Article Date: 10/1/2009

Fellowship of The Profession
reflections
THE HUMAN SIDE OF OPTOMETRY

Fellowship of The Profession

A fellowship program for North American optometry students has a beneficial ripple effect for the profession.

MARK A. BULLIMORE, M.C.OPTOM., PH.D., F.A.A.O. COLUMBUS, OHIO

For the past four years, it has been my privilege to serve as president of the American Optometric Foundation (AOF) (www.aaopt.org/aof/about/) — an American Academy of Optometry (AAO) affiliate. This volunteer activity has required hard work and offered little glamour. And yet, it's been very gratifying to see that the efforts of my colleagues and I to carry on the AOF's mission of “upholding, broadening, fostering, promoting and aiding of optometric education; the profession of optometry and its practitioners” has been rewarded — especially with regard to the AOF-Carl Zeiss Fellowship program.

Joining forces

Early in my term, the Carl Zeiss Vision leadership approached me. The company's powers that be said it was interested in fostering the next generation of leaders in independent optometry. Further, they said the company wanted to work with the AOF to accomplish this, as it was impressed by the ethos of the AOF and AAO. From there, the AOF and Carl Zeiss Vision developed the AOF-Carl Zeiss Vision Fellowship program. The AOF designed the application process and criteria, contacted the schools and colleges, and we were off!

Attracting talent

The Fellowship's purpose is to encourage optometry students to pursue full-time careers in independent practice and optometric leadership. It gives one $5,000 award to one third-year student from each of the schools and colleges of optometry in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Thus, 19 students receive the Fellowship.

Also, during these recipients' fourth year of optometric education and first year post-graduation, they receive a travel fellowship to attend the annual AAO meeting, where they are formally “introduced” to the Academy.

The award selection committees from all the North American schools and colleges of optometry choose three to five students to submit an application. (The AOF doesn't accept applications directly from students.) An AOF panel of private practice O.D.s, those in leadership positions or both, then review the applications.

Reading the applications, one senses an applicants' maturity, enthusiasm and the respect for the gains made by previous generations of profession leaders. In fact, I know one judge who wanted to hire an applicant on the spot.

The AOF-Carl Zeiss Fellowship recipients pose with (last row) Dr. Bullimore and members of the Carl Zeiss Vision team at the 2008 Annual AAO meeting in Anaheim, Calif.

Signs of success

Although the inaugural class of Fellows graduated just a year ago, there is every reason to believe they are growing into the leaders implied by their résumés. Several are already in private practice, others are completing a veteran's affairs or university-based residency, and at least two Fellows have published scientific papers.

I've been energized by my involvement in this program. Its purpose was to create beneficial ripples in the profession that continue to radiate outward, like a stone dropped in a pond. As the Fellows mature and take on leadership roles in the AAO and in the profession, I know these ripples will continue to spread year after year, fostering the profession and the ocular health of the public. OM


DO YOU HAVE A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE? DISCUSS YOUR STORY WITH JENNIFER KIRBY, SENIOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR OF OPTOMETRIC MANAGEMENT, AT (215) 628-6595, OR JEN.KIRBY@WOLTERSKLUWER.COM. OM OFFERS AN HONORARIUM FOR PUBLISHED SUBMISSIONS.

Optometric Management, Issue: October 2009