Left to right: Drs. Vinita Henry, Julie DeKinder, Ed Bennett

The annual meeting of the American Academy of Optometry, held November 8 – 11 in San Antonio, Texas, was attended by a large and engaged group of faculty and students.  Many College of Optometry graduates, including Drs. Nick Castellano (’16), Paul Luong (’16), Delaram Shirazian (’16), Leah Wiedemann (’14), Ellen Sanders (’17), and Cornea and Contact Lens Residency graduates Drs. Javeria Azhar (’15), and Jaclyn Oliver (’17) were awarded their Fellowship in San Antonio. UMSL faculty member Dr. Julie DeKinder, Associate Clinical Professor and Director of Academic Programs and Residencies, was awarded the distinguished Diplomate in the Section on Cornea, Contact Lenses & Refractive Technologies. To become a Diplomate in this Section requires no less than successfully completing 10 case reports and passing four examinations.  She becomes the fourth UMSL faculty member to achieve this honor, joining Drs. Ed Bennett, Larry Davis, and Vinita Henry.  Only The Ohio State University has as many or more Diplomates in this Section as UMSL.  Many past residents were present at the Section reception to see her receive recognition.  Quinn Gallen (’20) presented research from the UMSL Pupil Project team that included Drs. Aaron Franzel and Erin Brooks from the UMSL faculty, Dr. Caitlyn Reynolds (’18), and Kate Hamm (’19).

UMSL was also well represented in the first Essilor Academic Challenge by Kate Hamm (’19), Kelly Deering (’20), and Sydni Davis (’20).  The UMSL team had a very good experience, according to Kate Hamm. “The Essilor Academic Challenge was awesome! Sydni, Kelly and I really worked together and knew the answer to every question. Time was a factor in points, so we barely made it to the next round, but I felt so proud that we knew so much! I felt very honored to be a part of the inaugural event, and I am excited for students to participate in such a welcoming and fun competition.”  Kelly Deering added, “I thoroughly enjoyed participating in the Essilor student bowl at Academy this year. I prefer their competition setup compared to that at Optometry’s Meeting, because it allowed us to work in teams and answer every question. The faster you answer the question correctly the better your score. It was thrilling to think fast, check with the group, and get our answer in as soon as we could. I was so proud of our group for getting every question right. It was a confidence boost with Boards approaching, and it made me thankful to be at UMSL where I’m surely getting a great optometry education and taking full advantage of what UMSL has to offer. We didn’t win the competition, but I walked away feeling like a winner.”

Finally, the annual alumni reception was, as usual, a popular event. Students, faculty, and alumni were there to enjoy the company of friends at this Friday night event as well as honor our new Fellows and Diplomate.

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