Joseph Mallinger, O.D., M.B.A., F.A.A.O.

Joseph C. Mallinger

2018 Distinguished Service Award

Joseph Mallinger, O.D., M.B.A., F.A.A.O., embarked on his service to organized optometry in 1968 as a student member of the California Optometric Association (COA) and the American Optometric Association. Upon graduation from Southern California College of Optometry in 1972, he quickly took leadership roles at the San Diego County Optometric Society. In those early years of his career, Dr. Mallinger exhibited his vision and passion and was elected eventually to all society officer positions, including president, as well as being honored twice as "OD of the Year." In 1980, he was name by COA as the "Young OD of the Year," and in 2017 received the Paul Yarwood Memorial Award, COA's highest tribute that recognizes significant contributions to optometry or to the visual care of the public.  

As an outgrowth of the enthusiasm he brought at the local level, he was elected by the COA House of Delegates to its Board of Trustees in 1989, and in 1993 was elected president. His leadership drove several significant victories for the profession and the public it served, including defeating an attempt to hold doctors of optometry to a different standard than other health care providers; blocking a bid by medicine to limit scope expansion; preventing an attempt to replace the California State Board of Optometry with a committee under the control of the Medical Board of California; leading defeat of proposed regulations to require optometrists to provide patients with informed consent; and in partnership with AOA, won an agreement with Transamerica Occidental to reimburse doctors of optometry for E&M codes. Dr. Mallinger also served as a director, secretary-treasurer and president of the Public Vision League (PVL). PVL was formed by COA to promote and defend the practice of optometry in the courts. During his time on the PVL board, his vision and leadership were instrumental in successfully prosecuting several high-profile cases, including twice suing the Medical Board of California to prevent its allowing assistants in physician's offices from performing refractions, and obtaining a reversal of the state Department of Health Care Services' action to drop optometry as a covered benefit under Medi-Cal.

In recognition of his leadership for organized optometry, Dr. Mallinger was honored by COA in 2009 as Optometrist of the Year.

Leaving private practice, in 1997 he was selected for a leading role, later to become president and CEO, at COA's then-subsidiary group purchasing organization - which became Vision West, Inc. (VW). Dr. Mallinger spearheaded the contribution of millions of dollars in support of AOA and state associations in carrying out their programs for the profession and public. In 2005, VW was sold, with Dr. Mallinger a lead negotiator in that sale. Again looking out for the individual doctor of optometry and the vital role of organized optometry in ensuring his or her future, Dr. Mallinger engineered a provision that provided COA would receive a percentage of the gross sale should the company be sold again. In late 2017, VW was again sold and members of COA were the beneficiaries of his foresight as that small paragraph in the sales agreement resulted in a nearly one-half million dollar payment to COA.

Committed to the bright future of optometry, Dr. Mallinger is a longtime member board of directors of the Marshall B. Ketchum University, home of his alma mater Southern California College of Optometry, currently serving in the capacity of secretary-treasurer.

Dr. Mallinger has engaged in numerous endeavors to increase the quality of life for individuals. For a number of years, he provided free, life-changing optometric care to migrant workers in the San Diego area who otherwise did not have access to care. Seeing the need, Dr. Mallinger offered his expertise as a consultant - free-of charge - to several school districts in the San Diego area to lead the development of and teach the need for testing children for developmental learning disabilities - another life-changing initiative for those affected.

Dr. Mallinger is currently the president of the Board of Directors for Optometry Cares®—The AOA Foundation.