2020 Annual Report
2020 Focus on Care • Lead • Advance
2018-2023 Strategic Plan: Care • Lead • Advance President’s Message. ........................................................................................................3 At a Glance. .......................................................................................................................4 Student-Centered Experience.........................................................................................6 Academic Excellence......................................................................................................14 Service to Our Patients and Community.....................................................................20 Community and People. ................................................................................................24 Effective Foundational Support . ..................................................................................30 Financials .........................................................................................................................34 Leadership. ......................................................................................................................35
Student-Centered Experience • Enhance the student experience through programs that promote student and alumni success
Service to Our Patients and Community • Deliver unparalleled care to our University Eye Center patients • Provide service to the greater community Effective Foundational Support • Attract the brightest and most motivated students with demonstrated leadership potential • Provide the financial foundation, administrative support and environment to achieve the College’s mission
Academic Excellence • Deliver a dynamic curriculum that engages students and advances contemporary optometry • Grow the graduate and research programs to increase the institutional impact on the advancement of knowledge and to produce leaders in vision research Community and People • Cultivate institutional culture that encourages a sense of community, inclusion, institutional pride, collective purpose and shared responsibility • Promote the growth and development of all members of the College community
2 SUNY Optometry
President’s Message David A. Heath, OD, EdM
2020—“The Year of Vision” has opened our eyes in more ways than imagined. The pandemic and pivotal social and political events that defined 2020 reframed our reality, but made it clear that the SUNY College of Optometry is ready to rise to any challenge. From reinventing how we teach, learn, and work to ensuring the continuity of patient care with telehealth and strict health/safety protocols, every individual within the College stepped beyond their everyday role, joining forces to navigate new challenges and uncertainty, find solutions, fill gaps, and adapt. As a healthcare- focused community, we reaffirmed the value of collaboration and the primacy of our obligation to safeguard public health while embracing a new norm. Beyond the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 also shed light on critical issues of division, disparities, and injustice that continue to impede progress for people of color in our society and indeed, within our profession. This year the College took greater strides to ensure a diverse and dynamic community that is safe, honest, and celebrates the differences of its members. Actions included the formation of the President’s Task Force on Race and Equity, hosting a three-part webinar on Race in Optometry , and hiring a Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging in early 2021. We are determined to be part of the solution by building a diverse, inclusive, and equitable community of care that reflects our growing population. As we reflect on 2020—the Year of Vision and our many achievements, we enter 2021 with renewed vigor and an overwhelming sense of gratitude for our dynamic and dedicated community. The upcoming year marks the College’s 50th anniversary in which we will continue to give thanks to students, alumni, faculty, staff, partners, and patients who make our success possible.
Dr. David A. Heath President
2020 Annual Report 3
AT A GLANCE
97% Class of 2020 National Board Pass Rate
Degrees Awarded: OD PhD OD/MS OD/PhD
Average GPA of entering classes: 3 . 6
OD Applicants (Class of 2024): 426 applicants; 96 enrolled
Enrollment: 409 Students
Female/Male Ratio: 56% 71% : 29%
Students from New York State:
Faculty 33 Part-time faculty
73 Full-time faculty
30 Satellite faculty
170 External adjuncts
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Optometric Center of New York trustees: 21
Residents: 41 Residency Areas: – Cornea and
34 Grants in FY 2019-20
$3.06 MILLION in funding
OCNY Assets: $10.8 MILLION
>240,000 Total Patient Encounters 2,400 Hours of clinical experience for each OD student over four years
Contact Lenses – Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation – Family Practice – Low Vision Rehabilitation – Ocular Disease – Pediatrics – Primary Eye Care – Acquired Brain Injury – Vision Therapy and Rehabilitation – Combined Residency and Graduate Degree
– Primary Care – Advanced Care – Rehabilitation – Social Work Services – Eyewear Center – Community Outreach
50,007 UEC Patient visits FY 2019-20* Out-of-state tuition (2019-20) $51,150 Annual operation budget $33M
In-state tuition (2019-20) $29,820
(MS or PhD) in Vision Science
Scholarships/grants (2019-20) $1.0M
*Decrease in patient visits (~20,000) due to pandemic.
2020 Annual Report 5
Transitions in Training Amid COVID-19
Springtime is typically the final stretch for students of all levels at SUNY Optometry as they complete classes, exams, rotations, and prepare to celebrate becoming practicing doctors. But this year, unlike any other, the journey to professional life for these students along with thousands across the country took an unexpected turn with the invasion of COVID-19. The College quickly transitioned to remote, synchronous learning enabling both students and faculty to remain safely at home. This engaged not only our technology resources, but faculty who had to deliver lectures and clinical training in a new way. Just a few of the ways we enabled the class of 2020 to graduate on time and support our students in their first three years of study included: • Providing laptops, technology resources, and digital library services; • Training faculty to provide remote lectures; • Converting academic, career and mental health counseling services to online platforms;
“Employment options post-graduation is a hot topic among our class. Certainly, those of us not doing a residency are more worried. We know that small business owners are being hit the hardest, so potential employment options are
now on standby.” —Dr. Cledis Ramirez, 2020 Graduate
• Developing case-based clinical training featuring remote access clinical "patients," clinical case seminars, journal clubs, and activities aimed at enhancing clinical skills in the absence of seeing live patients; • Hosting virtual meetings and events with alumni and fellow practitioners to explore practice shifts and emerging trends in optometry as a result of the pandemic.
6 SUNY Optometry
at SUNY College of Optometry said, “It is important to address our students’ concerns about what to expect in the short- and long-term as they enter their careers and prepare them to navigate shifts in traditional practice models as a result of the pandemic.”
Although in-person learning is preferred, the transition to a virtual platform promoted greater acceptance of alternative approaches to training and patient care like telemedicine as a viable tool for optometric practice. Quy Nguyen, OD, Executive Director of Career Planning and Development
12,559 individual exams/quizzes administered remotely via ExamSoft.
More than 1,400 remote lecture hours conducted by faculty.
Over 2,200 in-person clinic hours and 572 lab hours completed safely by students.
2020 Annual Report 7
Class of 2022 Celebrates a Turning Point in Training A traditional rite of passage, the White Coat Ceremony symbolizes the transition of third-year optometric students from didactic instruction and coursework to patient care in the clinic for the next two years of their training.
Before the virtual ceremony held on September 25, members of the class of 2022 were individually pre- recorded receiving their white coats from the University Eye Center clinic area chiefs. The video was shared during the online event with more than 500 people in remote attendance.
“As 2022 prepares to take the clinic by storm, I am so proud of what we have accomplished. The amount of information that we have learned so far has been incredible, and the finish line doesn’t seem so far.” —Julie FeiFei Song, Class of 2022 President
Access the ceremony online by scanning the QR code.
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Commencement 2020: From Classmates to Colleagues The State University of New York (SUNY) College of Optometry hosted a virtual “send-off” for 96 graduating members of the Class of 2020 on Thursday, May 21. The newly minted Doctors of Optometry represent the 46th group of students to become alumni of the College which opened its doors in 1971.
The SUNY College of Optometry Class of 2020 features a diverse group of students hailing from various socioeconomic backgrounds and regions, with unique stories to tell, yet all with the common goal of improving quality of life for others. In fact, as students they received the opportunity to interact with patients earlier than any other class that had previously trained at the College and they exceeded expectations. Now as doctors of optometry, they will be entering a healthcare environment that presents new and unforeseen challenges because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are so proud to welcome you into the SUNY Optometry Alumni Association as fellow graduates and now our colleagues. You will take the profession by storm because of all you’ve had to endure to get to this point. It will be you who will change the profession and people’s lives for the better.” —Dr. Anna Marie Fernandez, President of the Alumni Association
104 Degrees awarded in 2020
40 Residency certificates
Graduation During the Pandemic
How has the College helped prepare the class for unforeseen upheavals? SUNY College of Optometry has kept a streamlined mode of communication, from regular updates from the college president to virtual seminars on telehealth to teach us how to think critically with limited resources. Our Student Affairs office has made it a priority to offer online networking events and maintain Capstone lectures such as how to find jobs, read contracts, and prepare for changes regarding billing and coding. Our clinic supervisors have worked tirelessly to ensure our virtual learning is as close to real clinic as possible and have been available at every step. —Dr. Nicole Mercho, Class of 2020 President
Nearly 45% of 2020 graduates plan to enter residency.
1 out of every 2 licensed optometrists in New York are graduates of SUNY Optometry.
2020 Annual Report 9
Class of 2020 Student Honors
Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence
Professional Distinction Alcon Award for the Outstanding Case Report on the use of an Alcon Product Sheena Patel GP Lens Institute Clinical Excellence Award Outstanding Clinical Proficiency in Contact Lenses Linh Chieu Dr. WilliamM. Eisenberg Memorial Award (sponsored by Alcon) Excellence in Ocular Disease Laura Isobel Karle Good-Lite Pediatric Award Excellence in Pediatric Optometry Hannah Rachel Medwin Johnson and Johnson Excellence Award Excellence in Clinical Contact Lenses Patient Care Mariya Klyuzner Marchon Award Excellence in Practice Management Constadina Manettas Mira-Med 20/20 Vision Award Excellence in Optometry Alicia Jones Optelec Low Vision Award for Excellence in Low Vision David M. Spengler Dr. Martin H. Birnbaum Award for a Vision Therapy Resident Melissa Yeung
Monique Mohammed Dr. Marvin R. Poston Leadership Award The eponymous award is named in celebration Dr. Poston, an icon in the field of optometry and the only Black co-founding member of VSP. The award recognizes outstanding optometry students in each cohort who uphold Dr. Poston’s commitment to leadership, service and diversity. Award recipients receive a $4,000 scholarship toward their education. Service Awards Dr. Max Cohen Memorial Award for Volunteer Commitment to Community Service Rebecca Aquije Dr. Benjamin Freed Memorial Award Morton L. Kimmelman Memorial Award for Student Leadership in Organized Optometry Natalie Ann Pare Billie M. Lyons Memorial Award for Distinguished Service to the College Community Hannah Rachel Medwin Nicole Mercho for Community Service Constadina Manettas
Mackenzie Anne Bradley Beta Sigma Kappa Award Academic Excellence Stefanie Jean Clendaniel
Dr. Frederick W. Brock Memorial Award for Outstanding Clinical Performance in Vision Training McKenzie Symons COVD Award Excellence in Columbia Class of 1936 Award for Academic & Clinical Achievement in Ocular Disease Alicia Jones Class of 1991 Pace Setter Award for Excellence in Primary Care Alyssa Marie Tursi Dr. Stanley Eisenberg Memorial Award for Excellence in Practice Development and Administration Nicole Mercho Dr. William FeinbloomMemorial Award for Outstanding Clinical Proficiency in Low Vision Abigail Anne Cash Ira Goldfarb Memorial Award for Excellence in Low Vision Simrit Kaur Virk Dr. Louis Herrmann Memorial Award for Outstanding Compassion in Patient Care Gabrielle Aminova Mr. And Mrs. Irving Unger Award Excellence in Optometry Samuel Louis Stack The Josh Wallman, PhD Memorial Research Award Carol Ren Lin Esther J. Werner Memorial Award for Academic Excellence Gail Rachel Bojarski Vision Training Alyssa L. Fortuna
NYSOA Auxiliary Award for Outstanding Service to the Class of 2020 Nicole Mercho
Abram A. Hubal, OD, Student Service Award Sponsored by The New York State Optometric Association (NYSOA) Julia Thi Mai
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CSTEP to Success
Under-represented College Students Take CSTEP to Success at SUNY College of Optometry
Although SUNY Optometry’s CSTEP curriculum was forced to move online amid the pandemic, the virtual platform has proven just as valuable and vital for all involved. “Programs like ours look to support under- represented minorities and under-resourced students from all over the New York region. While many programs were canceled due to COVID-19, we were able to pivot and offer a fully remote experience that was extremely successful based on our participant feedback.” —Dr. Quy H. Nguyen, Executive Director of Career Planning and Development Owaoma’s CSTEP classmate and senior at SUNY Farmingdale, Dixie Vasquez, agrees the program is a source of motivation and direction. “As a minority woman, CSTEP made me certain that no matter your background, this institution will do anything in their power to help you.” Quy H. Nguyen, OD, whose leadership earned SUNY Optometry’s CSTEP a near $1 million grant in support of recruitment and advancement of minority and economically disadvantaged students in optometric practice, understands the program's ability to unearth hidden potential. “We hope that our pipeline programs, mentorship, and increased support of these students will help expand representation within our OD workforce who will serve as role models for their communities and future generations.”
With sights set on expanding diversity in the science and health care fields, the Collegiate Science
& Technology Entry Program (CSTEP) at SUNY College of Optometry brought together 37 minority and economically disadvantaged college students from across the New York State region and beyond in early summer to learn about a career in the optometric profession. Combining Education and Empowerment Remote access allowed CSTEP at SUNY Optometry to host a greater number of students this year, and allowed students from outside of the state to audit the internship program, including those from California, Texas, Connecticut, and New Jersey. "The discussion of study strategies helped me find weaknesses in my techniques and how to refine them,” said SUNY Farmingdale senior, Uchenna Uwaoma, who plans to pursue a career as a physician assistant. “The program and its faculty helped open my eyes to other fields in medicine and encouraged me not to give up on my true goal, no matter how difficult it may seem."
SUNY Optometry Class of 2024
17 URM students
35 class members received 58 awards totaling $255,204
2020 Annual Report 11
Alumni Making a Difference
Alumna of the Year Honored for Career Devoted to Helping Children with Impaired Vision
College’s fundraising efforts and sharing her enthusiasm for the profession with future classes. Dr. Whittam has served as the President of the New York State Optometric Association, Optometric Society of
The Alumni Association named Denise M. Whittam, OD, a 1991 graduate of SUNY Optometry, the “Alumna of the Year” at the Eyes on New York Award Celebration hosted virtually on November 5, 2020. “I cannot think of a more dedicated alumna for this year’s award. Dr. Whittam is a wonderful advocate both for our students and the optometry profession and has been for almost three decades,” said Dawn Rigney, Executive Director for the Optometric Center of New York and Vice President for Institutional Advancement for the College. “From leading the Alumni Association and mentoring students to dedicating her career to help children overcome impaired vision, Dr. Whittam embodies the compassion, commitment, and leadership we strive to instill in our graduates.” —Dawn Rigney, Executive Director of the OCNY, VP of Institutional Advancement During her 26 years as a volunteer with the Alumni Association Board, she remained a regular presence on the SUNY Optometry campus, helping to support the
the City of New York, the Children’s Vision Coalition, and SUNY College of Optometry Alumni Association Board. In 2014, she was named Optometrist of the Year by the New York State Optometric Association. “To be honored and recognized by one’s own colleagues and friends is by far the highest achievement one can attain. I am eternally grateful to the faculty of SUNY for passionately sharing their knowledge and clinical skills with me, not only during my four years at SUNY but ongoing to this day.” —Dr. Denise M. Whittam, Alumna of the Year
More than 100 Career Center counseling sessions conducted with SUNY Optometry prospective/current students and alumni.
Over 3,100 local and national jobs posted from 275 unique employers on the Career Portal.
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Leading a New Generation in Healthcare Chandra Mickles, OD ’09, MS, is not only enhancing the lives of her patients but also the knowledge of students and fellow ODs nationwide by teaching about Contact Lenses and Dry Eye, an interest that peaked while studying at SUNY College of Optometry.
places to be trained. You just can’t beat the volume of patients or the variety of ocular conditions that you get to see there.”
A native of Old Bridge, New Jersey, Dr. Mickles’s inspiration to pursue a career in healthcare stemmed from her father, a veterinarian. However, her entry into eye care evolved from her need for eyeglasses and contact lenses at an early age. “Believe it or not, I’m a 12 diopter myope, so I was close to eye care very early on. Around the age of eight or nine, I was fit with my first pair of contact lenses. I was amazed at how that small piece of plastic could improve my vision, and so from that point on, I knew I wanted to go into a career focused on eye care,” Dr. Mickles said. She looks back on her days as a SUNY Optometry student fondly, especially the professors she got to know there, “even the tough ones,” she adds. “They made me a proficient and efficient clinician, and I model my teaching style after theirs now that I have my own students.”
Today, Dr. Mickles is well-known in the optometric profession as a national continuing education lecturer, researcher, speaker, and consultant for Alcon, Johnson & Johnson, and Sun Pharmaceuticals. She has been recognized by the Association of the Contact Lens Educators with the George Mertz New Educator Award and NSUCO’s Professor of the Year for two years consecutively. In 2018, she was named a “Top Black Educator” in South Florida. “I really liked SUNY because of the top-notch faculty, and their high boards pass rate. Also, with [the college] located in New York City, I knew I would get to see a diverse patient population,” said Dr. Mickles, an associate professor at the Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry (NSUCO). “Being an educator now, I definitely can see that by far, SUNY probably is one of the best
College Alum Receives NYC Health + Hospitals Award
Dr. Cotler oversees eye care services and provides care for residents of NYC Health + Hospitals/Gouverneur. She is currently leading a longitudinal team project to increase retinopathy screening rates for primary care empaneled patients with diabetes and A1C greater than 8.0. She believes that engagement with quality improvement can prevent burnout by giving front line staff the mechanism to make positive changes in their day-to-day work for themselves, their co-workers, and their patients.
Andrea Nikki Cotler, OD, FAAO ’06, is among nine recipients of the 2020 Performance Improvement Champion Award presented by NYC
Health + Hospitals/Gouverneur, a partner of SUNY College of Optometry. Nominated by peers and selected by a multidisciplinary committee, award winners are recognized for going beyond the call of the duty to improve patient services through collaboration, engagement, and leadership.
41% of alumni are registered users of the SUNY Eye Network (SEN). In 2020, SEN passed the 1,000-member milestone.
66% of alumni registered to volunteer in support
Nearly 100 alumni volunteers helped to facilitate successful digital/virtual engagement programs and events.
of professional development.
2020 Annual Report 13
ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE Shedding Light on TBI Research
In April, SUNY College of Optometry investigator Suresh Viswanathan, OD, PhD, became the co-recipient of a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense in the study of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Specifically, the joint research project aims to develop an objective way to measure light sensitivity in patients with mild TBI, defined as a head injury resulting in a loss of consciousness or disorientation for less than 30 minutes. Concussions are the most common type. Study participants include adult TBI patients who do and do not complain of light sensitivity and control subjects with no reported history of head injury or light sensitivity. The three-year investigation will be conducted in collaboration with The Ohio State College of Optometry.
“In the clinic, we ask patients if they are
sensitive to light but have no way of quantifying the severity of this symptom. Through our research, we are not only seeking to develop a diagnostic test but also to understand the physiological process underlying this symptom. We hope to be able to offer some prognosis and reassurance to patients depending on the outcome of this study.” —Dr. Suresh Viswanathan, Chair, Department of Biological and Vision Sciences
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Researcher Aims to Stop Blindness in Its Tracks
seeks to identify molecules that pass through lenticular gap junctions and establish whether these channels play a role in the etiology of age- related cataracts.” It is work that he’s deeply committed to for the sake of patients, providers, and beyond.
At SUNY College of Optometry, education goes hand- in-hand with a commitment to service and research as highlighted by the work of Miduturu Srinivas, PhD, professor at the College. A natural scientist, he has always been drawn to the why and how of things. But the path to becoming a researcher was not always clear. As a child, Dr. Srinivas wanted to be a musician. “I gave up when I realized that I would be a terrible one,” he shares. Instead of making music, he ended up at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, studying intercellular communication as a postdoc. His work there led him to the College. “I was characterizing the biophysical aspects of channel function of proteins that are present in the retina and the lens. I eventually became interested in how they might be altered in disease (for example cataracts), and I applied to SUNY in response to an open faculty position,” Srinivas said. “The fact that the College already had excellent researchers and faculty—and that it was located in the heart of Manhattan offering opportunities for collaborative work with other institutions—made my choice to join as faculty an easy one.” —Dr. Miduturu Srinivas, Professor His current research involves biophysical and physiological studies of gap junctions. Srinivas explained: “Cells communicate with each other in a variety of ways. One way they talk is via a pathway that is provided by specific ion channels called gap junction channels. These channels are necessary for the function of various organs, including the eye. For example, the crystalline lens receives no direct blood supply, yet it is able to function for most of our lifetime without a loss in its transparency. This is in part due to gap junctions, which provide nutrients from the external environment to cells deep in the lens. My research
“Cataracts, retinopathies and glaucoma are all leading causes of blindness. It is important to identify new targets for their treatment,” Dr. Srinivas said. “I hope my work and others in the field can lead to new therapies and eventually better eye care.”
Congratulations to SUNY Optometry graduate student Reynolds Ablordeppey, OD, recipient of the prestigious Danne Ventura–Essilor Ezell Fellowship presented by the American Academy of Optometry Foundation (AAOF), an award given to encourage careers in optometric research and education. A native of Ghana, Dr. Ablordeppey is interested in understanding the optical and biochemical mechanisms that occur during eye growth and myopia development.
2020 Annual Report 15
College Highlights Rare Disease Expertise and Research In recognition of February’s Age-Related Macular Degeneration Awareness Month and Rare Disease Day, SUNY College of Optometry highlighted the world-renowned research taking place at SUNY College of Optometry, recognizing the work of our ocular disease specialists who perform unique diagnostic testing, evaluation, and care for a host of rare retinal disorders for which there are no cures. Once diagnosed with a rare disease, patients can access support services, qualify for enhanced medical benefits, and register for clinical trials that help pave the way to eventual treatments, if not cures. Jennifer Gould, OD, MS, Chief of Advanced Care, will lead the school’s participation in a study on genetic therapy for a rare mutation of macular degeneration. The research is part of a shift in eye care to customized therapies and recommended treatments based on a person’s genes.
“With rare diseases, there is a 3- to 5-year average delay between the onset of symptoms and a diagnosis. Here at the University Eye Center we have a host of diagnostic devices that are not often found in your typical eye doctor’s office, including free genetic testing, and faculty with the experience and knowledge to make an accurate diagnosis. Even for the diseases without a current cure or treatment, there is great comfort for patients in having a diagnosis.” —Dr. Sherry Bass,
Distinguished Teaching Professor SUNY Optometry Forges Research Agreement for Wearable Myopia Control Device
Assistant Clinical Professor Sharon Park Keh, OD, will serve as principal investigator of the study. “I am excited to be involved in this research using such a promising and revolutionary technology for the suppression of myopia. I look forward to seeing positive results from this partnership.”
Kubota Vision Inc. and The Research Foundation for SUNY entered into a research agreement in July 2020 to conduct the testing and characterization of an investigational, wearable myopia-control device based on Kubota Glasses technology to further evaluate its effects on choroidal thickness and axial length. A wearable prototype to be announced. The Research Foundation for SUNY is the largest comprehensive university-connected foundation in the country.
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Winner of 5th Annual Student Innovator Award
present their ideas included: Hamed Rahimi Nasrabadi, a SUNY Optometry graduate student sharing his idea on creating virtual memory designed to assist patients with memory disorders; Behrad Garmsiri and Michelle Kim from the Class of 2023 discussing HIPER: Health Integrated Personal Electronic Records; and Mr. Shah. Marc Ferrara, Chief Executive Cfficer of the information services division of Jobson Medical Information; Ryan Parker, Director of Professional Education for Essilor of America, Inc.; Dr. Jennifer Gould, Chief of Advanced Care Services for the University Eye Center; Dr. Richard Soden, Director of Health Care Development; and Dr. Suresh Viswanathan, Associate Professor and Chair of the Biological and Vision Services department served as judges for the competition. They assessed the students’ ideas for originality, potential impact, viability and feasibility.
SUNY Optometry fourth-year student Jubin Shah received the 2020 Student Innovator Award and a $5,000 scholarship following the College’s fifth annual competition on February 14. Shah presented a device to assist patients in accurately dispensing ophthalmic drops increasing treatment success as well as reducing cost and waste. He believes an affordable, reusable device will help improve overall treatment results as the drops will be more accurately placed improving the efficacy of the treatment. Further, by ensuring the accurate placement into the eye, patients will not need to use more of the prescribed medication which can sometimes be costly. The annual competition requires students to submit abstracts related to innovations or improvements in clinical eye care, research, practice management, optometric education, health care policy, community education, technology and social media which are reviewed by the award committee. The finalists selected to develop and
2020 Annual Report 17
Teacher and Researcher Jingyun Wang Joins SUNY College of Optometry
Associate Professor, Jingyun Wang, PhD, joined SUNY Optometry as a new faculty member with the goal of teaching the next generation of doctors while continuing to advance her research of normal and abnormal eye development in infants and children—a focus in pediatric vision for more than 20 years. Dr. Wang earned a PhD in vision science at Indiana University School of Optometry, where she conducted studies of normal infant vision development. She later pursued post doctoral training including research of children with congenital cataracts, lazy eye, ROP, and those with Down syndrome. Following her fellowship, Dr. Wang assumed a position as an assistant professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine Glick Eye Institute, and later at the Salus University Pennsylvania College of Optometry. The author of nearly 50 peer-reviewed publications, Dr. Wang is the recipient of numerous research grants and engaged in various collaborative efforts to advance understanding of eye development and treating eye diseases in children.
Research Activity and Grants in 2020
34 Grants Totaling $3,063,148 20 Active Studies 27 Research Publications 72 Presentations and Invited Lectures
“At the College, I will continue to focus on amblyopia and ROP clinical
translational research. I am very happy to join SUNY and be a part of a team of educators and clinicians with strong
research backgrounds and an understanding of the importance of research to advance patient care.” —Dr. Jingyun Wang, Associate Professor
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A New Look for the Library and Much More A physical—and digital—renovation has enhanced the resource center for students, professors, alumni and eye care professionals.
Long a meeting place for studying, swapping notes and sharing information to ace a semester, the Harold Kohn Vision Science Library at SUNY Optometry is giving the College community something new to talk about with a makeover. Not only is there new furniture, carpeting and lighting, but it now features additional windows and increased study space. This fall the library cafe opened with a selection of hot beverages and snacks provided by sponsors. While some of these changes may seem superficial, they will do a great deal to enhance the experience for visitors. “The library is very much the heart of the institution where students come to learn together, to relax and to bond,” said Director and Distinguished Librarian, Elaine Wells, MA, MLS, AHIP, who is responsible for all library planning, service, budget and administrative operations. Whether it is through beautifying the physical space or enriching the digital technology, the library supports SUNY Optometry students on their journey to becoming optometrists by making state-of-the-art resources available 24/7. This summer the library team introduced a new Library Service Platform.
“Our ‘discovery service’ enables patrons to search all of our databases at once and retrieve full-text articles whenever possible.” —Elaine Wells, Library Director The library will continue to build its digital resource and e-book collection, while maximizing other ways to use technology. Named after an attorney with expertise in health care who served as legal counsel to SUNY Optometry in its early days, the Harold Kohn Vision Science Library attracts those who are not students at the College by introducing services that are useful to alumni and other eye care practitioners as it houses a valuable collection of resources pivotal to patient care and research. The library also features a historical collection of optometric instruments, devices, books, photos, and eye wear on display donated by alumni and supporters of the College.
2020 Annual Report 19
SERVICE TO OUR PATIENTS AND COMMUNITY SUNY Optometry University Eye Center Launches Telehealth Platform in Response to COVID-19 Outbreak in NYC
The SUNY College of Optometry University Eye Center (UEC) moved quickly to cope with the coronavirus crisis by connecting their providers with patients via telehealth in March 2020. A smartphone, computer, or any device with a camera is all that is required for a virtual visit with a UEC doctor. This new program started with emergency care needs such as red eye, swollen eyelids, and other conditions followed by additional services, like vision therapy, where virtual visits are appropriate. The online service is available for adults and children.
“Our goal is to ensure continuity of care and maintenance of our patients’ eye health during this uncertain time using a safe, convenient, and user-friendly tool for vision services.” — Dr. Michael McGovern, UEC Chief Medical Officer
Over 50,000 patients of all ages received care via telehealth and in-person visits in 2020.
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Ensuring Continuity of Care
Confronting COVID with Some Help from Our Partners SUNY College of Optometry continued to teach the next generation of eye care professionals and treat patients through the University Eye Center thanks to the help of our long-time partners such as Essilor of America, Johnson & Johnson, Wenzhou Medical University, and the America Academy of Optometry (AAO). Although vision education and treatment programs across the country and around the world were largely put on hold as a result of the COVID-19 health crisis, several of our partners stepped in to support training and safety measures during the peak of the crisis.
Partners provided critically needed personal protective equipment (PPE), shields for equipment, and clinical case education programs to ensure students graduated on time. “The silver lining with this effort amid the current crisis is increased communication with vision care providers and all the schools of optometry and the ability to work together with competitors to share information, address issues, and problem-solve for the benefit of the cause. Our industry is here to help.” — Ryan Parker, OD, Director of Professional Development at Essilor
“We are grateful for the strong relationships we have with members of industry and academia. They were instrumental in helping maintain the continuity of education and patient care during this unprecedented time,” said David A. Heath, OD, EdM, President of SUNY College of Optometry.
2020 Annual Report 21
Barbara Saltzman Center for Pediatric Eye Care Opens In April 2020, SUNY College of Optometry officially opened the Barbara Saltzman Center for Pediatric Eye Care which resides in the University Eye Center. Amid nationwide shutdowns and growing demand to meet patient needs, the new state-of-the-art pediatric eye care center opened for urgent vision needs. The Center also sees patients through the newly launched University Eye Center’s telehealth platform. The new Center, named in honor of the late Barbara Saltzman, who served as the President of the Board of Trustees for the Optometric Center of New York, is located in mid-town Manhattan on the College’s campus. The $3.3 million, 5,000 square foot facility is dedicated to accommodating the growing need for both basic and advanced pediatric eye care within the University Eye Center. “As health care workers across New York City continue to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, we recognize that thousands of patients still have other health issues,” said SUNY College of Optometry Vice President for Clinical Administration Liduvina Martinez-Gonzalez, MS, FACHE. “While we have resumed safe and limited capacity in-person visits, we are excited to offer private and secure telemedicine that allows our patients to interact with their providers remotely.” Construction on the state-of-the-art pediatric center began in April 2019 thanks to the support and generous contributions of many donors including a grant from the State of New York NYSUNY 2020 awards (in 2016) and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF). The Center features eight new exam rooms, a room for sensory-sensitive children (Chill Room), the ability to examine children with special needs, a child-friendly waiting area with interactive activities, and a dedicated area for optical dispensing.
“The launch of the Barbara Saltzman Center for Pediatric Eye Care is a remarkable chapter in SUNY College of Optometry’s history. It is a reflection of the dedication of many incredible individuals across the vision care industry who understand the significance of early and ongoing eye care interventions in improving the lives of children.” —Dr. David A. Heath, President, SUNY College of Optometry
22 SUNY Optometry
Professional Outreach Amid COVID-19
COVID-19 Webinars Support and Guide Fellow Eye Doctors More than 8,000 eye doctors across the nation and worldwide virtually attended a four-part webinar series entitled, COVID-19 & The Optometric Community , organized by the SUNY College of Optometry Office of Continuing Professional Education to provide the latest information on the impact of coronavirus and help providers navigate changes and challenges in health care practice.
Topics for discussion featured how to manage a rapidly changing health care environment in response to COVID-19 and understanding the science of coronavirus, including how eye health is connected to the spread and prevention of infection. Participants also learned about the use of telehealth to safely and securely connect eye doctors with their patients remotely using a computer, smartphone, and/or any device with a camera. “The webinars enable optometrists to learn more about how the virus works and its relationship to eye health. It is also an opportunity to ask questions and get answers about the use of new technology in the service of patients and address a host of other issues in practice management,” explained Dr. Madonna, who serves as director of the Office of Continuing Professional Education at the College. “We want to serve as a resource to our colleagues in optometry who are seeking to maintain continuity of care for their patients.” Access the webinar series at www.sunyopt.edu/education/academics/ continuing_professional_education/online-courses .
All sessions were delivered by College faculty and alumni, including (pictured L-R): Richard Madonna, OD, '85, Professor and Chair of the Department of Clinical Education; Ann Beaton, PhD, '84, Associate Professor; Matthew Bovenzi, OD, '14, UEC Assistant Chief of Primary Care; Anupam Laul, OD, Assistant Clinical Professor; Michael McGovern, OD, '97, UEC Chief Medical Officer; Kimberly Poirer-Schmidt, OD, '14; Richard Soden, OD,'79, Director of Health Care Development; Ray Pirozollo, OD, '09; Viola Kanevsky, OD, '93; and Andrea Thau, OD, '84.
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COMMUNITY AND PEOPLE SUNY College of Optometry Forms Task Force to Advance Race and Equity
• CSTEP IRISES created to support undergraduate CSTEP students who have matriculated at SUNY Optometry and those identified as high-need; • Race and Equity Newsletter developed to promote Black and other URM groups, leadership, culture, and business; • Diversity Council formed to foster accountability and implementation of TFRE report recommendations; • Race in Optometry webinar series featuring panelists from optometric education, practice, and industry to inform about ways to expand minority representation; • BLAACK Week, the first of many annual programs to raise awareness of various cultures and ethnicities; • Community readings launched with a presentation/group discussion with Damon Tweedy, MD, author of Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor’s Reflections on Race and Medicine. These activities and more led by the TFRE will help all members of the College to engage and commit to long-lasting change.
The College has taken swift and proactive steps to address racial and social disparities on campus and in the optometric profession with the formation of the President’s Task Force on Race and Equity (TFRE), enacted by David A. Heath, OD, EdM, in spring 2020. Made up of a 12-member team of faculty, students, and staff, the TFRE evaluated and submitted a comprehensive report to the President on current efforts to advance diversity and inclusion while identifying areas for improvement. The movement sparked conversation about race, ethnicity, and bias throughout the College community. On task for transformation, the TFRE immediately turned recommendations into actions to boost current programs and roll out new approaches to advance diversity and inclusion. Initiatives include: • CSTEP (Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program) focused on increasing minority representation in the profession by bolstering exposure to optometric education, practice, and mentorship;
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Race in Optometry: SUNY Optometry Leads the Discussion in Webinar Series
Organized by SUNY College of Optometry Office of Continuing Professional Education “Race in Optometry: An Honest Conversation” featured a three-part webinar series focusing on social and racial bias in optometry, particularly within the Black community. Panelists for each session featured thought-leaders from ophthalmic education, practice, and industry. Part One—An Honest Conversation focused on lack of representation in the field of optometry revealing that out of 13.4% of Americans who identify as Black, only a little more than 3% of the community is represented in optometry school. The panelists pointed to mentoring as a critical factor in boosting Black community reach, recruitment, and representation.
Part Two—Seeking Solutions centered on finding ways to move to action, starting with education. Panelists from optometric education and the profession discussed efforts to enhance minority representation such as NOA pipeline programs, greater student support, and access to mentors in optometry.
Scan the QR code to view Part Two: Race in Optometry
Part Three—Diversity & Leadership Development in Industry & The Profession featured an elite panel of leaders in academia and the eye care industry who focused on what can be achieved collectively, now and into the future, to advance diversity and leadership in education, the profession, and ophthalmic organizations at large.
Scan the QR code to view Part One: Race in Optometry— An Honest Conversation
Scan the QR code to view Part Three: Race in Optometry
SPECtrumHelps to Cultivate an LGBT- friendly Campus and Clinic
As the nation’s first LGBT student-run club housed at an independent college of optometry, SPECtrum at SUNY Optometry is introducing new ways to cultivate a welcoming setting on campus and in the clinic for people of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions. Their efforts include placing Pride flags throughout the College facility, offering Pride flag pins to be worn as a sign of LGBT support and solidarity, and customizing patient intake forms to make them more inclusive of diverse population needs and situations. SPECtrum also plans to facilitate workshops and discussions for students and staff on LGBT issues to increase awareness, confront biases, and help eliminate disparities in healthcare.
“Effective healthcare involves approaching people with an open heart and making sure that they feel comfortable and accepted. We have an opportunity to create an accepting and inclusive environment for LGBT providers and patients.” —Rebecca Chan Min, '22, SPECtrum President Established in 2016 by alumnus Dr. Brandon Harnos, ’19, and faculty advisor Dr. Michael McGovern, ’97, SPECtrum offers a safe space and resources for LGBT members and seeks to educate the College community around the full spectrum of human gender and sexuality.
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SUNY Optometry Hosts First Annual BLAACK Week Launched in November (18-21), BLAACK (Because Learning Achieves Appreciation and Community Knowledge) Week is designed to bring awareness and appreciation of various cultures, particularly Black culture, through creativity and conversation. BLAACK Week is the first of many programs rolled out by the President’s Task Force on Race and Equity.
“I chose to get involved with BLAACK Week because I know that it can make an impact on the community at SUNY Optometry,” shared Sophia Johnson, National Optometric Student Association (NOSA) president and class of 2023 student. “It was important that I take part in being the change I wanted to see here at my school.” Hosted virtually, BLAACK Week included a talent show featuring live dance and music performances by SUNY Optometry students and staff and a movie night offering a compilation of films from various genres. The event also incorporated the annual Taste of NOSA, a festive feast and cultural event reimagined this year as a cooking class of shared recipes representing various ethnicities. Headlining the festivities was a book club meeting featuring a talk and group discussion of Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor’s Reflections on Race and Medicine with acclaimed author Dr. Damon Tweedy, MD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Duke University School of Medicine, who shared his journey as a Black doctor in America and how race played a recurrent role in his training. “The Q and A session allowed community members to ask questions, which sparked meaningful conversation around the book topics,” said Assistant Clinical Professor Delaram Shirazian, OD, who was instrumental in organizing the talk and BLAACK Week activities along with fellow TFRE sub-committee member and Clinical Assistant Professor Shelby Leach, OD. “The hope is that BLAACK Week will become an annual event to continue celebrating various cultures and keep the community engaged in important discussions,” added Leach. Over 200 SUNY Optometry community members received Dr. Damon Tweedy's New York Times bestselling Black Man in a White Coat , and 140 participated in his virtual talk during the College's first annual BLAACKWeek.
“The hope is that BLAACK Week will become an annual event to continue celebrating various cultures and keep the community engaged in important discussions.” —Dr. Shelby Leach, Clinical Assistant Professor
In 2021 the College will welcome its first Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging, a position supporting efforts to foster an inclusive and affirming environment for all.
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Faculty and Staff Recognitions and Milestones
SUNY Optometry Faculty and Staff Earn Chancellor’s Award for Excellence Four members of the SUNY College of Optometry community have been recognized by the SUNY Board of Trustees with the 2020 Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in their respective areas of work.
Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities
Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Professional Service
Stewart Bloomfield, PhD, joined the College in 2013. He fulfills critical roles as Director of the Graduate Center for Vision Research and Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research. Bloomfield’s ability to push beyond boundaries has helped advance approaches to
With 30 years of experience in the industry, Patricia Lambert joined the College as a Clinic Manager in 2016. Fast-forward to 2020, Lambert remains steadfast in her commitment to the College and advancement of patient care for people of all walks of life as she
optometric care, training, and investigation, including an outstanding record of internationally recognized research on retinal neurophysiology. His latest success is the license agreement with Cambridge, UK-based biotech startup Connexin Therapeutics to develop and commercialize products that prevent blindness and vision loss in glaucoma patients.
oversees day-to-day operations of the Ocular Disease department, which includes assisting in the coordination of all fiscal functions for the office and streamlining front desk operations to increase efficiency. She also served as a member of the College’s Diversity and Inclusion Master Plan committee.
Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Faculty Service
Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Librarianship
Tracy Nguyen, OD, PhD, joined the College in 2013 and offers more than 20 years of vision care and research experience. In her role as Associate Professor, she teaches didactic courses in the optometry and graduate program while also supervising students and
A member of the SUNY College of Optometry family for ten years, Digital and Technical Services Librarian, Jill Locascio, MLIS, MS, is responsible for acquisitions, electronic resources, discovery, and various library tasks in support of the College’s teaching and clinical
residents in the primary care clinic. Her research focuses on diseases of the cornea and ocular surface disorders such as dry eye and contact lens-related complications.
missions. She also maintains the library’s website and manages the library’s automated circulation system. Offering a substantial background in several library technologies, Locascio has helped develop new and innovative ways to bring library materials and services to our users.
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