The American Academy of Optometry and its Foundation are dedicated to enabling excellence in eye care through the development and implementation of professional development programs for Fellows, candidates, and their support staff. The need for each was identified and developed by volunteer task forces and align with the Academy’s strategic plan.
Merton C. Flom Leadership Academy
In the early 1990’s, Dr. Merton C. Flom recognized the need for the cultivation and development of a leadership culture within the American Academy of Optometry. In such a culture there is an appreciation of leadership as a learnable process whose function is to produce useful change, not only within the Academy but also at work, in other organizations, and in one’s personal life.
In 1994, the Academy introduced the Merton C. Flom Leadership InSight program to provide leadership training courses to Fellows, Candidates, and Student Members at the annual meeting as well as registrants in the Ellerbrock CE program. From its inception through 2020, this program provided basic and advanced leadership courses to almost 900 attendees.
In 2020 as part of the leadership pillar of the AAO Strategic Plan, a series of virtual modules on leadership were proposed. It was agreed to integrate these eight modules into an extensively revised and expanded Merton C. Flom Leadership InSight program, now known as the Merton C. Flom Leadership Academy. This revised program was initiated at the 2021 Annual Meeting which was followed by a virtual leadership module presented approximately every six weeks.
Inspiring leadership in optometry and vision science.
Through education and mentorship, the Leadership Academy will cultivate ethical, empathetic, and innovative leaders who contribute positively to the optometric community.
Values and Goals
Develop a deep understanding of your core identity and value your unique talents
Harness your talents to positively influence others and encourage innovation
Nurture aspiring leaders to become role models and mentors
Foster ethical, empathetic leadership to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion
Provide opportunities for networking to establish life-long professional relationships
The Merton C. Flom Leadership Academy is designed to help optometrists develop their full leadership potential through guided individual study, facilitated discussion, and optimization of their personal talents identified through the Gallup CliftonStrengths assessment.
The Leadership Academy begins with a live introductory course entitled “Know Yourself: Foundations for Effective Leadership” (scheduled on October 11th, 2023, 1:00 – 4:00 PM, during the annual Academy meeting). Over the course of the following year, course participants will participate in 8 learning modules, each of which is led by an established leader within the optometric community. For each module, reading materials, pre-recorded lectures, and/or other audio-visual content will be assigned to promote self-directed learning prior to a live virtual session. Virtual sessions will be held approximately every 6 weeks throughout the year, and will feature interactive discussion with course faculty and fellow participants to more deeply explore topics of interest. Topics to be covered in the learning modules include the following:
- Principles of Effective Leadership Part 1 – January 9, 2024
- Principles of Effective Leadership Part 2 – February 8, 2024
- Embracing Diversity in Leadership – March 7, 2024
- Effective Communication in Leadership – April 18, 2024
- Leader’s Guide to Productive Meetings – May 23, 2024
- Public Speaking for Leaders – June 20, 2024
- Writing Skills for Leaders – July 25, 2024
- Mentorship: Present and Future Leaders – September 5, 2024
Participants must attend at least 6 of 8 sessions live in order to complete the program.
The course will conclude with a live Capstone Celebration at the following year’s Academy meeting.
Potential course participants must be a Fellow in the American Academy of Optometry.
Applications for the 2023-2024 course will open on May 15, 2023 and close on July 14, 2023, 5 PM ET. Successful course participants will be notified of their acceptance by August 15, 2023, and will be asked to respond to the invitation to participate no later than August 29, 2023. The cost for the full program is $195 for those selected.
Fellowship Candidate Crash Course (FCCC)
Follow the mentored path from fourth year to Academy Fellow.
The Fellowship Candidate Crash Course (FCCC) is designed to prepare fourth-year optometry students to become Fellows of the American Academy of Optometry post-graduation. The FCCC will feature five weeks of live one-hour webinars that will discuss the various aspects of the Candidate for Fellowship application process such as case report selection and writing, research, oral examination preparation, and more. During this time, program participants will be matched with a mentor and write a Fellowship-quality case report. Following the completion and approval of this case report, participants will complete a virtual oral examination. Upon successful completion of the FCCC, participants will walk away with the tools to achieve the FAAO designation in addition to 10 of the required 50 points needed to become a Fellow
APPLICATION & ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA:
Interested in participating in this fast-paced program and getting a jump start on earning your FAAO? The application was open from Wednesday, April 19 – Wednesday, May 17 at 5:00 p.m. ET. Selected participants will be notified of their acceptance by Friday, May 26, and will be asked to respond to the invitation to participate no later than Friday, June 2. Academy Student Members who will be enrolled in their fourth year of OD school during 2023-2024 are eligible to apply. Applicants are required to attend all webinars live and should anticipate spending approximately 2-4 hours per week before and during the program working on the case report write-up and any requested revisions during the process in addition to meeting with your mentor as needed.
(all times are ET)
• Pre-Program Informational Meeting Thursday, June 15, 2023, 8:30 – 9:30 p.m.
• Week 1: Case Reports Part 1 Thursday, August 10, 2023, 8:30 – 9:30 p.m.
• Week 2: Case Reports Part 2 Thursday, August 17, 2023, 8:30 – 9:30 p.m.
• Week 3: FAAO Resources Thursday, August 24, 2023, 8:30 – 9:30 p.m.
• Week 4: Leadership Thursday, August 31, 2023, 8:30 – 9:30 p.m.
• Week 5: Oral Examination Preparation Thursday, September 7, 8:30 – 9:30 p.m.
• Weeks 6-8: Oral Examinations* September 14 – October 5 * Exam date and time coordinated with your mentor.
The program will conclude with a celebratory reception during Academy 2023 New Orleans.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who is eligible?
In this inaugural year, this program is specifically offered to the current 3rd-year optometry program students who are advancing to the 4th-year clinical training in the late summer 2023.
What is “approval from your faculty advisor who managed the case”?
The medical profession has a code of professionalism for case writing and ownership of the case. The case ownership belongs to the doctor who managed the case. Sometimes, it may belong to multiple doctors who were involved in the case management. The committee would like to ensure the program participants maintain healthy professional relationships with their attending doctors who managed the case together. You don’t need to get approval at the time of application. However, during the program, you will have to obtain approval (= acknowledgment) from the doctor that it is OK for you to write a case report.
Will the FCCC points expire after a certain time?
The 10 points earned from the FCCC program are eligible for points toward becoming a Fellow for up to 10 years.
Who is going to be my mentor during the program?
You will be assigned to a mentor who is NOT the doctor you worked with for the case management. Your mentor is a volunteer Academy member who has completed Fellowship. We will pair a mentee with a mentor from another area/school.
Do I have to have a conclusive diagnosis in my case?
The final diagnosis is not necessary but preferred. If you have a final and conclusive diagnosis, writing a case report and defending your theory and case management is more manageable.
Do I have to be involved in case management from the beginning to the end?
You don’t have to be involved in the entirety of the case management. The committee acknowledges that it is difficult for students to see from the beginning to the end. As long as you directly saw the patient at least one point of the case management, you can use the case for the program.
Clinical Podcast Series
The American Academy of Optometry Foundation is pleased to introduce the Clinical Podcast Series.
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
The American Academy of Optometry Foundation has implemented the Staff Training Fundamentals program: “Your Foundation for Success.”
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.
Clinical Investigator Training
Additionally, the American Academy of Optometry Foundation has established a highly sought after Clinical Investigator Certification (CIC) Program.
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 January 16, 2023 – February 20, 2023.
Bright Ideas Pitch Competition
The American Academy of Optometry Foundation (AAOF) is pleased to announce its inaugural Bright Ideas Pitch Competition. 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 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.