Kenneth Lawenda, OD.

MONTREAL—Services were held here yesterday for Kenneth Lawenda, OD, a well-known optometrist, regulatory specialist and consultant to many in the eyecare field. Lawenda, 77, passed away on Sunday, April 16 after a six-month battle with pancreatic cancer, his family noted. His passing was felt by many longtime friends and professional colleagues who worked with Dr. Lawenda in his varied career and professional organization roles over the years. Lawenda was born in the Bronx, N.Y. but moved with his family to the West Coast when he was 13, completing his education at the University of Southern California and his optometric education from the Southern California College of Optometry.
He owned his own practice in West Hollywood, Calif. for nearly 40 years, and had a range of experiences from serving in a volunteer role as chief of Optometry Services at UCLA's Polyclinic at the LA Olympic Games in 1984, and, later, chief of optometry at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, He served on board of the California Board of Optometry, the board of the British Columbia Board of Optometry and also worked with the FDA's patient advisory committee.
He served as the president and board member of the California Optometric Association. He became a member of the Vermont Optometric Association and served on the board of the Vermont State Board of Optometry. He was active in many aspects of the American Optometric Association as well, serving, among other roles, on the AOA's Strategic Communications Committee.

More recently he worked in a range of roles with ARBO, the Association of Regulatory Boards of Optometry. He was appointed to COPE's governing board and was elected to the ARBO board and its executive committee, serving as secretary/treasurer in June 2022, representing the regulatory boards of optometry in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

His involvement in various state and national organizations gave him vast experience in legislative and regulatory issues in the profession of optometry. More recently, Lawenda, passionate about the evolving role that technology could play in the profession, studied digital technology and media, receiving a certificate in 2020 from the  Harvard Medical School's Executive Education Online in Leading Digital Transformation in Healthcare. He was also a Wharton Online alumni.

Dr. Lawenda was recently active as an Advocate for Patient Safety for the Healthcare Alliance for Patient Safety and was a founding board member of the Optometric Technology Society. Beyond that, he loved to travel and was a skilled art photographer. 

Lisa Fennell, executive director/CEO of the Association of Regulatory Boards of Optometry, shared with VMAIL, "Ken was a true leader, a dedicated volunteer, and a good friend to all who knew him. He leaves behind a legacy of contributions to ARBO and the profession of optometry. He was one of a kind and he will be greatly missed."

Dr. Thomas. A. Wong,  OD, FNAP, DIPL ABO, associate clinical professor and director of clinical partnerships, director of new technologies at SUNY College of Optometry, added, "Dr. Ken Lawenda became a very close friend of mine over the last few years.  We served on both the American Optometric Association's (AOA's) Ethics & Strategic Communications committees together. 

"He was an active member of the Association of Regulatory Boards of Optometry (ARBO), AOA, the California Optometric Association, and the Vermont Board of Optometry.  He was a great clinician and leader who loved his family, friends and the optometric profession. I and many in the optometric profession will miss him greatly. I hope he has found peace. "

Active in recent years on social media, Lawenda had nearly 30,000 followers of his LinkedIn page, where he often shared information that he felt would inform others about the changing regulatory climate, the evolution of eyecare, telehealth, the role of technology and other topics.

Dr. Lawenda shared his personal story and many insights about the future in a podcast interview with Dr. Scott Jens of Sandbox Stories just one year ago. That May 2021 interview can be watched here.

Dr. Lawenda is survived by his partner and soulmate, Myrna Budovitch Harrison, and his children, Brian Lawenda and Karen Lawenda, and grandchildren Alexis Tahlia and Ronin Harrison. He was the brother of Marilyn Lawenda and the late Robert Lawenda and brother in law of Sharon Lawenda.

His parents were the late Sylvia Blumen and the late Morris Lawenda. The family noted that contributions in Lawenda's memory may be made to the “Ken Lawenda Memorial Fund” c/o the Jewish General Hospital Foundation, (514) 340-8251, or at this link.