials MUST be submitted online by the deadline date (shown above) using the online submission tool. Applications that remain incomplete after the deadline date will not be evaluated. 

Fellowship Notes

Admission to attend the Fundamentals of Leadership Part I: What Is Leadership? course is part of the fellowship. 

Although students can apply to attend a meeting for which they have previously been awarded a travel fellowship, priority may be given to first-time awardees.

It is the standard policy of the AAOF that program recipients who receive as part of their award, a travel stipend to attend an event, cannot receive a second or duplicate travel stipend from the Foundation or its affiliate, the AAO.

Applicants will be notified of the committee’s decision prior to the Academy annual meeting. Recipients are required to attend the AAOF Celebration Luncheon on Saturday, November 10, 2018 from 11 AM to 1:30 PM where they will receive their check.

All award recipients by application and acceptance of an award agree to allow the AAOF and/or the sponsor of the program to which they applied 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 and/or sponsor annual report, website, annual meeting promotional materials.

Please direct all eligibility and application questions regarding the AAOF Student Travel Fellowships to: 
Christina Velasquez, Program Manager, Education at Christinav@aaoptom.org


2018 is the inaugural year this STF will be awarded.


Brett G. Bence, OD, FAAO