O.D. Scene: Executive members of the AAO


O.D. Scene


O.D. Scene creator, writer and editor Jack Schaeffer, O.D.

The American Academy of Optometry (AAO), founded in 1922, stands as an organization with the sole purpose of advancing the art and science of practicing optometry. As I quote their website, they are “dedicated to the highest standards of optometric practice through clinical care, education or research.”

The AAO has an exemplary leadership group. Through the next two months, we will be introducing you to their officers and “who” they are.

On a personal note, I was awarded my fellowship into the Academy this past year in Seattle. This was a major milestone in my career as an optometrist. It was a great feeling when I received my Certificate of Membership and was joined by my colleagues and friends. I will always cherish that moment.

Key Opinion Leaders Weigh in…

Bernard J. Dolan, O.D., M.S., F.A.A.O., AAO president; Brett G. Bence, O.D., F.A.A.O., president-elect; Karla Zadnik, O.D., Ph.D., AAO immediate past-president; and Joseph P. Shovlin, O.D., F.A.A.O., secretary treasurer.

Q: Why did you decide to become an optometrist?

B.D.: Optometry combined my academic interest in the anatomy and function of the visual system with my desire to provide care to individuals within a healthcare profession.

The Dolan family at the 2013 AAO Meeting in Seattle.

B.B.: It was the combined influence of a dedicated father, who was a caring and respected orthopedic surgeon, and my hometown optometrist, who was an outstanding doctor, community leader and individual.

K.Z.: My paternal grandfather, William M. Henry, was an optometrist who got his degree from the Needles Institute in 1920. He died when I was 14 years old, and I declared then that I wanted to be an optometrist.

J.S.: I loved the idea of caring for patients who have visual needs and, after observing, was always fascinated by our family optometrist’s daily routine.

Q: Can you describe your optometry practice?

B.D.: I am the clinical educator at the San Francisco VA Medical Center, teaching optometry residents and students and overseeing eye care for our veterans.

The Bence family at a farm they co-own with other family members in Nebraska.

B.B.: Our practice is comprised of six medical offices — four with attached surgical centers. We focus on specialty medical and surgical eye care and have a dedicated professional staff of O.D.s and M.D.s. We advocate for patients obtaining primary eye care services, including post-surgical co-management, with community doctors of optometry.

The Zadnik family at the 2010 AAO banquet in San Francisco.

K.Z.: I’m the associate dean at The Ohio State University College of Optometry.

J.S.: I practice with a very talented group of ophthalmologists, optometrists and opticians. We’re a group of 32 optometrists and ophthalmologists, with 18 locations and a referral center that serves the northeastern part of Pennsylvania.

Q: Why should an optometrist join the AAO?

B.D.: The Academy provides an optometrist with lifelong learning through high-quality education, symposia on current clinical topics and new information in the scientific program papers and posters at our annual meeting. The Academy’s journal, Optometry & Vision Science, has clinically relevant special topics issues and now provides the optometrist with online clinical case reports with clinical pearls. In addition, the Academy provides camaraderie and fellowship.

Dr. Dolan with fellow O.D.s at a San Francisco Giants game.

B.B.: To become a better optometrist. Fellowship in the Academy opens the door to many unique opportunities for professional growth: to learn from and share views with leading educators, to personally interact with some of our brightest minds in vision research, to network with other providers who may have similar practice-related management issues, to enjoy lifelong friendships and to give back to the profession by supporting research through the Academy’s Foundation.

K.Z.: . . . A true profession needs an underpinning of its own research, and the Academy provides that: today’s research, tomorrow’s practice.

Dr. Zadnik wore this “OSU vs. Cal.” t-shirt at a 2011 game.

J.S.: Fellowship provides an avenue for professional growth, including interacting with colleagues who share common interests. I especially love the Diplomate program. The Academy continues to always revive my professional curiosity.

Q: Why are you so involved in the AAO?

B.D.: . . . I want to support and influence the success of our Academy. I was fortunate to be elected to the Board of Directors and given the opportunity to serve.

B.B.: The Academy has always appealed to a personal interest to advance education in the profession. This interest is combined with a belief that credible, clinical and scientific research is important for defining optometric practice, areas also important to the Academy and personally motivating.

K.Z.: I attended my first Academy meeting in 1983 in Houston. I knew it was the organization for me, literally almost from my first moment there. In 1989, when I was a graduate student, I was given the opportunity to join the Research Committee and then to chair it soon after that, which I did for a decade. Key members of that Committee were mentors and peers, and they cemented my connection to the AAO.

Dr. Shovlin with wife and best friend Lisa.

J.S.: From my first Academy encounter and annual meeting, my mentors stressed the value of giving back to the profession and the Academy. I initially became quite involved in the Section on Cornea and Contact Lenses (now Section on Cornea, Contact Lenses and Refractive Technologies) and this served as a fantastic opportunity to continue in leadership at the Board level.

Q: What is your most cherished moment as an Academy officer?

B.D.: . . . Individually greeting each of the new Fellows at our Fellowship Banquet in Seattle, which included Dr. Jack Schaeffer.

B.B.: . . . Passing a motion to incorporate special interest groups into the Academy was a ground-breaking and memorable moment that we hope provides greater opportunity for members to become more involved in these areas of our profession.

K.Z.: There are two, both when I was president. I took office in 2010 in San Francisco. As I looked out over the attendees at the banquet, which included my family and friends at the front of the room, I was overcome with the sense that everything that mattered to me in the world was in that place at that time, with me. Two years later, in Phoenix, I came to the meeting with breast cancer, having undergone a lumpectomy just two weeks before the meeting. The support I felt at that meeting, including pink ribbon lapel pins on the Scientific Program Committee members and sparkly pink ribbon “tattoos” on the women at the banquet, was a “life moment.”

The Bence family (from L to R): Brett, Robin, Jared and Teryn at Lake Chelan in Washington State.

J.S.: For me, it happens every year at the annual meeting. The education, camaraderie and especially seeing the joy and sense of accomplishment for those who receive fellowship makes it all so meaningful.

Q: What do you think is the biggest misconception O.D.s have about the AAO? How would you respond?

B.D.: That the Academy is only for academics or those in clinical teaching. It was established by private-practice optometrists who, even today, are the largest membership.

B.B.: I believe a misconception among some is that we are a selective organization that prefers the membership of in-dividuals in optometric education, research and leading clinician-educators. . . . Membership is welcomed and unbiased for any optometrist, vision scientist, administrator, librarian or other professional involved in optometry. In fact, more than 85% of our members are involved directly with patient care, and a majority are practitioners.

K.Z.: That it’s elitist and only for academics. The AAO is for any optometrist who wants to be excellent.

J.S.: Many O.D.s feel this is strictly a group for researchers. Although research is a very important part of our mission, the majority of our members are clinicians seeing patients like I do every day.

Q: What is your prediction for the future of the optometric profession?

B.D.: I foresee a profession that has overcome the present challenges of reimbursement for professional services.

B.B.: My crystal ball shows increased uniformity of licensing privileges between states, improved interprofessional communication and collaboration with our medical colleagues, including research and practice guidelines initiatives, greater access for our students and residents in medical training facilities and increased recognition worldwide of the benefits of comprehensive primary-care optometric services.

Dickens, the Shovlin’s “most pampered child.”

Dr. Zadnik speaking at the 2011 AAO meeting.

K.Z.: It’s so bright, we’ll have to wear shades. Our valuable role in the healthcare system will become universally recognized by the year 2020.

J.S.: I predict the future is extremely bright. Optometry has been a fabulous career for me, and I know the opportunities I have been grateful for will continue for new graduates.

Q: What person living or dead would you like to hear speak and why?

B.D.: My great grandmother, Mary McDermott, so she could tell me about her life in Ireland, her travel across the Atlantic and why she chose San Francisco as her destination.

B.B.: I probably would choose Abraham Lincoln. If you read Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, 2006), you come to appreciate the depth of character, which underpinned the painstaking decisions he was forced to make. If we had a time machine, it would be an extraordinary opportunity to go back in time and hear him speak.

K.Z.: Horribly trite answer: My father. I can’t remember the sound of his voice.

J.S.: John F. Kennedy was so charismatic. I had a chance to hear him speak and actually had the opportunity to shake his hand when I was 7 years old (months before he died).

Q: If you could have dinner with anyone living or deceased, who would it be and why?

B.D.: Abraham Lincoln to have a conversation about his approaches to the challenging issues he faced during his administration and to enjoy his humor and humility.

B.B.: My father passed away roughly 10 years ago. I would choose him. He was a reserved person, yet an unquestionable role model for his children and others.

K.Z.: I’d like my Ph.D. advisor, past-president of the AAO and editor of Optometry & Vision Science to co-host a dinner that included optometrists Mert Flom and Irv Borish.

J.S.: Otto Wichterle, who invented the soft lens. I would love to hear the complete history of the material and how it was brought to market.

Dr. Dolan with family at America’s Cup on the San Francisco Bay.

Q: Who are the members of your family, and what do you like to do for fun?

B.D.: I have been happily married to Jane for 32 years, who is a retired physical therapist. Our daughter, Christina, is a graduate of Arizona State University who worked for five years for the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center in Phoenix and is presently a graduate student studying speech pathology at California State University, East Bay. Our son, Greg, is a graduate of University of California, Santa Barbara, and is completing his Ph.D in biochemistry at University of California, San Diego. For fun, I enjoy genealogy — I have traced my wife’s family back to the 1500s in a village in Germany — and meet and visit people from other counties. On a recent trip to Ireland, I had wonderful visits with both paternal and maternal distant cousins.

Lisa, Ryan and Erin Shovlin showing their support for sunwear.

B.B.: My wife, Robin, has a MS degree in exercise physiology and teaches K-5 PE. Our son, Jared, is a senior business major in finance with a minor in economics at Western Washington University. Teryn, our youngest, is a junior English major and linguistics minor at UCLA. For fun, I like to travel as a family abroad, exercising, and reading.

K.Z.: I have been married to Kurt Zadnik, a horticulturist by training and managing editor of Optometry & Vision Science since 1996, for 35 years. We have two daughters, Andra, 28, and Nina Marie, 23. For fun, I am a cyclist, I make quilts, I recently took up art journaling — primarily featuring little watercolor paintings and inspirational, snarky quotations — and I like mentoring others.

J.S.: I have a very understanding wife and best friend, Lisa, and two wonderful children. Erin attended Brown University, did a two-year program with “Teach for America” and now works for the U.S. Department of Education. Ryan completes law school at Temple (James E. Beasley School of Law) University in May and hopes to practice intellectual property law, as his grandfather did. Our most pampered child is our golden retriever, Dickens. For fun, I enjoy attending sporting events, spending time with family, and I spend a good deal of time on profession-related items.

Q: What is your favorite movie, book, band and adult beverage?

B.B.: Movie: The Sting; Book: fiction, biographies, and investment books; Band: Pink Floyd; Adult beverage of choice: Widmer Hefeweizen with a slice of lemon.

B.D.: Movie: Doctor Zhivago; Book: Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, 2006), Band: The Beatles; Adult beverage of choice: Beer.

J.S.: Movie: Casino Royale (James Bond 2006); Book: 1776 (Holt McDougal; 1st edition, 2006); Band: Dave Mathews Band; Adult beverage of choice: Any red wine.

K.Z.: Movie: Body Heat; Book: We Need to Talk about Kevin (Harper Perennial; Mti Rep edition, 2011); Band: Doobie Brothers; Adult beverage of choice: Triple Eight Vodka martini, extra dirty, with blue cheese olives.

The Bence family in Barcelona, Spain.