Since 2020, the Foundation has been hard at work developing six new programs to help fill currently unmet needs and align with the American Academy of Optometry’s recent strategic plan.
The Academy’s strategic plan, entitled “Inspiring Excellence in Eye Care” has five pillars, each defining a priority of the Academy. These are: Education, Research, Membership, Leadership & Legacy, and Strategic Partnerships. Below is a brief description of the new programs which support these pillars by “Enabling Excellence in Eye Care.”
Clinical Investigator Certification Program
The Clinical Investigator Certification 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.
Clinical Fellows are uniquely positioned to recognize areas of eye care requiring further development or investigation. Many potential collaborative partners, such as academic and industry researchers, are searching for this insight. Become an Academy-certified Clinical Investigator and learn the skills required to conduct rigorous sponsored clinical trials within your current practice setting.
The eight-week program is only open to Fellows and covers the following learning objectives:
- Understand the responsibilities of an investigator conducting a clinical trial
- Understand the basic concepts of clinical trial design (three sessions)
- Understand the concepts related to human subject research (two sessions)
- Review basics in statistics specific to clinical trials and learn how to avoid data bias and error
- Understand the administrative/management aspects of research
- Robin Chalmers, OD, FAAO / Clinical Trial Consultant
- Bill Gleason, OD / Foresight Regulatory Strategies
- Amy Nau, OD, FAAO / Korb Associates
- Jack Phu, OD, PhD, FAAO / Centre for Eye Health, University of New South Wales
- Tom Quinn, OD, MS, FAAO / Athens Eye Care; Former Owner
- Allison Summers, OD, MCR, FAAO, Associate Professor of Ophthalmology, Casey Eye Institute, Oregon Health & Science University
- Kathy Weise, OD, MBA, FAAO / Professor, University of Alabama, Birmingham
The enrollment period is twice a year. The current enrollment window is now closed. The next enrollment date is TBD.
Clinical Podcast Series
The Clinical Podcast Series distributes six video podcasts a month discussing trending, clinically relevant research to improve patient care. The podcasts feature expert clinicians and researchers who offer summaries of current research which may directly translate and impact daily patient care.
This initiative provides summaries (video podcasts) of trending, clinically relevant research, which may directly translate to improved patient care. Six podcasts will be distributed monthly and compiled over time to form a podcast library for Fellows to access.
- Anterior Segment Disease Care
- Clinical Binocular Vision and Pediatrics Care
- Clinical Contact Lens and Myopia Care
- Clinical Glaucoma and Retinal Care
- Low Vision Care
- Primary Optometric Care
Staff Training Fundamentals
The Staff Training Fundamentals program provides a basic foundational education for employees who are new to the eye care profession. The training modules are aligned in a curriculum intended to be taken during the first two weeks of employment and certificates are provided upon completion. Training modules include topics such as ocular anatomy and disease, vision correction options, health care compliance laws, and much more. Click below for a curriculum overview and to enroll!
Optometrists have voiced the need for an online staff training program that provides basic foundational education for employees who are new to the eye care profession. The training modules are aligned in a curriculum intended to be taken during the first two weeks of employment.
This comprehensive training course provides a simple, consistent way to onboard new staff members into your practice. The program has sixteen training modules:
- Curriculum Overview
- Ocular Anatomy (45 mins)
- Ocular Disease Basics (25 mins)
- Dry Eye & Ocular Health (40 mins)
- Lensometry (20 mins)
- Lens Types (30 mins)
- Lens Materials (20 mins)
- Frame Styles & Materials (15 mins)
- Contact Lens Overview (30 mins)
- Properties of Contact Lenses (15 mins)
- Basics of Refractive Laser Surgery (20 mins)
- The Cataract Patient Journey (15 mins)
- Front Desk Basics (20 mins)
- Telephone Etiquette (30 mins)
- New Dispenser Quick Start (30 mins)
- Records & Compliance (20 mins)
- Healthcare Compliance Laws (25 mins)
Staff Training Fundamentals is provided FREE to Academy members and their designated staff.
New staff members who complete all of the training modules will build their confidence more quickly and become an even greater asset to your team. Upon completion of the course, each staff member will receive a Certificate of Completion.
The American Academy of Optometry Foundation deeply appreciates the contribution of curriculum content from Alcon, Essilor, and Practice Compliance Solutions, plus an education grant from CooperVision. These companies have helped make the Staff Training Fundamentals course available for you.
Bright Ideas Pitch Competition
The BRIGHT IDEAS Pitch Competition is designed to provide recognition, mentoring, and monetary reward to new or early-stage entrepreneurs with an idea or innovation that will improve eye care treatment or devices. This program aims to stimulate new ideas and innovative thinking. Top submitted ideas will be invited to a Pitch Competition at the American Academy of Optometry Annual Meeting to present their project to a live audience and receive feedback from a panel of judges. Cash awards will be presented to winners to provide seed development funding. Our Annual Report has more about our inaugural 2022 Pitch Competition winner.
The competition is designed to provide recognition, mentoring, and monetary reward to new or early-stage entrepreneurs with an idea or innovation that will improve eye care treatment or devices.
The BRIGHT IDEAS Pitch Competition is presented by the American Academy of Optometry Foundation in collaboration with the Innovation Council.
The application window closes on Friday, July 8, 2022.
This program will aim to stimulate new ideas and innovative thinking leading to potential treatments or devices. Top submitted ideas will be invited to a Pitch Competition at the Academy 2022 San Diego meeting to present their concept to a live audience and receive feedback from a panel of judges.
Entrepreneurs of idea- and early-stage entrepreneurs are encouraged to submit their innovation for consideration. The application window opens Friday, April 22 and will remain open until Friday, July 8, 2022.
Three prize packages will be awarded to up to 15 entrepreneurs as part of the “Bright Ideas” competition:
Top 15 Applicants
- Complementary Startup Circle booth space, a $600 value
- Podcast opportunities prior to the annual meeting
- Invitation to “Fireside Chat” conversations with industry experts
Top 5 Semi-Finalists
- All the above, plus:
- The opportunity to pitch live at the conference
- Pitch mentorship & Business Deep Dive
Top 3 Winners
- All the above, plus:
- $10,000 for first place
- $5,000 for second place
- $2,500 for third place
Pitch Competition Eligibility:
To be eligible for the “Bright Ideas” Pitch Competition, entrants must meet the following criteria:
- The idea/innovation must be focused on eye care
- The idea/innovation must have raised less than $5MM in funding (investments & grants)
- Annual revenues must be less than $100,000
- The idea/startup must be less than 3 years old
- Applicants must be able to travel to San Diego to pitch LIVE during the Annual Meeting (October 26-29, 2022).
- Applicant’s travel reimbursement and daily expenses are the applicant’s responsibility.
- If selected as the “Startup Circle” winners (i.e. top 15), the applicant must be available to manage the complimentary booth space from October 26, 2022 to October 29, 2022.
The Application Process:
- Fill out and submit entrepreneur’s log in profile including:
- Location, date founded, markets
- Social media, links
- Name, role, email address
- Mobile number
- How are you connected to AAO/AAOF?
- Develop and upload an elevator pitch video (less than 5 minutes) including:
- Description of concept/product
- Describe the problem you are solving and why it’s important for the industry
- How are your customers solving that problem today?
- Why is your solution better?
- Review and submit the following questionnaire:
- Working Group Details:
- Why did you develop this concept? What excites you about it?
- Do you have co-founders? Share brief bios of each.
- How long have you worked together?
- How large is your team?
- Who are your competitors? Please include URLs
- How many customers/users do you currently have?
- How do you plan to acquire customers?
- Working Group Details:
- What progress have you made in the last six months?
- What steps have you taken to validate the market?
- What is your revenue model or expected revenue model?
- What is your monthly growth rate?
- What’s the size of your market?
- Total Funding To-Date?
- How did you hear about this program?
- Uniqueness of the idea/solution in the marketplace.
- Team’s approach.
- Revenue potential of the opportunity.
- Relevant experience and ability to succeed.
- Potential impacts on the optometry industry.
Questions? Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information.
Research Funding: Pilot Grant Program
The Research Funding Pilot Grant Program stimulates new research through pilot grants and partner collaboration in order to address key gaps identified in funding research. First, a need to stimulate novel exploratory research in specific areas of optometric interest through pilot funding. Secondly, to form collaborations with research partners to explore areas of mutual interest. Competitive proposals will be submitted and undergo a peer review process.
The American Academy of Optometry Foundation’s (AAOF) strategic planning process included the development of new programs. These new programs addressed unmet constituent needs and aligned with the American Academy of Optometry’s strategic plan. One of the new pillars is increased support for optometric research. The AAOF identified two gaps in research funding and proposed actions to address these. These initiatives include 1) the development of new collaborations with research partners 2) stimulation of novel exploratory research by funding pilot research projects.
To provide funding to support exploratory research, with the long-term goal of generating outcomes that ultimately increase grant funding to optometric research in North America.
Up to $100,000 is available for funding in 2022. For the 2022 award cycle, at least $10,000 will be awarded for pediatric research. It is expected that the Foundation will award multiple grants from this funding; however, applicants are able to submit a request for up to $100,000. All grant applications will be reviewed for both scientific merit and appropriate budget justification.
The AAOF reserves the right to reduce the budget to that judged appropriate for the materials and research effort required. Matching or any other type of material or personal support are welcomed and should be included in the proposal.
No indirect (i.e., facilities and administration) costs will be provided.
All funds, as per the policy of the American Academy of Optometry and the American Academy of Optometry Foundation, will be issued in U.S. currency to the primary institution of record.
Awards support research conducted for a period of no more than two years. Recipients must submit a minimum 500-word report of their research findings to the AAOF at the end of each award period, to be eligible for subsequent awards sponsored by the AAOF.
- Students, research staff (e.g., research assistant, post-doctoral fellow), and faculty in optometry in North America.
- Eligible individuals include optometrists (Masters or Doctor degrees in optometry) who are working in ophthalmologic medical centers and non-optometrists working/studying in a school or college of optometry.
- The Principal Investigator must be a member (Fellow/Candidate for Fellowship) of the AAO. It is also encouraged that all co-investigators be members as well.
- The applicant must have a full-time appointment/position in his or her center over the period of the award.
All proposal materials must be submitted online via our online submission system, via the Apply Now button below.
Applications should be in Arial 11pt font with half-inch margins and be single-spaced.
Applicants should first submit a letter of intent (LOI) for the purposes of confirming eligibility and institutional commitment, as well as providing an overview of the aims and budget request.
The LOI should include:
- Project title, institution and address, name (including degree(s)) and titles for Principal Investigator and all Co-Investigators) and contact information
- A current Non-Fellowship Biosketch (NIH format) for each study team member. Please visit: https://grants.nih.gov/grants/forms/biosketch.htm
- A letter from an institutional official stipulating the appointment and current support (e.g. other grants, clinical/teaching/research appointments, etc.) of all study members
- An abstract (300-word maximum) that briefly states the objectives of the proposed project, the specific aims and hypothesis to be evaluated, an overview of the research design and methods, and the potential for further research in optometry
- A budget overview
After the review of LOIs, a notice will be sent to the applicants who are invited to submit a full proposal.
The full proposal includes:
- Cover page: Project title, institution and address, name (including degree(s)) and titles for Principal Investigator and all Co-Investigators) and contact information
- Project: background and significance, specific aim(s), study design and methods (maximum five pages)
- References (maximum of one page)
- Budget and budget justification (maximum of one page)
- Biographical sketch(es) of Principal Investigator Co-Investigators (NIH format, maximum of three pages for each investigator) Please visit: https://grants.nih.gov/grants/forms/biosketch.htm
- A signed Letter of Assurance (one page) by an Institutional Official indicating that the proposal has been reviewed, meets with the standards of the institution and, if warranted, observes all rules and regulations regarding compliance with research on human or animal subjects
- Other letters of support, as applicable
The Academy Research Committee and external reviewers with topical expertise, as needed, provide a scientific merit review. No feedback will be provided on LOIs, but full proposal applicants will receive a detailed summary statement. Following scientific review, the Foundation Programs Approval Committee (PAC) selects recipients based on merit and programmatic goals. Results are provided to the Foundation Board for final decisions on funding.
- Awards will not be given unless appropriate human subjects and/or animal care and usage approvals are in place. Annual progress reports are required, with a summary of goals achieved, a detailed timeline of accomplishments (including abstracts and publications), and a detailed report on funds expended.
- The award recipient will be invited to attend the next Academy annual meeting to be recognized and participate in AAOF events.
- Any manuscript or publication material produced must acknowledge the American Academy of Optometry Foundation.
- Recipients are encouraged to submit a manuscript to Optometry and Vision Science.
- All award recipients by application and acceptance of an award agree to allow the AAOF and/or the sponsor of the program, to which they applied, to publish their name, image, institution information, and any statement or quote provided by the recipient. These may appear in a variety of media formats that announce and promote the program including, but not limited to, the AAOF’s and/or sponsors’ annual report, website, and annual meeting promotional materials.
- Invitation to submit a proposal: May 31, 2022
- Grant proposal submission deadline: July 18, 2022
- Notification of awards: During Academy 2022 San Diego
- Funds dispersed: January 2023
For further information contact AAOAwards@aaoptom.org.
OD/PhD Scholarship Program
The OD/PhD Scholarship Program funds optometrists pursuing a PhD in a vision science field. The program provides vital support to those who will teach and lead the next generation of optometry students and advance the profession’s cutting-edge research.
The American Academy of Optometry Foundation is pleased to award two OD to PhD Fellowships in 2023, each being a $30,000 award payable over two years. The Fellowships are funded by the American Academy of Optometry and a gift received from Dr. Tony and Elna Adams. The candidates are selected from a pool of highly competitive applicants who must have completed or are in the process of completing clinical training leading to an optometry degree.
This fellowship is congruent with enrollment in a vision or related biomedical science PhD program. Awardees will receive $15,000 (US dollars) upon beginning their first year of training, and if they demonstrate sufficient success during the initial year (as described within their progress report, see below), they will receive an additional $15,000 (US dollars) upon beginning their second year of training.
Note, awardees may receive the fellowship for up to one successive, two-year period. Previous recipients of the fellowship are not eligible to apply.
The best candidates must:
Have completed or in the process of completing clinical training leading to an optometry degree. Although not required, some priority may be given to those with optometry training at a North American school or college of optometry.
Plan to enter a full-time PhD-level program located at a North American institution in order to pursue training in vision science or other related biomedical sciences. Those who have already started a graduate PhD program are not eligible. Funding is not awarded until the awardee has started their training at the institution and obtained an OD degree.
Outline a plan to pursue a career, which includes research and academic optometry, at a North American school or college of optometry.
Focus their research on the study of an innovative area impacting clinical care. Although not required, some priority may be given to those pursuing innovation in the field of cornea, contact lenses, or refractive technologies.
Applications must include the following:
- Official transcript from a clinical training institution.
- Either a resume/curriculum vitae (CV), or biosketch (e.g. NIH style acceptable, such as the “non-fellowship” NIH formatted biosketch).
- Information regarding any other salary, monetary awards, and/or financial or research support.
- Although not required, if the applicant has previous publications, abstracts, or research experience/work, include a listing/description of these if they are not already included in the provided resume/CV/biosketch.
- Include a description of all training and teaching experience.
- A personal statement limited to 200 words for each of the following individual items. This is a maximum of 1,000 words for the five items combined. The statement must include:
- Intended program of study and area of research, highlighting any innovation and clinical impact of this work. Specifically, describe clinically meaningful questions you hope to explore.
- Description of why this award would enable you to pursue graduate education over alternative paths.
- Your commitment and interest in optometric research and education within a school or college of optometry.
- Any additional academic or research training, including honors, lectures, papers, posters not already described in the resume/CV/biosketch.
- Short- and long-term career goals.
Three letters of recommendation from persons qualified to comment on your character, educational qualifications, research abilities, potential, and future teaching capabilities. Letters must be no longer than two pages.
**Please note, a notification will be sent to the “recommender” with instructions on how to upload the letter once your application has been submitted.**
Following award notification, but prior to the distribution of any funds to the institution, the AAOF must be provided a letter from an authorized individual (e.g. Dean, Associate Dean) at the graduate training institution (a) describing the applicant’s program of study (e.g. PhD in vision science), (b) confirming acceptance to the program and start date, (c) confirming the applicant has started the program.
If the applicant has already been awarded the first year $15,000 and wishes to apply for the second possible year of $15,000 support, their application does not require the above materials but rather consists of:
- A progress report of up to 500 words describing achievements to date and goals/activities to be pursued during the second and final year of $15,000 funding. This report also should specifically highlight any presentations, publications, grant applications, and grants received.
- A letter from an authorized individual (e.g. Dean, Associate Dean) at the graduate training institution (a) describing the applicant’s program of study (e.g. PhD in vision science), and (b) confirming continued enrollment and good standing in the program plus their GPA.
Applications and supporting materials must be uploaded via our online submission system.
All submissions will receive a confirmation email within three business days of receipt. The applicant will receive an additional message only if the application is incomplete.
All grant/award submissions are initially reviewed for completeness and eligibility by Academy and Foundation staff. To the extent feasible, staff will work to notify applicants regarding eligibility and incomplete submissions prior to the application deadline.
Complete, eligible applications are then sent to a reviewing body, which is specifically chosen so as to allow the most knowledgeable merit review of the application. The reviewing body sends its recommendations to the Programs Advisory Committee (PAC), which uses the reviewing body’s recommendations to select the final awardees in alignment with programmatic needs and corresponding gift agreements.
The decision of the PAC is provided to the AAOF Board for review and approval. The AAO/AAOF Conflict of Interest policy governs the actions of individuals involved throughout this review and approval process.
Please note, prior to the opening of the submission window, changes may occur to the criteria and guidelines for submission to this program. Applicants are strongly encouraged to visit the program page during the open window to ensure they are aware of all requirements needed to apply.
In accepting a fellowship, the recipient agrees to:
- Comply with all programmatic requests.
- Notify AAOF of changes to recipient’s ability to complete the fellowship, contact information, and institution changes.
- Acknowledge the AAOF in written and oral presentations (articles, abstracts, or research conducted) as a result of the fellowship.
- Attend the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Optometry, including the AAOF Celebration Luncheon during the award period in order to receive the award in person.
- If requested, provide a minimum of two volunteer hours at the AAOF/AAO Booth during the Academy’s annual meeting.
- Allow the AAOF/AAO to publish their name, image, institution information, and any statement or quote provided by the recipient. These may appear in a variety of media formats announcing and promoting the program. This includes, but is not limited to, annual reports, website, and any promotional materials.
- Submit a one-page progress report at the end of the award year. This progress report should specifically highlight any presentations, publications, grants applications, and/or grants received.
- Awardees are strongly encouraged to:
- Submit research work associated with the fellowship to the Academy Scientific Program for consideration in the year of the application submission and award.
- Submit research work for consideration of publication (if accepted upon peer-review) to Optometry and Vision Science.
The application deadline is April 3, 2023, at 5pm EST.
Contact Sarah Kidd, Manager, Awards and Donor Relations if you have any questions about this award.