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Annual American Optometric Association Award Winners

Congratulations to AOA’s 2020 award winners

The AOA is proud to honor five members with its prestigious awards, sponsored by Johnson & Johnson Vision.

2020 Optometrist of the Year

Kenneth Lawson, O.D.

Kenneth Lawson, O.D.A graduate of the College of Optometry-University of Houston, Kenneth Lawson, O.D., has been a tireless advocate for the field of optometry and the public. His passion for his profession extends beyond his optometry office, and his drive to fight for others has earned him the respect and admiration of his patients, colleagues and public officials.

With the completion of his residency at Braverman Eye Center in Miami, Dr. Lawson runs a successful multi-doctor practice, Bayshore Eye Care, with his wife Jamie Lawson, O.D., in his hometown of Bradenton, Florida, specializing in ocular disease management and treatment. For the past nine years, Dr. Lawson has also conducted numerous lectures with emphasis on ocular health, business strategies for clinical practices, and legislation pertaining to optometry.

His professional involvement began early in his career at the local level when he served as president of the Manasota Optometric Society. Since then, Dr. Lawson continues to dedicate himself to his state association and its mission to advocate for optometry. He stood as a trustee for the Florida Optometric Association (FOA) between 2008 and 2014 before being elected as president in 2015. Even after the conclusion of his presidency, Dr. Lawson remains a key player and advisor to the FOA Board. He has remained the legislative chair for the FOA since 2010, driving the association's legislative efforts toward repeated successes.

Above all else, Dr. Lawson believes his professional duty is to serve those who may not have the means to serve themselves. This is demonstrated by his passion for using political activism as a tool to improve the visual welfare of the public. He succeeded in passing the vision insurance reform bill, which gave Florida optometrists the right to prescribe what is best for their patients and their ocular health without obstruction from the insurance companies. His legislative work promoting optometry-based lab testing has improved the diagnosis and treatment of patients' eye health. He fought for and obtained CLIA lab waiver certificates that allow optometrists to perform and receive reimbursement for in-office lab testing, and lab centers may now accept test orders written by optometrists.

Dr. Lawson's legislative skill remains an unparalleled benefit to the optometry profession. Not only do his efforts emphasize the significance of the optometrist, but his work as the FOA's legislative chair has revolutionized the perception of optometry in Florida. He played a leading role in the passage of an oral drug bill-HB 239 in 2013-that would ultimately save the state millions of dollars and allow optometrists to use oral prescriptions for the treatment of eye diseases. He had an instrumental impact on the vision insurance reform bill and licensure bill. He also restored authority to the Florida Board of Optometry by winning the board the rights to oversee licensing, testing and the regulation of topical ocular pharmaceuticals used by optometrists.

Over the years. Dr. Lawson has been consistently awarded for the quality of his professional involvement. He was recognized as Florida Optometrist of the Year in 2013, in the same year the Florida senate honored him with the Senate Presidential Leadership award. In 2015, the FOA named him Optometrist of the Decade.

His advocacy for the FOA's Political Action Committee has spurred an influx of contributions. Dr. Lawson has been an expert optometry witness for the Florida Department of Health for 19 years and later as an advisory member on the Department of Health transition team for former Gov. Rick Scott in 2011 and again for Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2018.

His personal duties as a doctor of optometry further reflect his value for promoting patient welfare. After Hurricane Irma hit the state in 2017 and devastated electricity across optometry offices, he accepted patients into his house for treatment without payment.

He is a consistent volunteer in his hometown of Bradenton, Florida. Over the years, he has volunteered for the Manatee County's Little League as an umpire and coach. He also participates in Keep Manatee Beautiful, protecting the environmental quality of Manatee County. Dr. Lawson has also served the public in the Better Business Council, the Chamber of Commerce, Children's Services and Victim's Empowered.

2020 Young Optometrist of the Year

Roya Attar, O.D.

Roya Attar, O.D.Roya Attar, O.D., MBA, is well-prepared to serve the science-based profession of optometry. Before obtaining her Doctorate of Optometry degree at UIW Rosenberg School of Optometry in San Antonio, Texas, in 2013, she earned Bachelor of Science degrees in biology and chemistry from the University of Memphis in 2003 and 2004. In 2017, she earned a Master's in business administration with an emphasis in health care from the University of Pikeville College of Business in Pikeville, Kentucky.

She served the Kentucky College of Optometry in various roles, including as assistant professor from 2015 to 2018. While at the college, she served as faculty mentor to several student organizations, during which time the college had the highest student attendance at SECO and AOA on Capitol Hill, and also began a tradition of service by partnering with remote area medical (RAM) clinics to provide vision screening to underserved areas within the state.

Dr. Attar moved to Mississippi in July of 2018 and broke career ground as the first optometrist hired at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, the state's only academic medical center. As assistant professor and director of optometric services, she provides clinical services, works in close contact with staff ophthalmologists, and trains and lectures ophthalmology residents and, beginning in May 2020, an optometry extern. Dr. Attar is credited with building a foundation for better understanding and mutual respect between optometry and ophthalmology.

Dr. Attar regularly lectures at regional and national optometry conferences, having done so on more than 15 occasions in 2019. She is also the author and co-author of several articles.

Dr. Attar serves on the AOA's Leadership Development Committee. She also belongs to the Mississippi Optometric Association (MOA) and serves on its Industry Relations Committee and Grassroots Committee. Dr. Attar made a name for herself with the MOA when she offered suggestions to increase PAC contributions during the 2018 association's fall conference, resulting in one of the most successful PAC fundraisers during a conference. As a member of Mississippi Leadership Optometry, she devotes time to increase MOA member and PAC contributions.

She is the 2019 president of the Central Mississippi Society of Optometry, having served as the previous vice president for the society.

In addition to her membership in AOA and the MOA, Dr. Attar is a volunteer for the Southeast Conference of Optometry (SECO). She is a member of Beta Sigma Kappa, the American Public Health Association (APHA), and the Mississippi Public Health Association (MPHA). Dr. Attar has set a goal of establishing a Vision Care Section for the MPHA.

Dr. Attar unfailingly gives back to her community through participation in community projects and service in leadership roles. She has assisted the Lions Club with its efforts to increase donations. She has served in association with the University of Mississippi Medical Center as a vision screening volunteer for high school athletes in Mississippi, employees at the Mississippi Capitol, youth-in-crisis at the Healy-Murphy Center in San Antonio, Texas and also for Methodist Healthcare Ministries.

She is a former member of the Pikeville Rotary Club, in Pikeville, Kentucky, and embraces the Rotary Club motto "Service Above Self" in all that she does, whether organizing a charity race, arranging a clean-up day at a local park, or creating a recycling program for a community. She has volunteered with the Marine Toys for Tots Program, Coats for Kids, 4-H Youth Program, and Girl Scouts of America as well as Relay for Life.

2020 Optometric Educator of the Year

Caroline B. Pate, O.D.

Caroline Beesley Pate, O.D.Caroline B. Pate, O.D., received her Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Gettysburg College in 2000, and then went on to attend the Pennsylvania College of Optometry where she received a second Bachelor of Science degree in vision science in 2001, and her Doctor of Optometry degree in 2004 with high honors. After graduation, she completed a residency in family practice optometry at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry (UABSO).

She began her tenure with the UAB School of Optometry in 2005 as a clinical assistant professor. Since 2013, she has been an associate professor. Dr. Pate served as the supervisor for the Family Practice Optometry Residency Program from 2008-2014. In 2014, she was named the Director of Residency Programs for UABSO.

Dr. Pate serves as the course director for Diseases of the Anterior Segment. She also runs a year-long residency conference seminar series for UABSO residents. She teaches in the classroom and laboratory in the clinical methods course series at UABSO, Clinical Evaluation of the Visual System, where she previously served as a co-course director for over 10 years. Dr. Pate sees patients as a clinical faculty member in Ocular Disease and Primary Care clinical services at UAB Eye Care and is a member of the University Optometric Group, the UAB School of Optometry faculty private practice where she provides direct care one day per week to patients of all ages.

Actively involved in organized optometry, she has served as a Clinical Skills Examiner for the NBEO on three occasions. She has also served as a consultant for the ACOE and served on site visit evaluation teams for initial accreditation and re-accreditation of optometric residencies, ophthalmic technician programs, and Doctor of Optometry programs. She has been published 12 times and has presented 13 scientific abstracts and posters. She served as a manuscript advisor for the following publications: Optometry, Journal of the American Optometric Association, SpringerPlus and Review of Optometry. She is a frequent lecturer and has presented over 120 lectures and workshops for continuing education. Dr. Pate was awarded the UAB President's Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2017 as well as the AOSA Teaching Award for Excellence in Clinical Science Instruction in 2007 and again in 2013.

She has held several positions in both the UABSO and the UAB system including member, Academic Advisory Council to the UAB Center for Teaching and Learning (2011-2014); UAB Commission on the Status of Women (2016-2019); UAB Faculty Senate, Elected Senator, Department of Optometry (2010-2012, 2012-2014); and member, UAB Curriculum and Research Committee (2010-2011). Dr. Pate has volunteered for the UAB Eye Care Gift of Sight program. She has also participated in the "Ask the Doctor" live segment on Birmingham's Fox 6 News.

Dr. Pate has been very active with the AOA, SECO, and the Alabama Optometric Association (ALOA) during her tenure at UABSO. She has been an InfantSEE ® provider since 2005. Through her work on the AOA Faculty Relations Committee, she has helped to develop and has participated in the Optometric Educator's Exchange on numerous occasions. She has attended the AOA Congressional Advocacy Conference in 2008, 2013 and in 2017 to help advocate on behalf of the profession. She served on the AOA Faculty Relations Committee from 2012 - 2016. She is currently serving on the AOA Membership Committee. She is also serving as the Faculty and Student Membership Engagement Committee/Liaison.

Dr. Pate has served as the ALOA's Education Committee Chair for four years and produced very successful meetings for the association. She continues to share her expertise in the CE arena by serving on the ALOA Education Committee as a member. Currently, Dr. Pate is serving as the chair of the Allied Health Professionals Education Committee for SECO International. She has also served on the ALOA's Student Affairs Committee as a liaison between the association and the student leadership and faculty. Dr. Pate was named the Alabama Optometric Association's Young OD of the Year in 2014 and the Alabama Optometric Association's Educator of the Year in 2019.

Dr. Pate assists the ALOA in organizing Student Day at the Legislature. Second-year students go to the state's capitol in Montgomery, to learn about optometric advocacy and to meet with their legislators. Dr. Pate helped to get this program off the ground and has been a part of it since its inception. She always attends these events and serves as a mentor to the students on advocacy issues.

She has also been active in the local Birmingham Area Optometric Society where she served as President in 2011.

Dr. Pate enjoys spreading news about the career of optometry and has participated in Vestavia Hills High School's Career Day and participated in mock interviews with students. She also has volunteered at local preschools and elementary schools to speak with children about eyes and vision.

She has volunteered her skills in numerous disaster relief efforts including the VSP Mobile Eyes Disaster Relief in Tuscaloosa and Pleasant Grove, Alabama, after the devastating tornadoes in 2011. She has served as a volunteer and faculty supervisor to SVOSH trips to Roane County, Tennessee; Honduras; Sevier County, Tennessee; Wise, Virginia; and Knoxville, Tennessee.

2020 Paraoptometric of the Year

Janet Millis, CPOT

Janet Millis, CPOTJanet Millis, CPOT, has worked full-time for Fairbury Vision Center in Fairbury, Illinois, since 2011 as a technician, optician and in the business department. Originally a CNA, Janet sought out knowledge and skills above and beyond what was asked of her. In early 2018, as a result of her leadership and ability to perform well in every area of the office, she was promoted to patient care manager/staff manager, in which she has thrived.

Janet received her CPO in February 2013 and shortly after set her sights on the CPOT. Of her own volition, she attended Madison Area Technical College's online CPOT course from 2013 to 2015 and completed her technical diploma in May 2015. Coursework included ocular anatomy, patient history, pre-testing and special testing, optical concepts and dispensing, patient relations and practice management.
The knowledge Janet gained during the CPOT course was immediately apparent and she advanced to performing subjective refractions, contact lens fittings and contact lens progress checks. She gained skills as an optician as well, often providing training and filling in for optical when needed.

In 2018, Janet attended the University of Houston Optometry's Office Manager Certification course, a six-month program to better prepare her for staff supervision responsibilities. Since then, she has been instrumental in planning and leading staff meetings, performing interviews and evaluations, and any other problem solving necessary to keep the practice running smoothly while providing exceptional patient care.

Most recently, in 2019, Janet requested to learn scribing. Now, in addition to all her other duties in the office, she finds time to assist the doctors in medical records and coding so they have more face-to-face time with patients.

Janet's talents and dedication shine far beyond her practice as she supports her profession nation-wide. In 2017, she accepted the invitation to serve on the AOA's Test Review Committee, attending its annual meeting and conference calls to enhance education and certification for other paraoptometrics. Since June 2019, Janet has also served as a member of the AOA's Commission on Paraoptometric Certification, which involves monthly conference calls to review a variety of paraoptometric-related topics.

In addition to volunteering her time with the AOA, Janet is involved in local community service. She organized routine monthly visits to local nursing home to provide glasses cleaning and adjustments; she and another optician have been providing this service for two years. Janet is active in her town's Citizens' Advisory Board, which organizes community projects and fundraising events such as "Trunk or Treat" and "Santa's Workshop," providing resources and services to those in need.

Janet routinely goes above and beyond to provide service to her patients outside the office and after hours. When there is a need, she delivers glasses and contact lenses and provides glasses adjustments in patients' homes or workplaces. She is well known in the community and is often approached for advice about eye problems. She brings in many new patients this way, taking notes and scheduling them for an appointment as soon as she's back in the office.

Janet's dedication to learning and passion for optometric patient care has always been apparent, and she has grown tremendously in her abilities over the past several years. She has achieved all this while working full time at her practice while raising four children.

2020 Distinguished Service Award

Roger Jordan, O.D.

Roger Jordan, O.D.Born in Livingston, Montana, Roger Jordan, O.D., graduated from Montana State University with Bachelor of Science, with honors. Attending the Southern California College of Optometry, he received his Doctor of Optometry graduating Magna Cum Laude.

While being partner/owner of Gillette Optometric Clinic since 1985 in Gillette, Wyoming, Dr. Jordan has been very involved and volunteered at the local, state and national level of the profession's optometric associations from early in his career. A Diplomat, American Board of Optometry since 2014, Dr. Jordan has committed himself to the advancement of the profession of optometry.

At the state level, Dr. Jordan has served in numerous positions for the Wyoming Optometric Association (WOA), beginning as a director, moving up to treasurer through president. He also at that time began to serve as the Keyperson to Wyoming senators and representatives and continues to this day.

Dr. Jordan has served on the Wyoming Board of Optometric Examiners and the Northern Rockies Optometric Conference Board.

As an active volunteer for the AOA, Dr. Jordan has served on numerous committees, especially those critical to the advocacy of the organization, including the AOA Political Action Committee (PAC National Chair from 1997-1999); Nominating Committee; Resolutions Committee; Congressional Conference Co-Chair on two occasions; Carrier Advisory Conference Co-Chair; Federal Relations Committee; Legislation Action Response Committee; Oversight Committee; and currently as the AOA's World Council of Optometry Representative since 2017.

As Keyperson to Senator Michael B. Enzi (R-WY), Dr. Jordan has earned respect for his knowledge of scope of care, prompting Senator Enzi to write, "During my time as a legislator at both the state and national level, Dr. Jordan has been my go-to contact for anything optometry related. As a member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee charged with protecting the health of Americans, I greatly value and rely on Dr. Jordan's professional expertise and opinion."

Dr. Jordan has been serving as the Vision Source administrator for the state of Wyoming since 2003. He has also served on the Practicing Physicians Advisory Council.

The American Podiatric Medical Association reached out to Dr. Jordan and he has been active on their Specialty Board Certification from 2015 to present.

Dr. Jordan has also been active in his community since he moved to Gillette. He has been a member of the Gillette Jaycees, the Gillette Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club, as well as been active in his church. He was the recipient of the Physician of the Year Campbell County award in 2013.

Dr. Jordan's respect for the veterans of his community and his dedication to provide eye care has been demonstrated by providing eye care to veterans at his office even when the VA system determined that the veteran could not receive eyecare at the practice. He has assisted patients facing barriers to care, and many who've contacted him after hours without hesitation.

Dr. Jordan serves as a volunteer in the Special Olympics, as well as a volunteer to special needs education facilities in his community. In 2019, Dr. Jordan participated on a mission trip to Jamaica where he provided vision exams to school children and post-op care for the elderly in different villages.

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