The American Academy of Optometry Foundation is a nonprofit, philanthropic organization that develops and provides financial support for optometric research and education in vision and eye health to improve clinical patient care.
Founded in 1947, the Foundation has raised millions of dollars to support hundreds of awards and grants during its more than 75 years.
In addition to administering awards, fellowships, grants, and scholarships, the Foundation and its volunteers have developed six intensive learning initiatives. These benefit the Academy’s membership and their staff and align with the Academy’s strategic plan.
Each year, hundreds of optometric professionals benefit from the Foundation’s tireless work and the incredible generosity of our donors and sponsors.
To pledge your support and join us in our mission, please click the “Donate Now” button or visit our Giving Page to make your donation.
Stacey Coulter, OD, MS, FAAO, President of the American Academy of Optometry Foundation, explains the importance of the Foundation.
Funding our Future
The American Academy of Optometry and its Foundation support graduate students and residents in their pursuit of advanced degrees in optometric research and education. Established in 1949 and named for the founding president of the Foundation, William C. Ezell, OD, nearly 500 Ezell Fellowships have been awarded to exceptional and talented individuals. In addition to Ezell Fellowships, the Foundation offers a number of other grants, awards, and fellowships. These awards are made possible by donations from individual donors, private endowments, and other optometric companies and organizations.
Advancing Optometry Globally
The American Academy of Optometry Foundation awarded the first international travel grant to John Kwesi Assan, OD, FAAO, to attend the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Optometry in San Diego in 2022. Dr. Assan, a Ghanian-trained optometrist, earned his Fellowship at the meeting, becoming the youngest African to achieve this distinction. Follow his journey to the 2022 Academy Meeting and learn why he feels an international travel award is important to help move optometry forward in the video link above.
The American Academy of Optometry Foundation helps bring innovation to life through the BRIGHT IDEAS Pitch Competition. This competition provides recognition, mentoring, and monetary reward to early-stage entrepreneurs with an idea or innovation that will improve eye care. The inaugural first-place winner, SunSnap Kids, presented by Kaleb Aboott, OD, FAAO, rose to the top of a pool of nearly 30 applicants. This child-focused company’s sunglasses use slap bracelets that comfortably “snap” onto the arm and keep them within reach and easy to use.
Promoting Lifelong Learning
The American Academy of Optometry Foundation has developed learning initiatives that provide unique opportunities for optometrists, researchers, and students to expand their knowledge and broaden their skill set as they learn from experts who are Academy Fellows. The Clinical Podcast Series provides summaries of trending, clinically relevant research with ten video segments sent monthly to Academy Fellows as a member benefit. The Foundation’s Clinical Investigator Certification (CIC) Program provides practicing optometrists with the training and skills necessary to serve as a clinical investigator for sponsored clinical research trials within their practice setting.
Stimulating New Research
The American Academy of Optometry Foundation’s Research Funding Pilot Grant Program stimulates new research through pilot grants and partner collaboration in order to address key gaps identified in funding research. The Foundation awarded two pilot grants in 2022, one focused on strabismic amblyopia submitted by Dr. Jingyun Wang of the SUNY College of Optometry and the other on ocular surface and meibomian cells submitted by Dr. Rachel Redfern of the University of Houston College of Optometry. The Foundation Board of Directors is committed to fund pilot grants in 2023.
Building a Foundation of Future Leaders
Recognizing that the current number of PhD level faculty will not meet the demand required to teach the next generation of optometrists and researchers, the American Academy of Optometry Foundation launched an initiative in 2021 to financially support optometrists pursuing a PhD in a vision science field. Through the generosity of Dr. Tony and Elna Adams, the American Academy of Optometry, and Foundation donors, the OD/PHD Scholarship Program awards $30,000 to support individuals in their advanced career training and development. Two scholarships will be awarded in 2023 to provide this vital support.
Making a Difference
The American Academy of Optometry Foundation honors those who have made a difference in our world and supports programs that strengthen the profession of optometry. Pictured above, Sherrol Reynolds, OD, FAAO, received the inaugural AAOF Excellence in Diversity Awareness and Education Award. This award honors those who lead our profession by enhancing diversity and inclusion efforts. Dr. Reynolds received this award at the Academy’s centennial meeting in 2022. The Foundation has also been pleased to support “Future Focus on Optometry,” which introduces under represented minorities enrolled in high school or college to the optometric profession.
Supporting Students & Residents
Believing attendance at the annual Academy meeting is important to learning, networking, and advancing optometric careers, the Foundation has provided thousands of travel awards to students and residents over time. During 2022, with support from many individual and industry sponsors, more than 150 awards valued at $750 were granted. In addition, the Student Giving Matching campaign was supported by students of ten optometry schools to raise $14,200 for travel awards, which the Foundation matched and resulted in 38 awards being provided. Pictured above is former AAOF President, David Kirschen, and many students who were travel award recipients to San Diego in 2022.
Educating Optometric Office Staff
In response to the needs of private practice optometrists seeking professionally delivered content to help onboard new employees, the American Academy of Optometry Foundation developed a Staff Training Fundamentals program. This program offers online optometric staff training that provides basic foundational education for employees who are new to the eye care profession. Since its launch, hundreds of individuals have completed this 18-module comprehensive curriculum, covering topics such as ocular anatomy and disease, lenses, and health care laws. Visit our Staff Training Fundamentals page to learn more or to enroll in the program!