ROCKVILLE, Md.—The Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) announced the recipients of the 2021 Special Recognition Awards. Dr. Douglas J. Hoffman is this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award. This award recognizes an outstanding individual who, over an extended period of time, provided exceptional leadership to ASCO and to optometric education; made outstanding contributions to the optometric community; and displayed exemplary commitment and dedication to the association. Within ASCO, Dr. Hoffman has served in several capacities including as co-chair of the Residency Educators Special Interest Group, chair of the ORMatch Committee, chair of the Residency Titles Task Force and a member of the Residency Affairs Committee.

One of ASCO’s two winners of the Dr. Jack Bennett Innovation in Optometric Education award this year, Dr. Linda Casser, graduated in 1978 from the Indiana University School of Optometry and completed a two-year primary care optometry residency program at the Wilson Health Center in Rochester, N.Y. From January 2009 through 2013, Dr. Casser served as dean, Salus University Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO), and subsequently interim associate dean for the Practice of Optometric Medicine until August 2014.
In 2015, she served as interim director of Education for the Physician Assistant Program, Salus University College of Health Sciences. Dr. Casser currently serves as a tenured professor at PCO as well as coordinator of Interprofessional Education for Salus University in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania.

ASCO’s other winner in this category is Dr. Gary Chu, the vice president of professional affairs at NECO. Dr. Chu received his Doctor of Optometry degree from NECO and his Masters of Public Health from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He has been in practice and optometric education for more than 25 years and is involved in the changing landscape of eyecare, health care and public health.
Dr. Chu has been in the forefront of eyecare innovations through the development of collaborative partnerships with health systems, federally qualified health centers, social service agencies, government, school systems, health payors, optometry employer groups, ophthalmic industry and start-ups.

Dr. Chu has been immersed in the issues of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging for more than 10 years and has served on ASCO’s Diversity and Cultural Competency Committee. He is the founding chair of ASCO’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Special Interest Group and was the guest editor for the Journal of Optometric Education’s theme issue on diversity and cultural competency in 2017.

Sponsored by Oculus, the ASCO Rising Star Award is given to an outstanding faculty member or administrator with less than seven years of service who has made noteworthy contributions to fulfilling the mission, strategic objections, or programs of ASCO. This year’s Rising Star awardee is Dr. Katherine Green.
She is an assistant professor at Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry (NOVA) where she serves as the director of the Acquired Brain Injury Visual Rehabilitation Clinic as well as the coordinator for the Pediatrics and Binocular Vision Residency Program. Dr. Green precepts students in both the Pediatrics and Binocular Vision and the Low Vision Rehabilitation clinics.

This year’s Dr. Lester Janoff Award for Writing Excellence is given to Dr. Elena Z. Biffi for her article, Interactive Multimedia Learning vs Traditional Learning in Optometry: a Randomized Trial, B-scan Example. The paper was published in the Summer 2019 issue of Optometric Education. Dr. Biffi is currently an associate professor of optometry at NECO and an attending optometrist at NECO Center for Eye Care/South Boston Community Health Center Eye Clinic.

The ASCO Student Award in Clinical Ethics, sponsored by Alcon, is available to optometry students during any point of their professional program at an ASCO-affiliated school or college of optometry in the U.S. and Canada. Tam Tran is the winner of the 2021 Student Award in Clinical Ethics. This annual national award provides the winner with a $1,000 award check and an acrylic engraved plaque.

Tran is a 2021 graduate of the Illinois College of Optometry. His winning essay, The Ethical Muddle of Sick Notes: Can We Do Better? will be featured in an upcoming issue of ASCO’s Journal, Optometric Education.

All award winners will be acknowledged during ASCO’s virtual Annual Business Meeting on June 16, 2021. ASCO’s Annual Meeting is open to all who wish to attend. Register for the meeting at Registrants will receive a link to attend the meeting soon after.