ROCKVILLE, M.D.—The Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) has announced the recipients of its 2024 Special Recognition Awards. Karla Zadnik, OD, Ph.D is awarded the Lifetime Achievement award; Jorge Cuadros, OD, PhD is awarded the Herbert Wertheim award; Carl Hubbell “Hub” Spear, OD, MBA, FAAO, is awarded the ASCO Ophthalmic Industry Leadership award; Jennifer Fisher, OD, FAAO, FOVDR, is awarded the ASCO Rising Star award; and Sam Wetzel is awarded the ASCO Student Award in Clinical Ethics.

Mark Colip, OD, ASCO president, said, “This year’s Special Recognition Award winners are truly exceptional people with noteworthy accomplishments. The awards will be recognized at the ASCO Annual Business Meeting. Each recipient is truly exceptional in their accomplishments and contributions to optometry.”

This year’s award winners were acknowledged during ASCO’s Annual Business Meeting on June 19 in Nashville.

ASCO Lifetime Achievement Award

Dr. Karla Zadnik is this year’s Lifetime Achievement award recipient. The ASCO Lifetime Achievement 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.

Zadnik is the interim executive vice president and provost of The Ohio State University and the interim dean of the university’s College of Public Health. As interim executive vice president and provost, Dr. Zadnik leads Ohio State’s Office of Academic Affairs, which oversees the university’s academic enterprise—including 15 colleges, four regional campuses, University Libraries, and units that support academic experience and operations for the university’s more than 65,000 students and 8,400 faculty members.

Most recently, Dr. Zadnik served as dean of Ohio State’s College of Optometry. Additionally, she has served as the lead dean for the university’s seven health science colleges and chaired the Biomedical Sciences Institutional Review Board.

A Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry and a prominent patient-oriented researcher in the field of optometry and vision science, Dr. Zadnik is an Ohio State Distinguished Scholar and the Glenn A. Fry professor of optometry and physiological optics. She earned her OD and Ph.D degrees from the University of California, Berkeley School of Optometry and was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2023. She is a past president of the American Academy of Optometry, ASCO and the National Board of Examiners in Optometry.

Dr. Zadnik was the study chairman for the National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded Collaborative Longitudinal Evaluation of Ethnicity and Refractive Error Study and she chaired the first-ever NIH-funded multicenter study based in optometry, the Collaborative Longitudinal Evaluation of Keratoconus Study.

“I’m incredibly honored and humbled to receive this award. It means so much to me that my work lets me focus on things that really matter, alongside talented Ohio State faculty, staff and students,” said Dr. Zadnik. “My ability to serve and promote optometric education and vision research through the American Academy of Optometry, Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry, and the National Board of Examiners in Optometry has been icing on the cake.”

Herbert Wertheim Award

Dr. Jorge Cuadros is the third Dr. Herbert Wertheim award recipient. This award, affectionately called the “Herbie,” recognizes remarkable individuals or organizations that have accomplished high-impact, groundbreaking, and innovative programs or initiatives, and contributed substantially, or have the potential to sustainably address, eye and vision health and/or the social determinants of eye health and vision care, at the local, national or global level.

Dr. Cuadros is the founder of EyePACS, a program used for detecting retinal and systemic disease in over 1,000 community health centers providing over 1.3 million telemedicine-based retinal exams. His interest in ocular telehealth and community health over the past 30 years has led to programs for underserved populations in Latin America, Asia, Africa and throughout the U.S. He has collaborated in hundreds of publications on digital health and is the co-author and co-editor of three books, “Teleophthalmology,” “Digital Teleretinal Screening” and “Digital Eye Care and Teleophthalmology.” 

He has served as a consultant for preparing acceptable wording for California Assembly Bills 354, 1224 and 175 that provided a legal framework for ocular telehealth in California. He has been conducting several clinical trials on innovative technologies, such as deep learning systems for retinal reading, laser imaging devices, and primary care training programs, for expanding access to eyecare. He is currently assistant clinical professor and director of informatics research at the University of California in Berkeley, Optometric Eye Center.

“I am truly honored to be this year’s recipient and thank ASCO and everyone who nominated me,” said Dr. Cuadros.

ASCO Ophthalmic Industry Leadership Award

The ASCO Ophthalmic Industry Leadership award recognizes an individual from a current or past Corporate Contributor partner company that demonstrates exemplary support of ASCO and its member institutions. The individual serves as an example for his/her colleagues in industry, and has made exceptional and meaningful contributions to the advancement of ASCO and optometric education.

The 2024 recipient is Dr. Carl Hubbell “Hub” Spear. Dr. Spear is chief medical officer, executive vice president, EssilorLuxottica North America. He earned his doctor of optometry degree from the University of Alabama School of Optometry at Birmingham, following his undergraduate studies at Western Kentucky University. He continued his professional development with a residency in primary care optometry/ocular disease at Northeastern State University College of Optometry and earned his master of business administration from Auburn University.

Throughout his career, Dr. Spear has been a leader in the field of optometry, demonstrating his commitment to excellence and innovation. He founded and successfully operated Sight and Sun Eyeworks and Panhandle Vision Institute, a network of seven integrated private practices, before transitioning to roles within the optometric industry.

With a passion for both patient care and industry advancement, Dr. Spear has held significant positions, including senior vice president of eyecare at Essilor Luxottica North America, senior director of professional relations at Vision Group Holdings, and various roles at Alcon and Novartis Ophthalmics. His expertise extends beyond clinical practice to encompass areas such as professional development, education and vendor relations.

In addition to his professional achievements, Dr. Spear is actively involved in optometric organizations such as the American Academy of Optometry and the Florida Optometric Association. He has served in leadership capacities, demonstrating his dedication to advancing the profession and advocating for patient care.

Outside of his professional endeavors, Dr. Spear has also made significant contributions to his country, serving for 39 years in the United States Armed Forces, with both Army and Air Force experience.

“It is an honor to receive the Industry Leadership Award from ASCO and be one of many optometric professionals to have earned this illustrious award as well,” according to Dr. Spear. “My career started in academics and I have so much admiration for ASCO and everyone involved in educating the future of optometry. In my role at EssilorLuxottica, I have been afforded the opportunity to support ASCO’s initiatives in new and meaningful ways and I look forward to continuing this support toward building the next generation of optometrists.”

ASCO Rising Star Award

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 objectives or programs of ASCO. This year’s Rising Star awardee is Dr. Jennifer Fisher.

Jennifer Fisher, OD, FAAO, FOVDR, completed her doctorate of optometry at UC Berkeley and the Irwin B. Suchoff residency in vision therapy and rehabilitation at the State University of New York College of Optometry.

Dr. Fisher is an assistant clinical professor at the Herbert Wertheim School of Optometry at UC Berkeley and serves as the co-chief of the Binocular Vision Clinic. She helps patients with learning-related vision issues, strabismus, amblyopia, and those that have suffered acquired brain injuries. Dr. Fisher is currently serving as the chair of the ASCO Binocular Vision and Perception SIG.

She was also awarded the California Optometric Association Young Optometrist of the Year in 2022, and the Alameda Contra Costa County Young Optometrist of the Year in 2019. During her free time, she enjoys skiing, Lagree fit, and spending time with her husband and two young children.

"I am incredibly honored to receive the 2024 ASCO Rising Star award,” said Dr. Fisher. “As the chair of the BVPE SIG, I look forward to continuing the mission to serve the public and the profession of optometry through the continued advancement and promotion of optometric education in the subspecialties of Binocular Vision, Pediatrics and Perception. I am fortunate to have a great team of subcommittees to help our goal of creating advanced competencies. Thank you so much for this award."

ASCO Student Award in Clinical Ethics

This annual national award, 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 United States and Canada. The application consists of an essay of up to 1,500 words describing any one of the following scenarios:

1. A patient-based case-study that the student encountered as part of their clinical learning experience.

2. A research-based case scenario that the student has encountered during their clinical or didactic learning experience.

3. A professional ethics-based scenario that the student has encountered during their clinical or didactic learning.

ASCO announces Sam Wetzel as the winner of the 2024 Student Award in Clinical Ethics. This annual national award provides the winner with a $1,000 award check and an acrylic engraved plaque.

Wetzel is a student at the University of Houston, College of Optometry and is expected to graduate with his doctor of optometry degree next year. His winning essay, “Should I Say Something? The Ethics of Reporting Suicide Attempts in Minors” will also be featured in an upcoming journal of Optometric Education.

“Alcon is proud to support the annual Student Ethics Award for all these years and to highlight optometric students’ educational experiences during their schooling,” said Chad Zscherny, Alcon’s director of academic development. “Congratulations to this year’s recipient, Sam Wetzel. On behalf of Alcon we value our partnership with ASCO and are excited to sponsor this award.”