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President’s Message. ..................................................... 4 2018–2023 Strategic Plan............................................. 5 Celebrating 50 Years...................................................... 6 At a Glance...................................................................... 12 From Pupil to Professional. .......................................... 14 Alumni Making a Difference.........................................18 The Science Behind Sight............................................ 20 Caring for Our Community.......................................... 24 Driving Diversity and Inclusion............................................. 28 Colleagues and Commendations............................... 32 Support for Scholars and Service............................... 34 Financials. ...................................................................... 37 Leadership. .................................................................... 38 Our Mission.................................................................... 39 Contents



2018–2023 Strategic Plan: Care • Lead • Advance

Student-Centered Experience

Enhance the student experience through programs that promote student and alumni success

Positively impacting our profession, our community, and social justice for 50 years

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 produce leaders in vision research

Service to Our Patients and Community

Deliver unparalleled care to our University Eye Center patients Provide service to the greater community

We also strengthened our commitment to address critical issues of division, disparities, and injustice for people of color and other underrepresented groups on campus and within the profession. This has remained central to our planning processes and at the forefront of our programs, touching every area throughout the College. As we look to the next 50 years, we’ll remain steadfast in this endeavor with a goal of leading the way among all colleges and schools of optometry as well as within the profession. Entering 2022 we continue with a sense of gratitude for our dynamic and dedicated community and optimism for the continued growth of our educational, research, and patient care programs. It is with the care and investment from everyone that our success remains possible. Thank you for being a part of our history and our future.

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of SUNY College of Optometry amidst continued concerns about the global pandemic and societal inequities certainly presented a challenge and left this exciting milestone understated. However, as you’ll read in the 2021 Annual Report, the College has continued to adapt, persevere, come together as a community and, indeed, thrive. Of the many moments of pride during the past year, seeing the community find ways to return to in-person learning, research, and patient care as well as some selected social activities while prioritizing the health and safety of our entire community was among one of the most notable. Our infection rate remained low with very few instances of on-campus transmission of COVID-19. Our students, faculty, and staff are all vaccinated with many having already received boosters. Mask-wearing, especially throughout the clinics and classrooms, remains at an all time high. It is because of this diligence that we were able to begin our return to in-person extracurricular activities with things like the Student Council Halloween Party, the Reception at Academy, Envision, and VisioNYC.

Student Success

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

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

David A. Heath, OD, EdM President




Our History From 1910 to today and beyond, we’re leading the way in optometric education

The College introduced a four-year Diversity Master Plan (2016–20) to improve recruitment and retention for underrepresented groups and a mission “to instill and celebrate diversity, inclusion, and equity in every aspect of the College’s operations.” Efforts included a Diversity Hackathon (2018) featuring over 70 diversity and inclusion experts from across the country.

Scan the QR code to learn more.

Continued commitment to the success of our students and leadership within vision research resulted in the completion of the Center for Student Life and Learning, including 20,000 square feet dedicated to study, laboratory, classroom, and recreation.

Shortly after opening, SUNY Optometry expanded its original home on East 25th Street to include space on East 23rd. Enrollment grew steadily for the next decade.

Columbia University opened the first university- based optometry program in the US, setting the stage for recognition of the profession.

SUNY Optometry moved to its current home across from Bryant Park, completing initial renovations the following year.

When Columbia’s optometry program closed, leaving a void in NY and the surrounding region, a small group of optometrists and philanthropists came together to form the Optometric Center of New York (OCNY), a health and education resource nonprofit.

The inaugural graduation saw 17 students receive their degrees. Today, nearly 100 students graduate from SUNY Optometry each year adding to our more than 3,400 alumni nationally and abroad.

The Clinical Vision Research Center was also created to expand research and patient access to new therapies and treatments.

Amidst the global pandemic, the Barbara

Dr. Edward R. Johnston was appointed as the College’s second president and remained until 1987.

The College adopted a comprehensive strategic plan entitled “A Shared Vision,” helping establish several key programs including the Graduate Center for Vision Research, Center for International Programs, Career Development Center, and more.

Saltzman Center for Pediatric Eye Care opened for patients in April.





















The New York Commissioner of Education passed a bill allowing only graduates of a university- affiliated school of optometry to qualify for the state board exam. This signaled the end of the apprenticeship system of licensure and initiated a new era in optometric education.

The College launched its first year-long, in-house residency program in vision therapy.

To accommodate the growth and expansion of programs, the College moved to East 24th Street and Park Avenue, which would remain the College’s home for the next quarter century.

Bringing health and eye care awareness to the greater community, the University Eye Center hosted the first Health and Wellness Expo on the College’s campus with nearly a dozen healthcare partners and over 700 attendees participating.

The OCNY launched a $10 million, five- year campaign to support the ambitious and growing needs of the College. That same year, the clinic was renamed the University Eye Center (UEC) and the referral service was established.

After more than a decade of lobbying, Governor Nelson Rockefeller signed the bill on April 14, 1971, officially establishing the State University of New York State College of Optometry. Dr. Alden N. Haffner became the founding president.

50th Anniversary of the SUNY College of Optometry The College celebrates its 50th anniversary along with the 65th anniversaries of the OCNY and the eye care clinic.

Dr. David A. Heath appointed the College’s third president after a national search following the retirement of Dr. Haffner.

Expanding access to vision and eye care and addressing health disparities across the five boroughs, the College joined forces with NYC Health + Hospitals and Community Health Network.

Dr. Haffner returns from SUNY System to lead the College for a second time.




Newsweek Names Alumni and Faculty Among America’s Best Eye Doctors Over 20 alumni and faculty from SUNY Optometry have been

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commended among America’s Best Eye Doctors in 2021 by Newsweek magazine (July 2021) with Arthur B. Epstein, OD, ’77, and Viola Kanevsky, OD, ’93, leading the list.

Dr. Neda Gioia (left) and Dr. Anna Marie Fernandez

2021 Theia Award Recipients Anna Marie Fernandez, OD, ’85, and Neda Gioia, OD, ’06, received the 2021 Theia Award for Excellence presented by Women in Optometry (WO). The awards are presented to influential ODs based on WO reader and peer nominations and chosen by an advisory board that selects winners from hundreds of submissions each year. Dr. Fernandez received the Theia Award for Excellence in Mentoring for her work with students through the College’s Family of Mentors Program. Recognized for her pioneering work in introducing nutraceuticals into clinical practice, Dr. Gioia was presented with the Theia Award for Excellence in Innovation. SUNY College of Optometry was the only institution to be represented by two individuals, speaking to the outstanding careers and successes of our alumni.

Optometrists in New York will now be able to prescribe oral medication to treat eye diseases College Recognizes Milestone with Passing of Influential Bil

Dr. Steven Schwartz Dr. Suresh Viswanathan Middle States Re-accreditation

Marking five decades of education, research, and service this year, SUNY Optometry received confirmation of accreditation in July 2021 following a rigorous two-year self-study evaluation and a site visit conducted virtually by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) team in April. The confirmation of re-accreditation included no further recommendations or actions required to achieve compliance with the seven standards and 15 requirements for re-accreditation set forth by the MSCHE. “The accreditation process is a community effort. My goal was to effectively coordinate the effort and make sure that all voices were heard while addressing Middle States standards,” explained Steven Schwartz, PhD, past director of Institutional Research and Planning,

and patients who will benefit from expanded healthcare practice standards in New York.” Many in and outside the SUNY Optometry campus community helped lobby for the passage of the “Orals Bill,” including legislation lead sponsors Assemblymember Amy Paulin, Senator Jamaal Bailey, and the SUNY System. SUNY Optometry will take the lead on preparing students and practicing New York optometrists on prescribing rules and protocols. Scan the QR code for information on continuing education courses.

SUNY College of Optometry joined education and health profession advocates to celebrate a major milestone for New York optometrists as legislation was signed into law by Governor Kathy Hochul on October 25, 2021, allowing doctors of optometry the authority to prescribe oral medication for the treatment of eye diseases (A1921/ S1519). Until now, New York was the only state in the nation prohibiting oral prescribing authority for optometrists. “We are proud to have collaborated with the New York State Optometric Association, led by College alumna Dr. Viola Kanevsky, in educating legislative officials about the importance of broadening the scope of practice in our state that serves one of the largest and most diverse populations in the country,” said SUNY Optometry President David A. Heath, OD, EdM. “The newly passed legislation is a fitting turning point in the College’s 50-year history and a mark of tremendous progress for our students, profession,

who led the College accreditation process along with his successor Suresh Viswanathan, PhD, chair of the Department of Biological and Vision Sciences. The College received initial accreditation in 1976.

For MSCHE key findings, scan the QR code.




Largest Residency Class Begins Training

Despite COVID-19 obstacles, Class of 2025 adapts to the latest healthcare and social challenges College Celebrates 50th Entering Class Orientation activities included small group discussions to foster class comradery.

One of the first residency programs in the country has trained over 1,000 optometric residents

nearly 20 practice areas, including the first established brain injury program in the nation. “The broad scope of residencies offered at SUNY Optometry allow new doctors the opportunity to work with diverse populations and complex cases,” said vision therapy resident Chizoba Heather Ogoke, OD. “While in high school, my family eye doctor, Tanya Carter, OD, ’87, diagnosed me with convergence insufficiency and prescribed vision therapy. Since then, I knew I wanted to specialize in this field and have worked with Dr. Carter and Dr. [Frank] Barnes, ’86, in their practice,” added Dr. Ogoke. “I have a personal connection to my career path and know that a residency at SUNY is top-notch.”

SUNY Optometry welcomed 43 residents hailing from regions close to home and across the nation this academic year, including 22 recent graduates from SUNY Optometry and one candidate in the final leg of a joint residency/ graduate degree in vision science. This year’s residency class represents the largest in the College’s history. “As the site of the first established residency [in optometry] in the country, residents who graduate from our program are well respected and are truly elevated to a different level,” said Director of Residency Programming, Diane Adamczyk, OD. “We set the pace that other colleges and residency programs follow.” Optometric residency at the College began in 1974 with a program in vision therapy. Since that time, residencies affiliated with and at the College have expanded to

The Class of 2025 embarked on their first semester of study this August, marking the College’s 50th entering class since its founding in 1971. The group of aspiring optometrists is made up of 98 new students. Nearly half the entering class is comprised of students from outside the New York region, including 14 states and 6 students from Canada and abroad. Closer to home, the Class of 2025 features College faculty and alumni legacies as well as 16 students who are graduates of other SUNY institutions. The class is also among the College’s most diverse group of optometrists in training, including 9 percent Black and Latinx students and 35 percent first-generation students. “It’s an exciting time for our College community, including more than 3,400 alumni who represent the growth and success of our institution,” said SUNY Optometry President David A. Heath, OD, EdM. “This year’s class embodies our progress not only in optometric education but also in the changing landscape of healthcare.”

“Despite these challenges, the class remained committed to their goal of becoming optometrists, including completion of all enrollment requirements, and are among the most competitive optometry students in the nation.”

“Approximately 80 percent of this class reported being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in their academic pursuits. This includes completing their courses in non- traditional formats (either virtually or hybrid), a shift in their extracurriculars, and/or an impact on their overall livelihood,” explained Director of Admissions Christian Alberto, EdD.

Residents began the next phase of training in August 2021.




At a Glance

Optometric Center of New York trustees: 18 OCNY Assets: $13.2 MILLION 2,400 Hours of clinical experience for each OD student over four years Primary Care Advanced Care Rehabilitation Social Work Services Eyewear Center Community Outreach

OD Applicants (Class of 2025): 437 applicants 98 enrolled

Alumni: 3,400

In-state tuition (2020–21) $29,820 Out-of-state tuition (2020–21) $51,150

Degrees Awarded: OD PhD OD/MS OD/PhD

Average GPA of entering classes: 3.6

Residents: 43 Residency Areas: Cornea and 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 (MS or PhD) in Vision Science

Students by Program:


374 OD

29 OD/MS 1 OD/PhD 12 PhD

38 Grants in FY 2020–21

$3.06 MILLION in funding

Scholarships/grants (2020–21) $944,060 35 Students enrolled in micro-credential program

Enrollment: 405 Students

>240,000 Total Patient Encounters Annually

Annual operation budget $35.5M

Faculty 33 Part-time faculty

106 Faculty

73 Full-time faculty

30 Satellite faculty

170 External adjuncts

Students from New York State: 54%

77% 23%

Student Female/ Male Ratio:




Members of the class of 2021 recite the Optometric Oath.

SUNY Optometry honorary degree recipients for this year included Harvard- based developmental biologist and geneticist Constance (Connie) Cepko, PhD, presented with the Honorary Doctor of Science degree, and New York Times bestselling author and Duke University School of Medicine clinician-educator Damon Tweedy, MD, recipient of Doctor of Humane Letters. Among the College’s newest alumni are two master of vision science degree recipients, one combined OD/MS, one PhD in vision science, and 16 doctor of optometry graduates who additionally completed a micro-credential program in a specialized area of vision care. Twenty-three members of the class were recognized with awards for academic achievement, research, and service.

Class President Sherry Shang, OD, followed with words of gratitude for the support provided by the campus community. “Thank you to the entire Student Affairs team and the entire clinical faculty who literally had to work around the clock to pivot their teaching methods last March so that we could graduate on time. To the Class of 2021, thank you for broadening my worldview.” The commencement keynote address was given by 88th New York State District Assemblymember Amy Paulin, sponsor of legislation passed in October 2021 allowing optometrists to prescribe oral medications to patients. “You have chosen a path where you’ll be essential to helping people live healthier lives. You will not just figuratively but literally be helping people to see.”

94 Graduates

23 Recognized with awards 16 OD graduates earn micro- credential certificates

From training to practicing during an unprecedented time in history 47th Commencement Reunites Class of 2021

Jim Malatras in a video address to the Class of 2021 and by SUNY Optometry President David A. Heath, OD, EdM, in his opening remarks. “While the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic may not be fully understood for years to come, what we do know is that the Class of 2021 has been remarkable in their resilience and ongoing commitment to their education, to their patients, and to one another.”

A total of 94 students became doctors of optometry during an on-campus hybrid ceremony held on May 20, 2021. The graduation represented not only the transition from training to professional life for aspiring students but also a milestone moment for the entire College community, which worked together to elevate study and service to patients during an unprecedented time in history. It was a testament to combined strength and optimism echoed by SUNY Chancellor

2 MS degrees




Class of 2023 strikes a White Coat pose in front of the New York City Public Library.

2021 FMP Mentor of the Year This year, the College’s Family of Mentors Program (FMP) honored two alumni with the annual recognition for mentorship: Katie Brogan, OD, FAAO, ’18, and Tharanie Amarawardana, OD, ’17. Mentors are selected based on student nominations. “Dr. Brogan is not only an amazing doctor but a great role model. [She] always made herself available to talk and always offered her advice despite her busy full-week schedule. Throughout the year, Dr. Brogan would give me advice regarding modalities of practice, encouraging residency, and literally anything I would ask her about,” said Kaitlyn Rooney, Class of 2022. “Although COVID had prevented us from meeting in person, I feel that I will always be able to reach out to Dr. Brogan, and she will always be more than willing to help. I appreciate everything Dr. Brogan has done for me, and I look up to her selflessness.” “Dr. Amarawardana gave me her undivided attention for the time we had allotted and made herself available via text at all times if I ever needed to reach out. She addressed everything I asked her and offered up her thoughts and advice on the topic and how I could move one step further, which is beyond what I expected,” shared fourth-year student Sanjana Saksena. “Overall, I think Dr. A was an amazing mentor who outdid herself in providing me with guidance in way more aspects than I thought I needed help with.” To learn more about the Family of Mentors Program, visit sunyopt.edu . Stay connected with your class and join the SunyEyeNetwork.org .

Residency Alumnus of the Year

SUNY Optometry alumnus and post-residency graduate Andre Stanberry, OD, was selected as the 2021 Resident Alumni of the Year. The honor was presented during a ceremony celebrating the completion of programming for over 40 residents at the College. Following graduation from SUNY Optometry in 2008, Dr. Stanberry pursued a residency in Ocular Disease and Family Practice at the East New York Diagnostic and Treatment Center and served as Assistant Clinical Professor at the College. He is currently a Clinical Associate Professor and clinic director in Canada at the University of Waterloo, School of Optometry and Vision Science, and among the first panelists of the College’s highly acclaimed Race in Optometry series. In 2021, nearly 200 alumni volunteers participated in

Students Mark the Transition from Classroom to Clinic at Annual White Coat Ceremony

A rite of passage brings a class together

strong,” said Teresa Lowe, OD, chosen by the class as the ceremony’s Distinguished Faculty Member. Thanks to the SUNY Optometry Alumni Association who “have the backs of our students” and generously provided the white coats in their journey to become optometrists.

Following over a year of remote lectures and small group pre-clinical practice, 95 members of the SUNY Optometry Class of 2023 came together to celebrate a major milestone on the way to becoming eye doctors during a White Coat Ceremony hosted on campus and broadcast virtually on July 23, 2021. “This is the first time [our class] has been together in a year and a half,” said Travis Pfeifer, president of the Class of 2023, in his address to classmates. “Our journey here at SUNY hasn’t been what we expected, but I’m happy to share it all with you.” During the ceremony, members of the Class of 2023 were individually draped in their white coats by University Eye Center OD clinic chiefs: Dr. Jennifer Gould, Dr. Deborah Amster, Dr. Daniella Rutner, Dr. Diane Calderon-Villanueva, Dr. Amy Steinway, and Dr. Eva Duchnowski. “This past year, you have demonstrated strength, courage, resilience, and compassion unmatched in previous years. You inspire me to stay

engagement programs and events

Dr. Tharanie Amarawardana

Dr. Katie Brogan

Class of 2023 recite the Optometric Oath following White Coat Ceremony.




Alumna of the Year Finds Inspiration in her Patients

Graduate Boosts Visual Fitness in Amateur and Elite Athletes

Drs. Frank Barnes and Tanya Carter with their daughter, Adrienne, and son, Frank Barnes, III.

The 2021 Alumna of the Year, Neera Kapoor, OD, MS ’94, is a graduate who continues to demonstrate her dedication to the profession and the College through volunteering, publishing, participating in organized practice, and a commitment to community service. Dr. Kapoor credits her parents and professors at SUNY College of Optometry with fostering her future in the optometric field, and her patients with inspiring her to do her very best each day.

Alumna and neuro-optometrist Anne Reuter-Hanna, OD, ’08, says a visit to the eye doctor as a college student-athlete not only improved her performance in the classroom and on the playing field—it opened her eyes to what would become her life’s work. “I was a biochemistry major and a highly competitive soccer player at the University of Wisconsin. In my fourth year, I started to get headaches. Although I had near-perfect sight, it was my mother who suggested that I go to see the eye doctor because “Vision is more than just about 20/20,” recalled Reuter-Hanna, who was diagnosed with convergence excess, a condition where the eyes tend to aim inward during reading and close work. “I went through a vision training program, and the first thing I noticed was that my game got better, then my academics improved, and my headaches went away. That’s when I knew I needed to do this for

With a passion for learning and caring for patients, Dr. Kapoor journeyed from pupil to professional at SUNY Optometry, receiving her MS, OD, and Residency Certificate from the College. She rose to Associate Clinical Professor by 2003 and served as Chief of Vision Rehabilitation Services from 2010 to 2015. In 2016, she transitioned to NYU Grossman School of Medicine, where she currently holds the rank of Clinical Professor of Rehabilitation Medicine and conducts clinical research. She also provides clinical care for outpatients and inpatients in her work as a neuro-optometrist at Rusk Rehabilitation at NYU Langone Health. “Receiving the SUNY Optometry Alumna of the Year Award is a very great honor because it comes from my colleagues: my fellow SUNY Optometry grads. We know about our wonderful alma mater and how it changed our lives for the better,” says Dr. Kapoor. “I hope SUNY Optometry continues to inspire, educate, and graduate future alumni for generations to come.” “ Every patient encounter inspires me, as I am sure it does for fellow alums, to do my very best by the patient by applying the optometric educational and clinical foundation instilled in me from SUNY Optometry.” — Dr. Neera Kapoor

Surrounding Himself with the Best and Brightest Many SUNY College of Optometry graduates give back to the school, but few do it with the consistency and dedication of Arkady Selenow, OD, FAAO ‘81. As co-owner of two New York City-based optometry practices, he knows just where to look when it is time to hire: his alma mater. It is a habit that assures him that his practice is staffed by the brightest and best in the industry— and it also means he is always surrounded by those with the knowledge taught at the College. Beyond the practical, it also allows Dr. Selenow to indulge his creative impulses, including in corporate research. “Regarding research, think outside the box and don’t be afraid to suggest and try something that seems impossible,” he believes. “So many of our current research projects would have seemed impossible to me just ten years ago.”

other people.” Inspired by her patient experience,

Dr. Reuter-Hanna began her professional journey by working as a vision therapist for her eye doctor. “After two years, I knew I wanted to become a doctor. I asked what the best school for vision therapy is—and he said SUNY.” Today, Dr. Reuter-Hanna runs her private practice in New York, specializing

Alumna Dr. Reuter- Hanna enhances sports play through visual fitness.

Partnering for Success in Life and Practice Over 35 years ago, two students at SUNY College of Optometry embarked on a journey that not only led to fulfilling careers but also a life spent together. Today, husband and wife team Frank Barnes, Jr., OD, ’86, and Tanya Carter, OD, ’87, are parents of two grown children and partners in a comprehensive optometric practice in Montclair, New Jersey, a venture they began in 1991 that continues

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in neuro-cognitive and athletic vision performance for athletes of all ages and skill levels, with emphasis on helping amateurs become elite players. Her work includes serving as the exclusive sports vision doctor for the John McEnroe Tennis Academy in New York City and Long Island, working primarily with youth, and providing care for patients at the NYC Brain Injury Center. She also devotes time to outreach programs that provide vision services to at-risk women and children. “For a long time, sports performance focused on fitness. Then it was nutrition and sports psychology. Now we’re looking at what else we can change and understand that it all starts in the eye,” explained Dr. Reuter-Hanna. “We see mostly with our brain—an area that can be molded, changed, fortified, and enhanced to increase performance. It’s an obvious connection that is finally catching on.”

to grow in size and reputation. Following a college-supported trip to the NOA convention, Dr. Barnes was inspired, along with peers at SUNY Optometry, to begin a chapter of NOSA (National Optometric Student Association). Dr. Carter joined NOSA that same

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year as a new student to the College. “It is good to see the chapter has grown and is still going strong at SUNY,” said Dr. Barnes, who currently serves as Vice President of NOA.

Dr. Frank Barnes (left) and Dr. Tanya Carter with children Adrienne S. Barnes and Frank Barnes, III




demonstrate that contrast sensitivity is strongly dependent on the amount of light and that natural, bright light stimulates the visual brain more effectively and improves eyesight.” In the study, investigators measured the responses from neurons in the primary visual cortex of the brain—the part that processes visual information from the eye’s retina—to stimuli with different contrasts and light intensities. According to Dr. Rahimi-Nasrabadi and colleagues, following the prevailing belief that visual contrast remains constant no matter the luminance setting may cause critical measurement errors that have general implications in basic research and clinical care. “You can now feel good when you decide to read your favorite book outdoors and say that it is scientifically proven that visual contrast increases outdoors. We have shown that reading under bright light stimulates your visual brain more effectively, allows you to see the letters better, and may also help your eyesight,” said Dr. Rahimi- Nasrabadi. “The hope is that our study will serve as a catalyst for further investigation of contrast sensitivity and its role in current measures for the evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of eye disease.”

Contrast sensitivity is defined as the luminance or color difference between the foreground and background of an object that allows you to decipher exactly what you’re viewing. It plays a part in many everyday situations, such as determining if a shadow is an animal, person, or object and being able to ascertain words, music notes, and numbers on a piece of paper or in a book. Unlike visual acuity, which is the ability to discern letters or numbers at a distance, contrast sensitivity is an essential measure of visual function in low light situations, fog, or glare when the contrast between objects and their background is often reduced. Driving at night is an example of a situation that requires good contrast sensitivity to navigate the road safely. “Until now, vision research has operated under the assumption that luminance contrast does not change with light intensity. That is, a dark letter on a white page has the same contrast outdoors (under the brightest light) than indoors (under the dimmest light),” said Hamed Rahimi-Nasrabadi, PhD, lead investigator and graduate student working in the laboratory of Jose-Manuel Alonso, MD, PhD, professor at SUNY Optometry. “Our study shows that this decades-old assumption is incorrect. We

Dr. Hamed Rahimi-Nasrabadi

Natural bright light can help your eyesight Pivotal Findings Shed Positive Light on the Benefits of eading Outdoors

Dr. Jose-Manuel Alonso

“ You can now feel good when you decide to read your favorite book outdoors and say that it is scientifically proven that visual contrast increases outdoors. We have shown that reading under bright light stimulates your visual brain more effectively, allows you to see the letters better, and may also help your eyesight.” — Dr. Rahimi-Nasrabadi

natural bright light can stimulate your visual brain more effectively, allow you to see objects and letters better, and help your eyesight. The study, published in Cell Reports on February 2, 2021, focuses on the role of contrast sensitivity.

Recent research has illuminated the benefits of natural light to eye health and development, particularly for curbing myopia, or nearsightedness, in children and young adults. Now a new study from the SUNY College of Optometry reveals how




A children’s workbook with vision therapy exercises provides accessible care Student Innovator Award Winner Seeks to Expand Therapy for Amblyopia

Student Receives AAOF Research Award

Third-Year Student Presents at AAO Third-year student Georgina Tsakrios presented a continuing education lecture at the American Academy of Optometry (AAO) in Boston alongside professor Dr. Mark Rosenfield. Their talk, entitled “Eye Injuries Outside the Workplace: The Role of the Optometrist and Legal Responsibilities,” leveraged their joint expertise in optometry and law. Tsakrios received her JD at New York Law School prior to pursing her degree in optometry.

Second-year OD/MS student Gulnoza Azieva was awarded the Joe and Janet Barr Early Career Cornea and Contact Lens Research Award presented by The American Academy of Optometry Foundation (AAOF). She earned the honor in support of her research focusing on the development of a protocol to assess ocular surface and identify reliable parameters that will help in assessment of contact lens induced dry eye (CLIDE).

Second-year student Natalie Duider won the 2021 Student Innovator Award following the College’s 6th annual competition held virtually on April 16. Her winning concept “The At-Home Amblyopia Activity Book,” offers simple yet accessible MFBF (monocular fixation in a binocular field) vision therapy exercises for children. “The goal of the workbook is to maximize vision therapy by providing a convenient and affordable at-home option featuring fun, kid-friendly coloring pages and various games to strengthen vision,” explained Duider. Fellow competitors included third-year students Erica Meltzer and Sofia Ribolla, and fourth years Susan Chen and Schuman Chen, Melissa Levine, and returning champion Jubin Shah. Past Winners • 2016: Vanessa Fimreite, OD, ’16 • 2017: Kathleen Hoang, OD, ’18 • 2018: Elkie Fung, OD, ’19, and Tara Mahvelati, OD, ’19 • 2019: Christian Crespo, OD, ’20 • 2020: Jubin Shah, OD, ’21

The AAOF said Azieva presented an impressive resume of experience in clinical research, volunteer service, and lecture presentation leading to her selection as this year’s award winner. She was recognized for her award and work at the Academy 2021 Boston. “I chose SUNY because of its strong commitment to training vision scientists and future leaders in optometry to advance vision care. My long-term career goal is to become an optometry educator and vision scientist performing my own ocular surface and contact lens research and applying the latest discoveries to our patients,” said Azieva. The Barr Research Award is intended to provide an entering first- or second- year MS or PhD vision science or physiological optics student attending a school/college of optometry support in the amount of $2,000 for research project seed funding in the areas of cornea/ocular surface or contact lenses. The applicant can be in a graduate program alone or combined with professional/residency program.

Research Activity and Grants

38 Grants Totaling $3,059,803

20 Adult and child studies conducted by the CVRC covering medication, device, therapy, contact lens and other areas

6 Students completed the Graduate Center for Vision Research T35 fellowship

38 Presentations and Invited Lectures

33 Research Publications

34 * Active Studies *8 studies ending FY20-21.




Finding Focus Following Traumatic Brain Injury

“It wasn’t until a few years after the accident that I came to realize the full extent of my brain injury,” explained Marshall. “I began to bump into people and things, lose memory and train of thought, and had difficulty reading due to double vision.” Her neurologist at NYU Langone’s Rusk Rehabilitation Institute recommended that she seek help for her vision problem at the University Eye Center. “It was the best decision for me because I saw tremendous improvement in my eyesight. Once my vision was addressed, all of my other modalities—like balance issues—fell into place.” That was in 2004. Fast forward to 2015, Marshall began to experience extreme pressure in her eyes due to advancing glaucoma. She was losing her vision and given an eyeglass prescription that didn’t help her double-vision. “I was told that nothing more could be done to correct the problem. It was unacceptable to me,” said Marshall. “That’s when I remembered the care I received at the University Eye Center and made my return.” For people with TBI and related eye issues, vision therapy or rehabilitation can help alleviate symptoms and improve brain-eye communication. Customized for the individual, a prescription for vision therapy consists of personalized exercises that include colored tints, lenses, prisms, filters, occluders, and other equipment. The exercises aim to help patients develop visual skills and process information more effectively. For homebound patients, the UEC offers teletherapy, including a software program that provides instructions and videos. Length of treatment can be several weeks to months depending on the severity of vision issues and achieving therapy milestones. Marshall underwent weekly vision therapy at the UEC for six months. An educator with expertise in African American studies, she has resumed work on an oral and written account of her family history which requires studying and synthesizing hundreds of photos, letters, documents, and archives. “I am overjoyed about my progress and what I can do—my care at the Center has been excellent.” “ It was the best decision for me because I saw tremendous improvement in my eyesight.” — Mary Marshall, PhD

Patient with TBI improves eyesight and outlook on life with help from her optometrist

the part of the brain that controls the eyelid muscles stops working correctly. She was also diagnosed with glaucoma. All these problems were due to a traumatic brain injury (TBI). “There is a wide variety of visual problems associated with traumatic brain injury—especially when the injury is diffuse, as is the case in a concussion,” explained Rima Bakhru, OD, ’15, vision rehabilitation specialist and faculty member at SUNY College of Optometry University Eye Center. “The visual system takes up a huge percentage of brain matter and is spread through many different lobes as it travels from the eyes to the back of the brain and projects to other systems.”

More than 25 years have passed since retired historian and college professor Mary Marshall, PhD, was a passenger in a car crash that changed the course of her life. The accident resulted in a collapsed lung and months of rehabilitation, but her health issues didn’t end there. Upon returning to the classroom to wish her students well on their finals, Marshall’s students noticed that she had difficulty speaking and was continually blinking and squinting her eyes. A further medical evaluation revealed she had abductor laryngeal dystonia, causing spasms of the muscles of the voice box and blepharospasms of the eye, a condition that occurs when

The Bowery Mission joined forces with New York City Rescue Mission in Tribeca that will include a SUNY Optometry-run clinic, directed by Constandina Manettas, OD, ’20: “Everyone deserves the best vision possible.” (Photo courtesy of The Bowery Mission)

On a Mission for Accessible Eye Care

The Optometric Center of New York (OCNY) received a series of grants to help advance a partnership between the College and The Bowery Mission in Manhattan to provide high-quality vision care for the city’s underserved population. With locations in the Bowery and Harlem, The Bowery Mission recently joined forces with an outreach center in Tribeca to expand services and aid for those in need, including

a new optometry clinic opening in February 2022. “Part of our

To learn more about community outreach, scan the QR code.

mission as an institution is to help care for our community and to instill a spirit of community involvement in our students,” said Richard Soden, OD, ’79, OCNY board president. “This program will help us do both of those things.” Outreach by SUNY Optometry staff and students extends beyond the Bowery to include many collaborative public health initiatives with schools, clinics, organizations, and missions throughout our region and the world.

Dr. Rima Bakhru guides patient Mary Marshall through visual rehabilitation exercises.




Transforming a Resilient Campus Throughout COVID-19 SUNY Optometry safely navigates instruction, patient care, and campus activities while striving for the health and safety of the community

Over 4,400 lecture, lab, and clinical contact hours safely completed; 85 percent of the time these hours were conducted in person.

less than 1% Positivity rate across campus (.14% positivity rate) 2,064 Participants in continuing professional education programs

Throughout the pandemic, the SUNY Optometry community prioritized the health and safety of the entire community. That required resilience, adaptability, and a lot of teamwork. The result is a highly vaccinated group with a positivity rate that remained low and allowed programs and activities to resume with precautions in place.

89% Attended virtual CPE programs in real time



Over 50% student applicant interviews were conducted in person

The Recognition Committee celebrated the resilience of our community on Giving Tuesday with Take-a-Break, which saw more than 100 employees stop by to reconnect and grab a snack.



The Spring 2021 semester saw lectures move from synchronous, remote access to in-person with vaccination, COVID-19 testing on campus, and a mask wearing mandate.

11 Residency lectures and presentations, mostly in person

8,456 COVID-19 PCR tests completed

Organized by the Student Council, the annual Halloween Party avoided the scare with pre-event testing, vaccinations, and masking.




College Continues Commitment to Advancing Diversity and Inclusion

Student members of SUNY Optometry’s SPECtrum worked closely with University Eye Center leaders to customize signage and patient registration forms to make them more inclusive of diverse population needs and situations, particularly for the LGBTQIA+ community. Released in June 2021, new patient registration forms include fields or prompts that address preferred name, preferred pronoun, assigned sex at birth, and gender identity. Clinic staff are also provided with a guide to SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) terms and protocols to help facilitate effective interaction and exchange with patients. “Effective healthcare involves approaching people with an open heart and making sure that they feel comfortable and accepted,” said SPECtrum president and third- year student Rebecca Chan Min. “[This initiative] will help patients to become more engaged and trusting in their care from the start.” Established in 2016, student-run SPECtrum is the nation’s first LGBTQIA+ club housed at an independent college of optometry. Cultivating Inclusive Care in the University Eye Center and Beyond

Welcome First Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging, Dr. Joy Harewood Appointed in March 2021, Joy Harewood, OD, FAAO, Dipl ABO, joined SUNY College of Optometry as the first Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) and associate clinical professor. The fulfillment of this role is among many key initiatives

Diversity-Inclusion Master Plan Total URM* Student Enrollment 11% (2021)

6.3% (2016) Three-year Average,

“ Effective healthcare involves approaching people with an open heart and making sure that they feel comfortable and accepted. [This initiative] will help patients to become more engaged and trusting in their care from the start.” — Rebecca Chan Min

prioritized by the College President’s Task Force on Race and Equity in 2020. Under Dr. Harewood’s leadership, the task force, which is now the Advisory Board for Race and Equity, implemented several initiatives, increased community outreach, and began assessment on the College’s accomplishments to date as they look to update the Diversity and Inclusion Master Plan. “Optometry serves as a primary entry point to healthcare for people from all walks of life. This makes our profession uniquely positioned to positively influence access to care for many vulnerable populations. To properly serve these and many other populations, we must reflect the diversity of the patients that we serve. We must make sure that all voices in the SUNY Optometry community, from the classroom to the exam chair, feel heard, seen, and understood,” said Dr. Harewood. The Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging continues to advance its vision and mission since Dr. Harewood’s start, including designing an icon to showcase the values of the

First-year URM Enrollment 10.6% (2019-21) 4.6% (2013-15)

Leading the way among optometry schools, Michael McGovern, OD, chaired key committees through ASCO that focused on expanding resources in teaching optometry students about cultural and religious beliefs of others, gender identity and transgender patients, and non- English speaking patients including working on Case Studies on Cultural Competency Compilation and moderating Online Clinical Educators Forums (OCEF). SPECtrum recognized PRIDE Month with a webinar on Cases in Culturally Responsible Care focused on providing excellent patient care and experiences across varying backgrounds.

department and its important work. The inspiring creation was chosen by the Advisory Board for Race and Equity from numerous submissions by members of the College community. Created by Media Specialist Louie Bacosa, the winning design appeared in the monthly newsletter “EYE See You,” the online Diversity Series, publications, and presentations.

To read about the program,

scan the QR code.

*Under-Represented Minoritized.

(L-R): Students Anson Tam, ’ 23, Avalena Linsky, ’ 23, Celesse Vasquez, ’ 24, Arden Niedfeld, ’ 25, and Dr. McGovern, ’ 97. 28 SUNY OPTOMETRY ANNUAL REPORT



Spotlight on DEIB Actions The Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging brought greater awareness and advancements to a number of areas. Actions comprised hosting presentations and webinars, including: • Optometry Through a Global Lens • Bias, Discrimination, and Violence toward the AAPI Community • Latinx Thriving in Optometry • The Low Vision Experience • Kristallnacht Commemoration: Prelude to the Holocaust • Social Determinants of Health & Patient Care: Bridging the Gap Other activities included: • Campus-wide diversity and inclusion training; • Outreach to prospective and enrolled URM optometry students with NOA, ASCO, and Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell Medical Scholars Pipeline Program (MSPP); • Safe zone and virtual self-defense training; • Increasing use of student commuting buddies and the Student Ridership Reimbursement Program; • The launch of four Alumni Affinity groups, including Black Alumni, Latinx Alumni, LGTBQIA+ Alumni, and AAPI Alumni, serving as safe spaces for connection, discussion, and mentoring.

Programs aim to guide and inspire underrepresented students to seek careers in eye and health care SUNY Optometry Promotes Diversity Among Aspiring Eye Doctors

Recognizing Juneteenth, SUNY Optometry’s CPE program hosted a follow-up to the Race in Optometry Series with more than 8,900 people having viewed the series to date, including 400 who tuned into this program.

To view Race in Optometry – One Year Later, scan the QR code.

“I left the CSTEP Optometry Program feeling inspired, grateful, and ready for the next steps in my career.” Eye-CARE Camp included conversations with patients whose quality of life was improved and saved by an optometrist. Camp participant Josel Estrada, a first-generation college student and 2020 graduate of SUNY Albany, reflected on what he heard. “The patient who spoke about dealing with headaches and health problems for a long time until an optometrist discovered she had a brain tumor during an eye exam was very moving. Her optometrist found what other doctors missed. The stories from patients made me even more motivated to become an eye doctor.” These two programs, which are key strategies in achieving the College’s goal to ensure a diverse student body and ultimately bring more underrepresented doctors to the field of optometry, are off to a successful start. “It has been rewarding as our goal was to enlighten, encourage, and boost student confidence as they consider their career path and take the next steps,” said Christian Alberto, EdD, director of admissions. “We look forward to following their progress as they move from prospective applicant and optometry student to a practicing doctor of optometry.” For more information on the programs, including full articles and how to apply, visit www.sunyopt.edu.

Nearly 200 aspiring optometry students from close to home and abroad participated in two programs over the summer, Eye-CARE Summer Camp and CSTEP. Eye-CARE Summer Camp launched in late June with a three-day program designed to expose participants to the optometric profession and college application process while also expanding the pipeline of opportunities for underrepresented minorities interested in the field. The program, which was hosted virtually, was supported by VSP Global. Having renewed the CSTEP grant last year, this year’s program nearly doubled the number of participants in the 2021 winter and spring internship programs. Also hosted virtually, the online curriculum proved effective for all involved, including the ability for students to audit the course from regions nationwide. “CSTEP at SUNY Optometry is unique in that most CSTEP programs are implemented at the undergraduate level rather than within a professional institution,” said Quy Nguyen, OD, ’13, executive director of career planning and development and minority enrichment for the College. “Despite the program being completely virtual, students were very engaged, interacted with speakers and other students, and worked very hard.” What Students Say “From the program, I learned what it means to have faith and to be resilient in a goal that may seem impossible,” shared CSTEP participant and SUNY Oswego senior Olivia Odigie.

SUNY Optometry Hosts Second Annual BLAACK Week

Presented by the Advisory Board on Race and Equity and the Office of DEIB, the SUNY Optometry community celebrated the second annual BLAACK Week (Because Learning Achieves Appreciation and Community Knowledge) Week hosted November 14–17. Coined by third-year student Cori Robinson, BLAACK Week was launched in 2020 as a celebration of Black culture with food, education, and fun to encourage creativity, conversation, and understanding of various cultures. This year’s event kicked off with a Taste of NOSA, featuring foods from India, Ethiopia, Jamaica, Cuba, and Kosher fare. Day two featured an interactive webinar led by Ruth Shoge, OD, MPH, FAOO, Director of DEIB at UC Berkeley School of Optometry, who shared

insights into expanding the optometric profession and care of people of diverse backgrounds. Week-long festivities closed with an online movie night presentation of Black Panther . Sponsors for week-long celebration included VSP Global and Johnson & Johnson Vision.

Scan the QR code to watch “Social Determinants of Health & Patient Care: Bridging the Gap” with Dr. Ruth Shoge.



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