American Optometric Association Announces 2024 Award Recipients

April 1, 2024

St. Louis, Missouri – March 28, 2024 – The American Optometric Association (AOA), American Optometric Student Association (AOSA) and Optometry Cares® —The AOA Foundation today announce the 2024 recipients of the organizations’ annual awards, including the AOA Excellence awards, AOSA Student of the Year, National Optometry Hall of Fame, Dr. W. David Sullins Jr. InfantSEE® Award, Dr. Jerry P. Davidoff Vision Care Award and Paraoptometric Professional awards.

The AOA thanks its longstanding Visionary Supporter Johnson & Johnson for their recognition of the AOA Excellence Awards recipients. Award recipients will be honored throughout Optometry’s Meeting® in Nashville, Tennessee on June 19-22, 2024. Registration for Optometry’s Meeting is currently open and offering early bird registration rates until April 1.

The AOA Excellence Awards includes the Optometric Educator of the Year, Distinguished Service, Optometrist of the Year and Young Optometrist of the Year Awards. The 2024 award recipients include:

Andrew Cook, O.D. (North Carolina) – Distinguished Service Award

Dr. Cook is a 2022 founding participant of the AOA Advocacy Roundtable, an interactive forum for supporters of optometry. Following his role in 1980 as the AOSA National Vice President, Dr. Cook continued his service to optometry through his leadership in the North Carolina Optometric Society (NCOS), Southern Council of Optometrists, and the AOA. He is the Past President of NCOS, Southern Council of Optometrists (SECO), and the North Carolina State Board of Optometry. Dr. Cook has received accolades such as the SECO President’s Award and the NCOS Optometrist of the Year/John Costabile Award.

Matthew Jones, O.D. (Arkansas) – Optometrist of the Year

Dr. Jones is a recognized leader in the scope expansion efforts in Arkansas, focusing on access to the highest quality of care for patients across the state, and successfully led the passage of the 2019 scope expansion bill. He also served as a board member of Arkansans for Healthy Eyes, the committee to protect the new law from being placed on the ballot for recall. Dr. Jones is the Past President of the Arkansas Optometric Association, a former Federal Advocacy Representative (FAR) and formerly served on Optometry’s Meeting Committee. He is currently the Legislative Chair for Arkansas Optometric Association, on the AOA-PAC Board of Directors and a member of the AOA's State Government Relations Committee (SGRC).

Kelly Deering, O.D., FAAO (Missouri) – Young Optometrist of the Year

Dr. Deering volunteered to serve as the local society president of the Northwest region of the Missouri Optometric Association (MOA) and recently became a trustee on the MOA Board of Directors in 2021. Her active participation has ranged from championing the MOA rebrand and restructuring to taking an active role in the MOA Scope Committee to modernize the practice of optometry in Missouri. Dr. Deering’s past and recent efforts to advance optometry demonstrate her proactive communication strategies that help bridge gaps and unite the profession with a common goal.

Jeffrey J. Walline, O.D., PhD. (Ohio) – Optometric Educator of the Year

Dr. Walline is the current Dean of The Ohio State University College of Optometry and previously served as Chair of the Research and Graduate Studies Committee and was an Associate Dean of Research. Throughout his tenure at OSU, Dr. Walline has led several pediatric contact lens studies to evaluate the effect of contact lens wear on myopia progression and children's self-perceptions. At the AOA level, Dr. Walline was a member of the AOA’s Council on Research, is Immediate Past Chair of the AOA Council for the Cornea and Contact Lens Section and is a member of the Food and Drug Administration Myopia Control Review Taskforce.

The AOSA Student of the Year Award recognizes optometry students in their third or fourth year of school who show leadership skills when serving their profession, patients and community. This year’s winner is Maggie Dunn. Maggie is currently in her third year at the Ohio State University College of Optometry. As President of her college’s chapter of AOSA, Maggie is an active leader in Ohio’s advocacy efforts to modernize optometric scope of practice. She actively engaged and educated legislators on the depth and breadth of optometric education at Ohio Optometric Association’s Optometry Day at the Statehouse. Maggie also works with pre-optometry students as a “Big Sibling” and has been a member of Optometry Ambassadors since 2021.

The National Optometry Hall of Fame recognizes and honors optometrists who are luminaries of the professions—those who have made significant and long-lasting contributions to the optometric profession. The award is administered through Optometry Cares – The AOA Foundation. This year’s winners include:

Dr. Joe Ellis

Joe Ellis, O.D., is a past president of the American Optometric Association and has been practicing full-scope optometry in since 1986. He has earned the Expanded Therapeutic Procedures certification and is a Diplomate of the American Board of Optometry. Dr. Ellis is a passionate advocate for access to care and currently the Advocacy chair on the Medical Executive Board at EyeCare Partners.

Siret Jaanus, M.S., PhD

Siret Jaanus, M.S., PhD, has played an extensive role in leading optometric education and advancing vision research. She has made significant contributions to the understanding of ocular pharmacology and co-authored dozens of publications. She helped introduce and expand courses in general and ocular pharmacology at Southern California College of Optometry and other schools and colleges of optometry across the U.S. This was a result of legislation enacted in 1976 in California in part because of the highly successful and tireless efforts of Dr. Jaanus, who met with legislators and testified before committees in California and several other states.

Optometry Cares—The AOA Foundation also awards the Dr. W. David Sullins, Jr., InfantSEE Award,  recognizing an individual doctor of optometry who has made significant contributions to optometry or the community for outstanding public service involving the InfantSEE program. This year’s winner is Dr. Deborah Bernay.  Dr. Bernay has served as the Texas State Leader for InfantSEE since its inception in 2004. She promotes InfantSEE throughout the state by educating doctors and students at the University of Houston College of Optometry. Dr. Bernay is passionate about infant vision and feels promoting InfantSEE is optometry’s gift to the youngest population. She currently serves on the board for the College’s Foundation for Education and Research in Vision and is a diplomat in the American Board of Optometry.

Members were asked to submit an award nomination for a colleague or peer who embodies passion for the vision community and works to further the profession for the Paraoptometric Professional awards, including Paraoptometric of the Year, Paraoptometric Community Service and Paraoptometric Lifetime Achievement Awards. The 2024 award recipients include: 

Savanna Johnson, CPOA – Paraoptometric of the Year

Savanna Johnson, CPOA, received the Mississippi Optometric Association 2023 Paraoptometric of the Year Award as well as the 2023 Paraoptometric Community Service Award. Savanna consistently devotes her time to improving her skills as a paraoptometric and was one of only 21 paraoptometrics to earn the CPOA credential.

Shelby Miller, CPO – Paraoptometric Community Service

Shelby Miller, CPO, is a dedicated member of Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (VOSH) and has created presentations for recruitment. In 2023, she received the Wisconsin Optometric Association scholarship to attend the Summer 2023 VOSH mission trip to Ecuador to provide eye care to those in need.  

Sally Greeley, CPOT – Paraoptometric Lifetime Achievement Award

Sally Greeley, CPOT, has worked in eye care for over 30 years and served on the Maine Paraoptometric Association Board for 10 years. Her focus on the value of education led her to the Commission on Paraoptometric Certification (CPC) where she continued to encourage paraoptometrics to become certified. Sally is referred to as a mentor within the CPC and has been acknowledged for her selfless work and determination.

To access the rules and criteria for the Paraoptometric Professional awards, click here. The AOA thanks Alcon for their recognition of the Paraoptometric Professional Awards recipients. 

Additionally, the Dr. Jerry P. Davidoff Vision Care Award recognizes Joan Stelmack, O.D., for actively serving in a clinical vision rehabilitation practice setting, given back to optometry through education and demonstrating a long-standing contribution and sharing knowledge with fellow practitioners for the betterment of vision rehabilitation eye care. Dr. Joan Stelmack is Director of Low Vision Service at the University of Illinois Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Science. Dr. Stelmack has collaborated on 23 funded research studies and in the role of principal research investigator, she has received over four million dollars in research funding. She has authored over 47 journal articles and presented over 155 scientific papers, posters and lectures. 

The AOA is proud to honor these members and recognize their exemplary service, contributions to optometry and passionate leadership. The AOA congratulates all 2024 award nominees.


About the American Optometric Association

The American Optometric Association (AOA) is the leading authority on and advocate for quality eye health care, representing more than 49,000 doctors of optometry, optometry students and optometric professionals. As the sole primary eye care provider in many communities across America, doctors of optometry are often a patient's first entry point into the health care system, and have extensive, ongoing training to examine, diagnose, treat, and manage disorders, diseases, and injuries that affect the eye and visual system. Through a nationwide public health initiative, AOA's Eye Deserve More campaign is fostering awareness of the importance of eye health and vision care and the overall health benefits of in-person, comprehensive eye examinations with AOA doctors of optometry for all Americans.