Thank you President Scott for your gracious remarks.
I am deeply honored to be awarded the New England College of Optometry’s Presidential Medal in recognition of my tenure as Director of the VA Optometry Service.
It is also a distinct privilege to join my distinguished colleagues and long time friends — Drs. Myers and Haffner in this evening’s tribute to the VA Optometry Service.
As an educator, I am grateful to the VA for its enormous contribution to the clinical training of this country’s optometry students and residents.
And as a veteran I am most appreciative of the excellent eye care VA optometrists provide each year to over one million of our most deserving citizens, the Nation’s veterans.
The comprehensive eye care provided to veterans by VA optometrists in collaboration with ophthalmologists is clearly among the best in the United States.
Optometry clinics are among the busiest of VA services, providing 1.5 million eye care visits annually.
The VA Optometry Service was the first in the country to develop and implement an effective model of interdisciplinary eye care in a large national system.
VA optometrists lead the profession in the management of patients with age related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma.
Prestigious professional journals are replete with publications by VA optometrists affirming VA’s leadership in advancing ophthalmic care.
During my tenure as Director, I witnessed the growing importance of VA optometry in the provision of primary eye care and low vision rehabilitation services.
However, my experience pales in comparison to the dramatic increase, over the past 12 years, in optometry staff, students and residents including numerous quality improvement initiatives.
The VA’s Eye Care Quality Improvement Program is recognized as one of the most comprehensive and effective in health care.
It is a unique system of checks and balances.
For overall guidance, the VA adopted the clinical practice guidelines of the American Optometric Association and the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the recognized standards for both professions.
The VA’s clinical credentialing and privileging process is precise and meticulously applied ensuring that every clinician’s education, clinical training and licensure are appropriate for the clinical privileges granted.
A robust system of clinical reviews, practice evaluations and peer review programs ensure that every veteran receives the highest quality eye care.
The quality, timeliness and seamless provision of eye care services by 675 VA optometrists and over 175 residents and fellows is now often cited as the gold standard for optometric care.
In addition to primary eye care, optometrists provide rehabilitative care in VA special programs such as low vision clinics, VICTORS programs and blind rehabilitation centers.
65 additional low vision optometric specialists have been appointed in recent years and placement of mid level and advanced low vision programs, in each of the 21 nation-wide VA Integrated Service Networks, is planned.
The Department of Defense-VA, Center of Excellence is an outstanding program for the management of servicemen and women who have sustained significant eye injuries as well as vision problems resulting from traumatic brain injury. At this center, optometrists, ophthalmologists and rehabilitation specialists ensure seamless transition for the patient from military service to the VA.
The innovative Boston VA based Teleretinal Imaging Program has already assessed 700,000 veterans for the risk of vision threatening disorders. Another example of optometry’s leadership and of effective collaboration among eye care providers, primary care physicians and IT personnel.
A special note of acknowledgement to my VA colleagues for your commitment to excellence in eye care and for your dedicated service to our Nation’s Veterans.
Thank you for recognizing my service as Director. It was an honor to have served with so many outstanding optometrists.