James Sandefur, O.D.

James D. Sandefur, O.D., has been called the 'heart and soul' of optometry in Louisiana because of his deep passion for the profession and serving the citizens of the state. A graduate of Southern College of Optometry, Memphis, Tennessee, Dr. Sandefur started his career with the founding of The Vision Clinic in Oakdale, La., bringing comprehensive optometric care to the town of Oakdale and to Allen Parish (county) for the first time in history. During that time, he forged a relationship with an ophthalmologist who associated with his practice to serve the surgical needs of the area's patients. Dr. Sandefur provided eye care to the citizens of his community for 30 years before selling the practice but stayed to see patients part time for the new owner.

Dr. Sandefur was also one of the first doctors of optometry in Louisiana to serve on a hospital staff with his acceptance at Oakdale Community Hospital, regularly seeing patients at the hospital, in the emergency room, and providing consults in the hospital for other physicians on staff.

Fighting for parity for the profession has always been a priority for Dr. Sandefur. In 1984, Dr. Sandefur did a tangent screen exam on a glaucoma suspect, billed Medicaid and was denied reimbursement. At the time, Medicaid was only paying optometrists for a refraction and no other procedures were allowed to be paid to optometrists. Dr. Sandefur filed a lawsuit against the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. When the court ruled against Dr. Sandefur, he took the matter to the Appeals court, which sent one question to the Louisiana Supreme court. The Supreme court ruled in Dr. Sandefur's favor, subsequently the Appeals court then overturned the lower court and ruled in his favor, thereby requiring Medicaid pay optometrists for all procedures for which they pay ophthalmologists. In addition, the decision required Medicaid pay optometrists equally with ophthalmologists for those procedures. This landmark lawsuit has meant millions of dollars for optometrists, as well as elevated them to the full status of doctor.  

Since 1997, Dr. Sandefur has served as Executive Director of the Optometry Association of Louisiana. During his tenure, membership has nearly doubled, with a market share of nearly 80%. Working with his membership, Dr. Sandefur has spearheaded dozens of bills helping optometrists better serve their patients, and helped defeat other proposed legislation and resolutions that would have been detrimental to the profession and the public's access to care.  

An active member of the American Optometric Association, he has served on numerous committees and received the AOA's Distinguished Service Award in 2010. Also that year, he was the recipient of the Bill Pittman Optometric Leadership Award at the Southwest Council of Optometry (SECO) in recognition of his leadership example within the profession.