(L to R) Frankie Fontana (Dr. Fontana’s son) with award recipient Nicholas Holtzman and Heart of America Eye Care Congress past president Dr. Sean Mulqueeny.

RANCHO CORDOVA, Calif.—VSP Global and the Heart of America Eye Care Congress  have announced that Nicholas A. Holtzman, BS, MS, of the University of Missouri-St. Louis College of Optometry is the recipient of the inaugural Dr. Frank D. Fontana Memorial Scholarship. Holtzman received a $4,250 scholarship and a $750 travel grant to attend the 59th Annual Heart of America Eye Care Congress, according to the recent announcement. Holtzman, who is in his third year, is an active member of the American Optometric Student Association  (AOSA).

He has parlayed his involvement with the AOSA into several leadership opportunities, including assistant class president and president of the Private Practice Club. In collaboration with another student organization, he recently created a campus trade show that invited representatives from a variety of industry organizations to present information about eyecare trends and new technology.

Prior to attending optometry school, Holtzman earned a Master of Science in Kinesiology and became an exercise specialist for people undergoing cancer treatment, and then a clinical allergy specialist, according to the announcement.

Holtzman knew the late Dr. Fontana well and recalled in his application essay the influence the distinguished OD had on his career. “I can honestly say, if it weren’t for him, I may not be writing this essay right now,” Holtzman wrote. “I always knew I wanted to help people, I just didn’t know in what capacity. When I met him, and he was still practicing in his 90s, I knew this would be the profession for me. Not just because he was still practicing in his 90s, but because he loved what he did.”

The Fontana Scholarship was created in 2019 in honor of St. Louis optometrist Frank D. Fontana, also known as Uncle Frank. Dr. Fontana, who passed away in 2018, is considered a standard-bearer in the optometry industry and founded the AOA’s Contact Lens & Cornea section and co-founded the Heart of America Contact Lens Society.

The Fontana scholarship is awarded to third- and fourth-year optometry students actively engaged in patient care. Applicants are judged in four areas in which Dr. Fontana excelled: 1) clinical performance, 2) empathetic patient care, 3) ability and interest to adopt modern technologies, and 4) a strong interest in developing and participating in the optometry community.

“We created the Fontana Scholarship to help support the next generation of optometrists just as Dr. Fontana did as a mentor to colleagues and students alike. We’re delighted to award Mr. Holtzman the inaugural scholarship to help him earn his education and continue contributing to the future of eyecare,” VSP Global board chairman Gordon Jennings, OD, said.

The Heart of America Eye Care Congress past president Dr. Sean P. Mulqueeny added: “Late in 2018, the Heart of America’s board of directors recognized the importance of memorializing Dr. Fontana. This led to our developing the structure for this scholarship. Of all our applicants, Mr. Holtzman best exemplifies those qualities that defined Dr. Fontana.

"Dr. Fontana was also formative in Mr. Holtzman’s decision to pursue optometry. He was a mentor and close family friend. The Heart of America Eye Care Congress, together with VSP Global, is happy to partner to memorialize Dr. Fontana and offer this phenomenal annual tribute to optometry.”

The next Heart of America Congress, the 60th annual meeting, will be held Feb. 12-14, 2021, at the Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center.

Since 2010, VSP Global has provided more nearly $2 million in scholarship support to hundreds of optometry students.